Unlike her husband, First Lady Melania Trump isn’t one for Twitter. In fact, in the three weeks since just after inauguration day, there wasn’t a single tweet sent from the @FLOTUS account—until this past weekend, when Mrs. Trump’s handle shared photo highlights of her sunny Floridian visit with Japanese First Lady Akie Abe. Now that she’s getting warmed up, though, it appears Mrs. Trump has embraced a go-to social media motto: #PoweroftheFirstLady. Mrs. Trump first used the hashtag on a photo of herself and Mrs. Abe, then employed it again yesterday, tagging none other than Emily Ratajkowski, after the model/actress blasted a New York Times reporter in a series of tweets for “slut shaming” the First Lady. (The reporter, who attended the same Fashion Week event as Ratajkowski, was apparently overheard referring to the First Lady as “a hooker.”)
“Applause to all women around the world who speak up, stand up and support other women! @emrata,” the First Lady tweeted. “#PowerOfEveryWoman #PowerOfTheFirstLady.”
This type of female support is a nice sentiment, of course, but it reads as more than a bit ironic coming from Mrs. Trump, a long-distance First Lady who spends her weeks(as well as some weekends) at the family penthouse in New York, and whose East Wing office has been described as “the loneliest place in the White House”: If she really believes in the #PoweroftheFirstLady, why isn’t she using it? While the Trump administration may be in its early stages (although not too early to enact sweeping policy edicts and alienate allies, or for National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to have already resigned from his job), Mrs. Trump has hardly been quick to assume the responsibilities of her role.
In a departure from Michelle Obama and Laura Bush, she had yet to appoint a chief of staff or social secretary by the time President Trump was inaugurated. Earlier this month, she began establishing her office, naming Lindsay Reynolds her chief of staff, Anna Cristina Niceta Lloyd as social secretary and Tham Kannalikham White House decorator, but she has yet to hire other vital staffers, including her communications director. After attending a prayer service the day after the inauguration, Mrs. Trump didn’t make a public appearance for almost two weeks, when she joined the President on a “working weekend” to Mar-a-Lago.
In the First Lady’s absence, Ivanka Trump (despite her assertions that she is just “a daughter” with no formal political role) was the one who accompanied her father to Dover Air Force Base to honor the remains of fallen Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in the Trump-approved Yemen raid, and Ivanka again who joined her father and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau at a White House forum on working women yesterday (leading to a plum photo op of her seated at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.)
Reports have noted that White House tours have been paused for a longer than usual time but will begin again in early March, and it’s unclear if the First Lady’s office is on top of major event planning in which thousands of families visit the White House, including state dinners and the upcoming annual Easter Egg Roll. “She is far behind the curve compared to where modern first ladies have been by the time their husbands are inaugurated, in a quite unprecedented way,” Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University who specializes in first ladies, told The New York Times. “We are in uncharted territory here.”
Of course, there’s more to the #PoweroftheFirstLady than china patterns and parties—as a recent lawsuit could well attest—but with a skeleton staff and limited time in Washington, D.C., it remains to be seen what sort of progress the First Lady is making when it comes to where her power may truly lie: in her causes of choice, which she has said will include cyberbullying. Upending that dark, trollish culture of abuse is an ambitious, noble goal—and it’s going to take a lot more than a hashtag to fight it.