In the same week we learned there was yet another reason to admire Amelia Earhart as a feminist icon and were reminded of the brilliance of Maryam Mirzakhani, the only woman to win the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in mathematics, our president reduced France’s first lady to the status of a racehorse.
While making conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte Macron, Donald Trump looked the slight woman up and down and declared, “You’re in such good shape!” Then he turned to the much younger Mr. Macron with a verbal pat on the back for choosing well: “She’s in such good physical shape,” he says. “Beautiful.”
It’s a wonder he didn’t check her teeth.
A recording of the exchange — if you can call it that, given that Ms. Macron’s chief response was to step back and reach for Melania Trump’s elbow, as if to pull her between them like a human shield — quickly went viral, though nothing about it was exactly surprising. It was classic Donald Trump. The man cannot help but be himself, no matter how ignorant, sexist or inappropriate for the occasion. (Two weeks earlier, he had called over an attractive Irish reporter during a press conference to compliment her on her “nice smile.”)
I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that this wasn’t his usual creepy appraisal, though. I think he was genuinely shocked that a woman could age so well. (Ms. Macron is 64; her husband, 39). After all, he tends to unload his own wives for newer models before their first wrinkle. He and Ivana split when she was 40, and he left Marla when she was 33 (to his 50). Melania Trump likely has some spousal security while her husband is in the White House, but at 47, it’s unlikely she’ll be around too long after he’s ousted.
But back to Amelia Earhart. In a 1932 letter to the publisher of The New York Times, the pioneering pilot asked that, for professional purposes, the paper refer to her by her given name of Earhart, rather than her married name, Putnam.
“I believe that flyers should be permitted the same privileges as writers or actresses.” she wrote in the letter, which was highlighted in an article online July 13th.
She was careful to note later to reporters that she wasn’t “rabid about it at all or a Lucy Stoner” — referring to the trailblazing women’s rights advocate — and add that her “husband doesn’t mind.”
Fine by me. Feminism doesn’t have to be rabid; practical will do. I just wish “Ms.” had taken off as a title by then, as the paper reverted to calling her Miss Earhart in its headlines afterward.
In 1936, just a few years after Amelia Earhart made her request (and one year before she disappeared, possibly taken hostage by the Japanese military, according to a recent theory), the Fields Medal recognizing outstanding mathematics contributions by scientists under 40 was first awarded to two men. Another 78 years would pass before a woman would be granted the coveted award.
Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian-born Stanford math professor, was the first, and thus far only. She was 37 when she won it with three others in 2014 for her work in theoretical mathematics. She had been battling breast cancer for a year at the time, and it took her life last week, at age 40.
Upon her death, her accomplishments were celebrated in publications around the world: the Guardian newspaper, Smithsonian magazine and the Indian Express, to name a few, along with multiple papers in Iran. In fact, I’m happy to report that she is more popular on Google than Mr. Trump’s viral Macron mess, with more than twice the mentions in news reports and nearly six times the search results returned.
That only seems right. She was an inspiration. He is an abomination.
Tricia Bishop is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @triciabishop.