In the wake of an affectionate butt-tap between French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, here’s some decidedly unromantic news out of Paris. A video of Donald Trump commenting on the French First Lady’s physique is making the rounds on Twitter, and it is about as unpleasant to watch as you might imagine.
“You’re in such good shape,” Trump says in the video, with incredulous delight, while gesturing with both hands toward the first lady’s body. He then turns to the French president to repeat the comment. “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” Brigitte, who is facing away from the camera, takes a step back and touches Melania on the arm, as if in solidarity.
Trump making gruesomely objectifying comments about female appearances is clearly old hat at this point. But still: this one’s a doozy. Setting aside the general appropriateness of the American president commenting on the body of the French president’s wife in public, there’s the way he pays the “compliment” first to Brigitte, and then to Macron, as if to praise him on her upkeep, too. And most of all, there is a big difference between telling a woman she looks good and informing her, with a note of awestruck surprise, that she’s “in such good shape.” His choice of words is telling, because the unspoken end of the sentence “you’re in such good shape” is “for your age.” It’s a formulation that highlights a core Trumpian trait: just how obsessed he is with the specter of female decline.
Brigitte is 64 years old, making her 24 years older than her husband and 7 years younger than Trump. Trump’s disgust toward both the aging process and, paradoxically, women’s attempts to combat that process, is a deep current in his general worldview. There was, of course, the “bleeding badly from a face-lift” tweet about Mika Brzezinski. There was the news that he allegedly told Melania that she could only have a baby if she promised to “get her body back” after her pregnancy. There was his fun joke to Howard Stern that he would still love Melania after a disfiguring car crash if her breasts remained intact. And also his relentless fixation on Hillary Clinton’s health.
Both Macrons seem cordial and friendly throughout the skin-crawling exchange in Paris, which is hardly surprising, given that the French president has been strategically turning on the charm throughout Trump’s visit. But it sure would have been satisfying if Brigitte, or her husband, had replied to doughy Trump by deadpanning, “Same to you.”