I wanted to share this piece from the thesis I started in 2014. At the time Donald Trump wasn’t involved in any real politics and was mostly just convenient research fodder. Some parts may not make sense out of context. My thesis was titled Guilt as a Gendered Expression in Infidelity and this is from the chapter where I discuss how the language describing women who cheat is different than the language describing men who cheat. For instance, Trump was unfaithful to his wife (multiple wives, in fact) and the conversation has focused almost exclusively on the women involved. We can see a similar instance in “the women of Tiger Woods” a series of articles that went out during the Woods cheating scandal that highlighted the many beautiful women, who they were, and why Woods might have picked them.
How men are treated when they have been unfaithful is much different than how women are treated when they are unfaithful. A notable example of this was the affair between Donald Trump and Marla Maples that became public in 1990. Donald Trump had been married to his first wife, Ivana Trump, when he began seeing Maples. Articles from the time of the infidelity indicate that the story of Trump’s infidelity was very much a story of Maples involvement. A series of interviews with Marla Maples following the affair becoming public.
Similarly to the three narratives I analyzed, Maples seems to have experienced this infidelity uniquely because she is a women. It does not seem to matter whether or not the woman is being unfaithful to her spouse, or with the spouse of another woman. Maples story begins with this narrative that women are good and good women do not taint themselves with infidelity. In the Seattle Times article “Marla Sez: I Am Not A Homewrecker”(1990) Marla is described as just that, a homewrecker. “Since [the relationship becoming public] Marla Maples has become a star – Celebrity Mistress, Homewrecker of the Western World”(para. 13).
The article reiterates that it was her involvement with Trump that gave her the bad girl persona. “She was a Southern angel, Baptist-style”(para. 3). Marla was good, she was innocent, but when she got involved with Trump the public appeared more interested with her than with him. Maples experiences similar guilt to the women from the earlier narratives I had chosen as well. “I stayed with him longer than I should have out of old Southern Baptist guilt. I felt since we had gone ahead, I had to make it work”(Maples, para. 26).
Fifteen years after the affair was made public, Marla has since married and divorced Trump herself. She continues to be written about publicly in relation to Trump. (“Marla Maples Finds Her Groove”, 2012). This discussion of language brings us back to the subject of guilt because we very specifically use language around the subject of women being unfaithful that assigns guilt. Men are more or less removed of the responsibility for their failing relationships with the general assumption that they just couldn’t help themselves. Women, however, are more susceptible to an entire personality shift. Infidelity is not something women do, it is something women are. They didn’t just step out on their wives like Donald Trump, they are homewreckers. Language deeply contributes to how women feel and the lengths they appear to go to convince others that they are not bad people. Such was the case from all three narratives I analyzed, and the story of Marla Maples.