US President’s wife Melania Trump has prompted a social media storm with the “chic woman on safari” look she picked for her African tour, which happened to be her first solo foreign journey. She’s been seen wearing chinos, safari jackets, riding pants and boots as well as cotton shirts and khaki linens, but it was the white pitch helmet she wore on the day before her departure that enraged some netizens and startled others.
Photos were released of Melania sitting in a safari vehicle, taking photos of giraffes and zebras in the national park in Kenya and eventually stopping by a site where tons of ivory had been burned to battle poaching. However, it was her hat which triggered a predatory response online, as many users rushed to slam the first lady for her perceived insensitivity.
Meanwhile, Melania is swanning around Africa in a friggin' pith helmet. RMESHTATPOOMGH*— Tirza Fury 🦖 (@TirzaFury) 5 октября 2018 г.
*rolling my eyes so hard they're about to pop out of my goddamn head pic.twitter.com/7u9bfbGQhe
Some described the pitch helmets, made of material called sholapith, as a part the brand image of the European explores and imperial administration of the colonial times in Africa and a symbol of racism.
The pith helmet is sometimes used to denote a “frontier” spirit of adventure & exploration. This is wrong. Their historical social role was to emblematize white fragility and anxieties, as well as blurring the distinction between white civilians & colonial police/army. 5/— ⚽️ is a Country (@FutbolsaCountry) 5 октября 2018 г.
Others jokingly slammed Melania for striking the colonial bingo and ridiculed her whole ensemble.
Must know who advised Melania to wear a pith helmet in Kenya. Is it on loan from a museum or custom made to complete the “19th century colonizer” look? pic.twitter.com/Sy7n3URWIB— Katherine Sullivan (@katherrun) 5 октября 2018 г.
Criticism of outdated understanding was also a popular rebuke.
Melania: What should I wear on my Africa trip to pay tribute to the culture and history of my hosts?— Owen Barder (@owenbarder) 5 октября 2018 г.
WH staff: A pith helmet. Definitely a pith helmet. https://t.co/JSmNkWM2RF
Melania Trump wearing a pith helmet on her trip to "Africa" is more than a silly sartorial choice. It's a reflection of her outdated understanding of Africa. (Also, she was photographed in safari attire multiple times on this trip.) #FLOTUSinAfricaBingo https://t.co/aCnkOnPBF8— kim yi dionne (@dadakim) 5 октября 2018 г.
Many connected Melania’s faux pas to the infamous statements, attributed to her husband Donald Trump, who reportedly referred to African countries as “sh**holes.”
However, some still tried to defend Melania Trump, stating there’s no racism in the pitch helmets often worn by Africans themselves.
So Melania Trump wore a "pith helmet" in Africa! Racist! Well, uhm, it was actually a "sun helmet," different than a pith helmet. And it's not racist, as I illustrated here….. pic.twitter.com/B67X2K9sXq— Chicago News Bench™ (@ChiNewsBench) 6 октября 2018 г.
The first lady was at the center of another “clothing controversy” this summer, after she wore a designer khaki jacket with a print on the back reading: "I really don't care, do u?" as she departed to visit a migrant child center in Texas. After media and social networks exploded in outrage about the alleged "hidden message," her spokesperson Stephanie Grisham dismissed all allegations, saying it was just a piece of clothing.