Holding Hands with Donald Trump: Theresa May’s Dilemma

01/28/2017 12:39 pm ET Updated Feb 01, 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump
Wikipedia Commons photos from Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Michael Vadon
British Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump

Will Mrs. May regret the photos of her holding hands with President Trump that have appeared on the front pages of newspapers worldwide? As Jack Sommers, Assistant News Editor of the Huffington Post UK reported, the pair briefly held hands after a press conference on Friday, and a British photographer managed to catch the moment.

What if the new president proves to be the monster that the liberal left believes him to be? A PBS Frontline documentary by Michael Kirk broadcast on January 3 investigated Trump’s transformation from real estate developer to Apprentice TV celebrity to the Presidency. The program describes a man devoid of ethics or conscience, whose aim has always been to win at any price. Extremely thin-skinned about any criticism, he appears to value loyalty above all else. Even prior to taking office, Trump faced hatred and condemnation unprecedented for a President Elect. Millions of women around the world have led protests against him—described as solidarity on seven continents by Huffington Post Women’s Editor Alanna Vagianos on January 22.

So will those pictures of Mrs. May smiling and publicly holding hands with Trump come back to bite her in the future? Did she have any real choice in the matter? You can bet your life that the hand-holding was not something that Theresa May initiated. But what do you do if a man with a reputation for feeling up women without their consent tries to hold your hand in public with all the world’s press in attendance? Would a man so devoid of gravitas have listened to a quiet word in his ear asking him to let go? How could she gently disengage if he was not willing to do so? If she had pushed him away, it would have been seen as a hostile act. A strong rebuff. A rejection of his friendship. Not a message that Mrs. May would want to give Trump since she is trying to gain lucrative post-Brexit trade deals with the USA. She needed to woo him and get him on her side. Her country is moving away from Europe. Historically, America has been one of the United Kingdom’s the most important allies. The British Prime Minister was well aware that preserving close ties was essential to her country’s national interests.

Was Trump’s taking Theresa May’s hand just a demonstration of American naïve brashness versus English reserve? By British standards it is crass bad manners. Way too familiar. What you’d do with a girlfriend or a young child, neither of which is an appropriate thing to do to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It belittles her and somewhat puts her on a similar level to other women he decides to touch. Was it an act of power on his part to try to show her that this alpha male gorilla is the boss and not her? Was she cringing inside while wearing that smile? Did she privately curse him for behaving inappropriately and not showing her due respect?

In the Guardian on January 27, Jean Hannah Edelstein implied that Theresa May’s behavior during her visit to the USA showed that she was meekly pandering to the President and that instead she should have spoken out against Trump’s racist policies. If the Prime Minister was holding his hand as a show of unity between America and Britain, Edelstein found that “shameful.” I must admit that I felt sympathy for Theresa May’s dilemma. It demonstrated that women at all levels, even if they belong to that elite club of world leaders, have to put up with unwanted attention from men of power or otherwise risk jeopardizing their chances of success.

Trump is clearly excited about a state visit to England just announced on January 27 that is planned for later this year. It is described by Eliza Mackintosh of CNN as a way to cement the relationship between the two countries. The visit will most likely including invitations to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. I wonder what will happen if Trump tries to hold hands with Prince William’s wife, the Duchess of Cambridge? Or God forbid, the Queen? She will not be amused.

Former BBC journalist C. J. Grace is the author of Adulterer’s Wife: How to Thrive Whether You Stay or Not, available on Amazon.com. She is currently writing her second book, Hotel Chemo: Overcoming Breast Cancer and Infidelity. Read C. J.’s blogs and hear her radio interviews on www.adultererswife.com.

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