Ivanka Is Proving That Women Are Influential, But She's Doing It All Wrong
If you're a feminist, then the president isn't the most interesting person in the White House. You can read him like a book, and it's not an enjoyable one. His daughter, on the other hand, is fascinating. In the end, though, it's just another Trump story. Ivanka is proving that women are influential — but she's doing it in exactly the wrong way.
Conservative bloggers are having a field day with what they see as an unfair rejection of a strong woman by the hypocritical, fake-feminist left. The basic argument of articles like those is that you can't call yourself a feminist and then tear down a woman for her success just because you don't like her father. Take Trump as her own person, they say, otherwise you're just as sexist as the guy who brags about sexually assaulting women.
Of course, they don't actually say that last part. But that is the basic premise of the argument — appreciate Trump and her success, or you're not really a feminist. What that argument doesn't acknowledge, though, is how she came by her success. Trump is where she is — in a White House office, supposedly advocating for women — entirely because her father is the president.
It's not normal for a president to reach into the ranks of moderately successful lifestyle brands and pluck one of their CEOs to sit in an office around the corner of his, no matter how well her shoes sell. Maybe Trump earned her father's trust, but nothing that she's done in her professional life prepared her to sit next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel around a negotiating table. Feminism is about giving women the same opportunities that men have, not about putting unqualified women in high positions just because they have enviable family connections.
Trump, then, is basically the personification of where privilege can get you. This wouldn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, if she were to acknowledge it and make an effort to understand that not everyone comes from a similar position. Instead, the policies that she has suggested fail to take privilege into account — and at the same time, this supposed champion of all women isn't making any noise while her father's administration runs roughshod over women's rights.
She claimed in an interview with CNN that her detractors should not "conflate lack of public denouncement with silence," but if she hasn't been silent, then she doesn't have much to show for it. The Trump administration hasn't done much for women, at home or abroad. Ivanka has said that her father is a feminist, but he hasn't had to actually do anything in the interest of women's equality to earn that label.
I would love to have a reason to praise Ivanka Trump. I would love to hear that she's blocked her father from taking another step towards defunding Planned Parenthood, or she's successfully advocated for him to push a law mandating equal pay. I would love to see her put forward a parental leave plan that didn't support strictly traditional gender roles. I would love to see her bring more women into the White House, women who man have, perhaps, studied public policy or worked their way up in a government office.
Instead, Ivanka is wielding an unknown amount of influence and power without using it to lift up anyone else. If that changes and I don't celebrate it, then I'll be totally fine with conservative bloggers calling me a hypocrite.