During her interview with Gayle King for CBS News, Ivanka Trump, one of the newest White House employees and the president's daughter, said she will champion women's issues. However, to many of her critics, it's not clear whether Trump has done much, if anything, to advance the economic, social, and/or political status of women. And there may be a larger question: Is she doing damage? Is Trump hurting feminism more than helping?
"I’ll continue the advocacy work that I was doing in the private sector —advocating for the economic empowerment of women," Trump stressed during the interview. She responded to criticism that she was "complicit" in her father's administration by suggesting that she does try to challenge her father — just not out in the open. "I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence," Trump said. "I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard. In some cases, it’s through protest and it’s through going on the nightly news and talking about or denouncing every issue on which you disagree with. Other times it is quietly and directly and candidly."
There's much to find underwhelming by this approach, not least of which is the result it has had (or lack thereof). President Trump has still attempted to defund Planned Parenthood, and one of his first actions in the White House was re-implementing the Mexico City Policy, which deprives any non-governmental organization (NGO) that offers abortion services of federal funds — even though those funds are already barred from covering abortions. Just this week, the White House announced it was cutting funds to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which received $75 million in 2015 to provide women's health care services in some 150 countries.
Thus, I'm not convinced Ivanka Trump's strategy is having all that much of a positive impact on her father.
However, I'm also worried that what influence she does have will be limited to advancing a very specific type of woman — namely, those just like her. It is this concern that makes me believe she may ultimately do more harm than good.
Take a glance at her website and her hashtag #WomenWhoWork — which, of course, goes with her soon-to-be-released book Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success. Based on her website, the objective appears to be to champion working women, but it almost exclusively focuses on one kind of working woman: working women like her. Almost all the women featured appear to be college-educated and bringing home a pretty good salary.
This narrow view of working women would be less concerning if the president hadn't charged his daughter with so many programs ostensibly aimed at helping women. He declared in December 2016, "If you look at Ivanka — she’s so strongly, as you know, into the women’s issues and childcare… nobody could do better than her."
However, consider the paid leave initiative proposal she fronted. Many experts concluded that its tax benefit structure primarily benefits rich people. CNN Money's Heather Long wrote in February, "an analysis by the Tax Policy Center finds that Trump's proposal is a gift to the rich. The tax experts at TPC say 70 percent of the benefits will go to families that make $100,000 or more. And 25 percent will go to people earning $200,000 or more."
It can be disappointing to see Ivanka Trump defend her approach for advocating for women, but I am not convinced it would be much better if she had full sway.