When the waves of sexual misconduct allegations began hitting Hollywood back in the fall, you may have heard whispers — or shouts — of disappointment from people who wanted actress Meryl Streep to add her thoughts to the discussion. In a New York Times interview with Tom Hanks about their new movie The Post, she explained why she didn't speak up initially — and then turned the discussion around to the Trump women. Streep said Melania and Ivanka Trump should speak out on the #MeToo movement — because in her mind, they've got "so much that's valuable to say."
"I don't want to hear about the silence of me," Streep told the Times when asked about the questions around her initial silence on Harvey Weinstein. "I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump. I want to hear from her. She has so much that's valuable to say. And so does Ivanka. I want her to speak now."
Of course, Streep has a point. Melania Trump's comments on sexual harassment are pretty much limited to her response to the lewd video of her husband that surfaced in October 2016.
"You can see from the tape, the cameras were not on — it was only a mic," Trump said to Anderson Cooper in an interview. "And I wonder if they even knew that the mic was on. Because they were kind of, ah, boy talk. And he was led on. Like egg on from the host to say, uh, dirty and bad stuff."
More often, it has been Ivanka that has used her voice to discuss on the issue of sexual harassment and assault — but only slightly. In early November, she said that sexual harassment at work against women should "never be tolerated." However, she was then roundly lambasted for this on the internet, as it was only too easy to point out that she's the daughter and staunch defender of a man who has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment and assault over several decades (President Donald Trump has denied all of these allegations).
She spoke out more forcefully about Alabama Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore, saying that "there's a special place in hell for people who prey on children" and that she had no reason to doubt the victims' accounts. (Roy Moore has repeatedly denied all the allegations against him.) This denunciation, however, did not come with a call for him to step down, and this time even right-wing media outlet Breitbart pointed out the irony of her statement in the face of all of the allegations against her father — albeit with a slightly different aim than liberal critics who made the same point.
Streep did eventually issue a statement commenting on the outpouring of allegations against her frequent colleague Harvey Weinstein. But besides that one speech and her one comment against Roy Moore, Ivanka has said nothing about this current cultural upheaval. Melania, in defending her husband after the lewd tape, has essentially staked out her position in this battle as a nonexistent one — although, as Streep stated, she would certainly have something to add.
Ivanka, on the other hand, has consistently painted herself as a champion of working and downtrodden women, but she's got precious little to show for it. Her words on the subject, so far, have only been words — and she's had very few of those on the topic of sexual harassment, where they would represent a valuable addition to the subject.
Back in May, The New York Times reported that her initial reaction to learning about Trump's lewd tape was a tearful plea for him to apologize. But despite consistent opportunities, Streep — an actress — has spoken out, and Ivanka — now a White House adviser — has stayed silent.
By refusing to offer their thoughts on the #MeToo movement or to share their experiences, Ivanka and Melania are choosing to remain on the sidelines of an important moment in our society. Perhaps their words wouldn't significantly change the conversation, but they would at least represent the important perspective of women who stand by men accused of sexual harassment.