How Are We Supposed To React To Ivanka Trump These Days?

How do you solve a problem like Ivanka?

Ivanka Trump Booed At Women's Summit

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

How do you solve a problem like Ivanka Trump? How do you catch a bad feminist and pin them down? How do you even find out what the word means to Ivanka? Since Ivanka Trump’s dad became the President of the United States she has been met with mixed reactions.

Yesterday, Ivanka was booed in Berlin. She joined Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor and Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, at the W20 Women’s Summit.

Women around the world were initially unsure how to react to her. On the one hand there’s the obvious question ‘how can you be feminist and support Donald Trump?’ On the other, it’s not acceptable to belittle a woman because of who sperm which happened to fertilise their mother’s egg belonged to. No should you automatically dismiss a woman’s feminist credentials by default because they are on the political right. That said, it’s now been just over a hundred days since Ivanka’s dad took his place in the White House and she has remained firmly by his side in a prominent role so we’ve got enough to go on to judge her in her own right.

The Berlin crowd did just that, they hissed and groaned when Ivanka described her dad as ‘a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.’ In fairness to the crowd, a man who has been recorded on tape as saying he likes to ‘grab women by the pussy’ is generally going to be regarded as sexist and misogynist. This appearance was, on Ivanka’s first international trip as a White House official, was undoubtedly one of her most appearances to date. And while it’s not yet clear exactly what her official role is (she told the audience that the job title is still a work in progress), we do know that it comes with a West Wing office, access to classified material and her own chief of staff.

The interviewer, WirtschaftsWoche editor-in-chief Miriam Meckel, asked Ivanka to clarify her (admittedly empty) statement, asking her why she considered her father to be such an ‘empowerer for women’.

‘I know from personal experience’, Ivanka replied, ‘and I think thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women and their ability to do the job as well as any man.’

As to what Ivanka herself plans to do about the equality gap between women and men, she said ‘I’m striving to think about how best to empower women in the economy,’ she said, at one point calling herself a feminist. ‘I have no doubt that coming out of this trip I’ll be more informed.’ It was at this point that Ivanka gave herself away. Unlike the women who have worked their entire careers to come up with solutions on how to fix the gender pay gap, she is in a position of power only by virtue of who her dad is and she is ill-informed. She could have talked about the need for affordable child care, she could have talked about the need for transparency within corporations or she could have discussed the need for caring roles to be taken seriously and properly remunerated. She says she and her dad are here for empowerment and yet she, herself, is the embodiment of wealth, power and privilege trumping ability and experience.

Without going into the specifics of any policy plans, Ivanka responded, demonstrating that she could give even the most seasoned politicians lessons in how to not answer questions. She is, it turns out, a master when it comes to speaking without saying anything.

Last year the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap reportsuggested that economic parity for women could take 170 years to achieve. Ivanka Trump has a seat in one of the most powerful institutions, if not the most powerful, in the world and aside from vouching for her dad ‘as a daughter’ she doesn’t seem to have any concrete ideas on how to fix that.

A fair assessment of Ivanka’s feminist credentials based on her recent appearance is that she doesn’t really understand what feminism is, or the challenges that women face. Her role may not yet be officially defined by she is, in effect, her dad’s ambassador. She goes out into the world and ‘vouches’ for him as a ‘daughter’ in the hope that people will decide that means he can’t possibly be a sexist dinosaur.

Ivanka Trump is the de facto First Lady, yesterday’s appearance is the sort of thing that we are used to seeing Michelle Obama take part in. The problem with Ivanka is that she doesn’t really have anything to say on the issues that matter. Her responses in Berlin were hollow and meaningless. They tried to spin her as a moderating force in the White House, the voice of reason to her dad’s impetuous ranting but her own deeds and words, or rather lack thereof, demonstrate that she is her father’s PR manager, a see through pseudo-feminist foil to his outdated, anti-women brand.

Whether she performs this role out of choice or duty we’ll never know. What’s now proven is that Ivanka Trump’s Instagram-friendly feminism does not stand up to scrutiny. Like her own Instagram, it’s all about appearances and has nothing to do with reality. She walks the walk; she looks the part but she’s not able to talk the talk.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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