At the risk of stating the obvious, there just aren’t enough women in politics. That being said, one of the most prominent arguments against Hillary Clinton during the campaign was that women should have more political power, yes, but just because a candidate is a woman does not mean she is automatically the right choice. Fair point. Whilst Clinton was more than qualified for the role of President, we are not going to discuss that today. We are here to talk about Ivanka Trump: despite her lack of qualifications or experience, she has the ear of the President. She sits in on meetings, advises her father, and makes statements on his behalf. What does it mean that she is the most powerful woman in our country today? Should we be hopeful? Should we not even waste our time on her because of who her father is? Thus far, Ivanka Trump has failed to impress me. She appears to be a willing participant in her father’s mindless grasp on power; she offers very little to his administration aside from repeating his lies about being a ‘champion of women.’ As a speaker on a panel titled “Inspiring Women: Scaling Up Women’s Entrepreneurship” last month, Ivanka had the nerve to disregard the numerous women who have accused her father of sexual assault when she stated that the “thousands of women who have worked with and for my father... are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women and their ability to the job as well as any man.” The absurdity of this remark is unbelievable; as I listen to the recording of the panel now, I cannot understand how she was able to say these words with a straight face. Need I list off the myriad ways Donald Trump does not respect women? There is the Access Hollywood tape, for starters. What about his labeling of Hillary Clinton as a ‘nasty woman’ on live television? That Ivanka can be so publicly blind to her father’s misogyny only furthers my belief that she herself is no champion for women.
Ivanka recently tweeted that “we must work to close the gender pay gap.” Thank you for that newsflash. I wish that she had followed up the tweet with her own personal understanding of how the gender pay gap has affected her own business ventures and ability to raise her three children, but I know that it did not. Ivanka has never had to go without a meal so that her children can eat. We can't know if Ivanka has ever faced sexism in the workplace, but it is almost certain that she has never face the racism that black and Latina women come up against on a daily basis. Ivanka’s wannabe-awareness bores me, her lack of intersectional understanding bores me, and her white feminism is toxic because it leads us to believe that the biggest issue facing women is that they are not paid equally. Unequal pay is a symptom, not the disease. While the gender pay gap is without question a serious impediment to women’s success, it would be refreshing for once to hear from a conservative woman in the spotlight about unrestricted access to reproductive rights, the systemic poverty that drags women down, or the toxic mix of misogyny and racism. If Ivanka is going to attempt to speak out for feminists, she not only needs to educate herself far further than this, but she will need to produce arguments and statements with much more substance - statements which can be backed up by action.
Just today, the Trump administration announced that it will discontinue Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” program, an initiative that supported the education of girls in developing nations. Where is Ivanka’s outrage about this? If she truly believes in closing the gender pay gap, she should be supporting programs that support girls from a young age and equip them with the tools they need to become successful and educated. Yet she remains quiet. Ivanka is a feminist when it is convenient for her: when she is seated on a panel with other important white women, when she is safe behind her Twitter account, and when she is least likely to face repercussions for standing up for women. She never once openly disagrees with her father, and no matter what goes on behind closed doors, she is a public figure. If we are supposed to believe that she is a modern woman, we need to hear it straight from her, in her own words.
Ivanka Trump has a colossal opportunity, one which she is squandering. If we are to believe that she has the ear of the President, we should demand more of her. We should demand that her father acknowledge the victims of his sexual assaults. We should demand that she contribute to the legislative process in order to protect women’s rights to their own reproductive future. We should demand that she actually take a stand against her father, both in the public sphere and in private. The fact that she is a woman is not enough to clear her of her responsibilities or to negate her appeasement of the disastrous approach that the Trump administration has taken toward women’s rights. We need to continually press her for action, to call her out on her inconsistencies and lies in the same way we do her father, and we need to remember that just because she is a pretty woman with power does not mean she has women’s best interests at heart. Actions speak louder than words. It’s your move, Ivanka, prove us wrong.