Unsurprisingly, many of us wanted to see a woman in the White House. Not just any woman, but Hillary Rodham Clinton, in particular. Hillary Clinton would have been an experienced, strong, and competent replacement for Barack Obama.
The results of last year’s election were gut-wrenching. Seeing Donald Trump appoint his own family members into advisory positions reeked of unapologetic nepotism.
President Trump is a threat to women’s rights – but I’ve always thought that his daughter – Ivanka – was harmless. She seemed articulate, poised and well put together, and I wouldn’t necessarily call her the enemy.
During election season, I got the feeling she acted out of obligation for her father’s campaign, rather than being passionate about his bid for presidency. Ivanka was a tool to navigate the female vote, and she was hurt by his actions. She is regularly attacked on social media, with her business interests suffering the most since he took office. Her fashion line was pulled from several high profile retailers including Nordstrom, with other stores such as Neiman Marcus and T.J.MAXX taking steps to disassociate themselves with her brand.
America did not elect a woman into the powerful presidency role in the White House. Ivanka is placed in an unpaid advisory role; and it is one where she is not particularly strong, or qualified for the position. Honestly, I don’t think Ivanka had much of a choice, just like I think that Melania Trump is stuck in her situation – though her role as First Lady in comparison to Michelle Obama’s is an entirely different conversation.
Ivanka could hardly turn down the advisory position without undermining her father’s presidency and going against her own husband. That said, it would be naïve to assume her appointment would come without strings attached, along with hundreds of red flags masked as familial unity.
Ivanka now has commentators everywhere accusing her of fake feminism and empty promises. Her brand of feminism is middle class and adorned with photo opportunities and white privilege. Perhaps we shouldn’t be laughing at her. Maybe mocking a woman, instead of challenging her, is a little counterproductive. Yes, let’s criticise her, and let’s point out the work she could be doing to empower women and minorities. There’s plenty of that to be done. That’s fair, and we should be doing it, but we shouldn’t be throwing sticks and stones like aggressive children in the playground. Isn’t that how Donald Trump won the Oval in the first place?
The situation recently escalated in July when Ivanka sat in her father’s place at the G20 Summit, prompting all of us to question what gave her the right to be there. Who told her that she could represent the United States on a global stage? Certainly not the American voter. Then came the inevitable mocking of her ‘pretty pink dress’, which just insinuated a woman can’t be ‘pretty’ and powerful, but patriarchal instead. What a mess. Across the pond, we continue to wonder what the fall in American leadership meant for the rest of us.
Where Ivanka could be doing better is advocating for accessible healthcare, and championing women’s rights and LGBT communities. Where she could be doing better is working to repair the damage of her father’s misogyny, delusion and natural cruelty (although it’s certainly not her responsibility to lecture a grown man). While she shares sweet sentiments online about supporting and celebrating LGBT communities, she failed to get her father to do the same when he reversed Barack Obama’s order to allow transgender people to serve in the US military. Words mean nothing when people are marginalised, attacked, and treated like a societal other in an unjustified violation by their own president, with thousands of US militants put at risk.
I honestly believe Ivanka does want to do right, but she doesn’t stand firm against her father’s dysfunction. I don’t think anyone in his close circle does, which is a great way to invite fear and dread into the American lifestyle. No one should have to think “What is he going to do next?” about the leader of their own country.
Ivanka should be speaking publicly, instead of adopting social media silence every time her father acts unjustly. Her weakness is what threatens women.
Unfortunately, Ivanka Trump is stuck in the one place that no one wants to talk about. She’s sitting silently under the thumb, but she certainly doesn’t need to stay there. Maybe then she can be an ally actually worth having.