IVANKA TRUMP’S SECOND BOOK, a business guide titled Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, could change the game for women, like the Second Coming of Lean In — but I doubt that it will. My skepticism has many roots, but the argument boils down to this: Ivanka can’t extricate herself from her father’s shadow enough to make a meaningful contribution to working- and middle-class women in the U.S.
You see, like her brothers, Ivanka suffers from the “Trump kid problem.” However successful and independent she may be in her own right, her career is balanced on her father’s name and empire. She’s not only Donald Trump’s daughter, but also his employee, and, no matter what Women Who Work may be, it will never be allowed to oppose or outshine the Donald and his political aspirations.
On the path to the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump has built a campaign based on every imaginable prejudice: racism, xenophobia, nativism, nationalism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, and misogyny. He’s pointedly insulted combat veterans and people with disabilities.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell which of the presidential candidate’s vile positions — if any — are deeply held, and which he has embraced for the sake of pandering. As Franklin Foer points out, the only constant with Donald Trump is his misogyny, so much so that it can be called his “core belief.” That misogyny extends to every possible woman, from power players to his 1-year-old daughter.
Despite this history, some may find it difficult to believe that Donald Trump could possibly feel as hateful toward his own daughter as the rest of us. After all, she heads up some of his most important enterprises. She’s capable of having it all: kids, a career, and a social life. How could he possibly think that “putting [Ivanka] to work is a dangerous thing”?
The answer: he’s a misogynist who views his daughter as removed from the women he despises. In his mind, Ivanka is different. She’s not like other girls … until she is, of course. Until she gets a little bit emotional or lets her figure drop below what society considers well-kept. Then she’s on the rag, or has committed the cardinal sin of letting herself go. Then, for a brief and shining moment, she’s just like all the women Donald Trump has othered over the years, and accountable for the same crimes.
In spite of all this, Ivanka seems prepared to defend her father to the very end. She is his de facto campaign spouse, available for photo ops and minor speeches. Her support of him — or, rather, the cognitive dissonance that drives it — is absolutely terrifying. Donald Trump isn’t a misogynist, his daughter insists; he just speaks his mind.
Bear in mind, Ivanka’s unwavering support of her father may be only so much lip service. As I said, if Donald Trump fails, if his empire collapses, so do the fortunes of his children. Even as he amasses power, neither Ivanka nor her siblings could dare risk mounting an opposition, or showing anything outside of dogged loyalty, lest they be cast out of Trump’s favor.
At the end of the day, it matters very little whether Ivanka supports Donald out of affection or self-preservation, because the end result is the same. The Trumps present a united front against the rest of us.
If you take a look at Ivanka’s brand, you’ll find the same sort of bland platitudes about nursery decor and workplace fashion you’d expect from a generic women’s website. I don’t say this to disparage ivankatrump.com’s writers, who I’m sure work very hard to produce the site’s content. It’s just that Ivanka’s brand feels sterile, as if — dare I say it — it’s been deliberately de-politicized.
This, of course, could be a tiny rebellion on Ivanka’s part: a willful divorce from her father’s demagoguery. But the fact that Ivanka feels confident enough to shed her political identity — welcoming Ayn Rand quote aside — for the sake for her brand? That speaks more to her privilege than anything else.
Ivanka Trump is young, pretty, rich, and white. She’s presumably heterosexual and cisgender. She has propbably never lived in a building that didn’t have her name on it. And now she’s writing a book for the everywoman: a book that represents her apolitical brand.
Apolitical because no part of Ivanka’s identity, save her sex, is politicized. In her world, there is personal, and there is political, and never both at once. She has the privilege of divorcing her business from her vote and her voice, and she assumes that others have the privilege to do the same. They don’t.
Here’s the problem with Women Who Work. It’s written for a woman whose support for a complete bigot won’t ruin her life. And the only person to fit that bill is Ivanka Trump.