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How do you solve a problem like Ivanka?

And how can you tell whether Ivanka Trump, the perpetually unrumpled heiress, is the person who is pulling the strings of the Trump administration or being pulled by them? Caroline O’Donoghue writes

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By Caroline O'Donoghue on

How do you solve a problem like Ivanka? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How can you tell whether Ivanka Trump, the perpetually unrumpled heiress, is the person who is pulling the strings of the Trump administration or being pulled by them?

Whenever Ivanka Trump is in the news, I cannot for the life of me tell whether she is an overworked TV presenter – the kind that might cheerily present you a Mercury award before hotfooting it over to Strictly – or a full Stepford-level android.

This isn’t about the perfect hair or the symmetrical features or the tasteful just-above-the-knee dresses. This is about who Ivanka Trump is – how she comes across in interviews, on the news and during her speeches. You are never totally sure, with Ivanka, whether she is a media professional, just trying to hold this whole horrible circus together, or whether she is a very clean, very precise, occasionally malfunctioning robot.

Is Ivanka perpetually thinking on her feet, doing her best with a bad situation, white-knuckling her way through the presidency, while trying to wield as much force for good as she possibly can? Would she rather be in New York, raising her children, but is too hyper-aware of her position as the only person who wields influence over Donald Trump to take a back seat? Is she quietly stopping Trump’s secret plan to bring back the guillotine? Is the Trump administration we’re seeing right now mild compared to the hellscape we would be witnessing if Ivanka were to cut ties?

Or is she just a blankly complicit robo-woman, cooked up in the Trump school for girls – the one where you say whatever is written down, where you can be successful as long as you’re beautiful, beautiful as long as you’re thin, and a mother as long as you don’t – you know – be too weird or gross about it?

Recently, she’s leaning more into the robo-Ivanka territory. In the wake of Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes, Ivanka tweeted: "Just saw @Oprah's empowering & inspiring speech at last night’s #GoldenGlobes. Let’s all come together, women & men, & say #TIMESUP!"

 I hate to say it, but I very firmly feel Ivanka’s not an asset to the abbey

The irony was lost on no one. Ivanka Trump, one of Donald Trump’s most steadfast defenders, is vocally supporting a campaign that aims to give legal support to victims of sexual assault and, inclusively, the 16 women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct. What is she doing? Why is she saying this? Is this TV presenter Ivanka, signalling to the world that she’s truly committed to female justice and is working on fixing her father’s administration? Or is this an android, reading off cue cards marked: “Popular talking points among humans: feminism, sexual assault, prevention of.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Ivanka has actively engaged in hypocrisy in order to sell the Trump brand. Hell, it’s not even the first time she’s hypocritically invoked feminism in order to sell the Trump brand. At the beginning of her father’s candidacy, she gave an incredibly eloquent, precise, crowd-pleasing speech to the Republican National Congress. In it, she spoke frankly about the gender pay gap – something many Republicans refuse to acknowledge – stating that:

“In 2014, women made 83 cents for every dollar made by a man. Single women without children earn 94 cents for each dollar earned by a man, whereas married mothers made only 77 cents. As researchers have noted, gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country, motherhood is.” 

She praised her father’s commitment to female empowerment in the workplace (and it’s true – women at Trump companies have gone far) and promised that women in Trump’s America were about to see a similarly bright future. That bright future has, so far, consisted of slashing budgets for military caregivers (mostly women), blocking pay transparency protections (which help women to find out if their male counterparts are earning more than them) and completely halting equal-pay measures.  

Ivanka and Donald’s protection of women is, as I’ve pointed out on The Pool before, entirely dependent on how similar a woman is to Ivanka herself – if she is already privileged, already able to afford childcare and already educated, she can go far. If she is none of those things, she doesn’t truly exist – until, of course, she starts claiming social security and becomes a problem.

This all becomes more worrying, of course, when you consider that Ivanka may be considering running for office herself. At the beginning of the Trump presidency, many people tempered their fear of Donald’s explosive temper and general idiocy with the thought that his administration would be mostly a puppet government, one that was truly run by his smooth, precise daughter. The more we get to know Ivanka, however, the more frightening a prospect that becomes. Trump is awful, but he’s also awful at pretending that he’s anything other than awful. Ivanka is smart, fully media trained and capable of making a government that systematically betrays women sound like a modern feminist paradise. Who are you more intimidated by: the wolf in wolf’s clothing or the one wrapped in cotton wool, cooing softly about how the three little pigs should come outside for a free copy of Women Who Work: Rewriting The Rules For Success?

No, but really – how do you solve a problem like Ivanka? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? How do you deal with a woman who says all the right things, but whose actions are shadowy and leave no prints? How do you measure the threat of someone whose real influence is impossible to calculate?

And, now, I hate to say it, but I very firmly feel Ivanka’s not an asset to the abbey.


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Donald Trump
women in politics

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