Ivanka Trump Is Evidence of Her Father’s Misogyny
Part and parcel of the Trump campaign’s brand is its misogyny. From the witch-burning vibe of the Republican National Convention’s second night to Trump’s own campaign-trail commentary on the appearance of various women and the menstrual cycle of a debate moderator, resentment of the growing power of women is a driving force among Trump supporters, especially as he vies for the presidency against Hillary Clinton. The notion of a woman president, so galling to so many, represents a fear that Trump has exploited without compunction.
The result has been high negative poll ratings among women for the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. To soften those edges among women watching the Republican National Convention from the comfort of their living rooms, Trump dispatched his daughter, Ivanka, to the podium Thursday night to make the case that her father is a caring patriarch who has the interests and concerns of the nation’s working women at heart, and that he’s an empathetic and caring person—qualities that women value.
It’s hard not to like Ivanka Trump; she’s everything we’ve been taught to believe a woman should be. She’s beautiful and she’s clearly devoted to her family. She’s not known for saying unkind things, and doesn’t appear to toot her own horn. Her style of dress is classy and in a manner deemed to be “feminine,” and she even sells an accessible form of that style to working women via her eponymous clothing brand. She’s smart without making a point of it.
We don’t hear much from Trump on the campaign trail about the struggles of women, many of whom are saddled with the task of raising children while working full-time, the more privileged of whom often suffer discrimination in compensation on the basis of their gender. (People stuck in minimum-wage jobs earn the abysmal minimum wage, regardless of gender.)
Ivanka Trump, however, assured the viewers at home that her father supports equal pay for women and affordable child care. “American families need relief,” she said. “Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”
Throughout the evening, video testimonials from women who work for the Trump Organization assured viewers that their boss has done more to promote the careers of women in business than most others, and that he values the women in his employ for their capabilities.
But step aside the arena perimeter and you’d find street vendors doing a brisk business in the crassest of misogynist campaign tchotchkes and apparel. A T-shirt emblazoned on the back in big, block letters: “TRUMP THAT BITCH.” (On the front: “Hillary sucks, but not as good as Monica.”) A button bearing Clinton’s face that reads: “Life’s a Bitch—Don’t Vote For One.” The perennial favorite, and most telling of all: the Hillary nutcracker.
The women who most loudly sing Trump’s praises as a champion of women to the voters all have one thing in common: In one way or another, they all report to him. In Trump World, there’s nothing wrong with putting a smart, capable woman in charge of a multimillion-dollar construction project, so long as The Donald holds her fate in his hands. To his followers, that still adheres in some way to the natural order of things: man calling the shots, woman doing the work.
The smart, capable women in his family no doubt know this. When Trump put first wife Ivana in charge of running the Plaza Hotel, which she did with great success, he famously said that he paid her $1 a year and all the dresses she could buy. He’s described Ivanka, his daughter, as “hot,” and said he’d probably date her if he wasn’t her father.
It’s when women represent themselves and not a white man that Trump and his followers become unnerved. A smart, capable woman who, in an act of self-agency, challenges their foul-mouthed white man? Then they become unhinged. When I found myself surrounded in the convention hall by delegates chanting, “Lock her up!” I knew it wasn’t just the Trumped-up allegations of criminality against the Democratic opponent that motivated the chant. It was the feminine pronoun in the chant.
But don’t think that the entire 70 percent of women who hold unfavorable views of Trump, according to a Washington Post/ABC News Poll, will allow that to keep them from blackening the box next to his name on election day. As I’ve written before, there are more than a few women for whom racial identity matters more than insults to their gender. To them, Trump is the logical choice.