The Trump Paradox: When Men Are Feminists for Their Daughters but Not for Their Wives
As the Republican National Convention heads into its final night, Ivanka Trump, the accomplished, graceful, and by-all-accounts brilliant daughter of Donald Trump, is poised to take the stage and introduce her father as the Republican nominee.
Ivanka’s speech will no doubt be analyzed against the backdrop of a similar speech Tuesday, where—by plagiarizing First Lady Michelle Obama’s words—Donald's wife Melania Trump delivered a pleasant and uninspired speech about the man who chose her to be his third wife.
Whereas Melania has been largely kept out of the public eye (and even more so since Tuesday’s speech flop), Trump has spoken at length about Ivanka at almost every opportunity; he’s praised her business acumen, her real-estate instincts, and her political insight. He’s even gone so far as to joke that if she weren’t his daughter, he might date her.
But, by all available examples of the qualities Trump values in a partner, and considering many of his public statements pertaining to the role of women in traditional families, that—like so many other things Trump has said—is probably a lie.
Writing for the New York Times, Jill Filipovic notes:
“One traditional value Mr. Trump does hew to: wanting an old-fashioned wife but a modern, professional daughter. On Thursday, convention-goers will hear from the elder Trump daughter, Ivanka, a successful businesswoman currently writing a book called ‘Women Who Work. They’ll also witness how the Trump family embodies a very old sexist hypocrisy: Men who want one thing for their wives and another for their children.”
Trump’s past statements about the role of women conflate drastically with the image he and his daughter try to package and sell. Ivanka often speaks of the role the Republican nominee played in empowering her to be a strong and independent woman. In a July 3 interview, she even declared her father a “feminist,” insisting, “he always told me and showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to if I married vision and passion with work ethic. He’s also surrounded me with strong female role models who have done just that since I was a little girl.”
But for all of Donald Trump’s support for his strong, empowered daughter, he certainly didn’t espouse those same sentiments towards her mother, his first wife Ivana Trump. In 1994, after appointing Ivana to run his Atlantic City casino, Trump gave ABC’s Primetime an interview where he boldly declared, “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.”
Trump went on to lament the way his wife, the executive, “shouted” in her new role (good to know he resurfaced that attack in 2016). “The softness disappeared,” he said later adding, “she became an executive, not a wife.”
“I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist,” Trump insisted, before—get this—sounding like a chauvinist. “But when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.”
If the discrepancy between the values Trump supposedly instilled in his daughter and those he sought in a wife seem horrifying but not exactly surprising, that’s because they’re not. Citing Maria Shriver’s 2014 Shriver Report, Filipovic writes, “two-thirds of men want an independent daughter, but only one in three wants an independent wife.” In addition, four in nine men said it’s harder to be a man today than it was for his father because of “greater gender equity.”
So Trump’s relationship with women is really just emblematic of a larger male demographic, who would like to raise a kick-ass daughter that can take care of herself and wed a submissive partner who will have dinner ready by six, thank you very much. It’s no wonder Trump is the candidate of the Men’s Rights Movement, those idiotic pockets of “neomasculinity” bubbling to the surface as women (like Ivanka Trump) increasingly run the workplace.
And while Trump clearly thinks his daughter should have the same opportunities as men, he’s fine running as the candidate of a political party that’s built its entire platform on denying gender issues while simultaneously restricting reproductive rights and stripping funding for social programs like Head Start.
It's a harrowing and depressing reality when men tout opportunity for their offspring but not their wives. It's even more harrowing and depressing when one of the men doing that is a leading candidate for president of the United States. For Trump, and others like him, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Unless "what’s good" is gender equality.