Ivanka Trump is trapping us in a distorted feminism

Molly Moss 20 January 2017

US election results sparked a burning question: why did 53% of white women vote for a man who who is turning his back on their rights? Post-election, my Facebook flooded with posts giving solidarity to those shocked (but not surprised) by Trump’s election. No-one could actually believe it. Trump has labelled women pigs, openly boasted about assault, and has no regard for their rights, so why did he appeal to so many women voters? The election statistics are dangerous: in the face of protest, they are being used to argue that women love Trump’s policies, and to cover his sexist beliefs. Trump’s most dangerous shield, however, comes in an even more concrete form: that is, his daughter.

It’s easy to see that Ivanka Trump, with her glamorous looks, embodies a feminine ideal. Her father has even (creepily) claimed that if she weren't his daughter, he’d probably be dating her. She presents herself as more, however, than a symbol of femininity: on top of her looks, she is a strong and educated woman. As both the woman responsible for starting the #WomenWhoWork campaign, and a supporter of her father’s maternity leave proposal, Ivanka seems to view herself as a feminist role model. Sure enough, as a glamorous working mother, it’s easy to see why some women are putting her on a pedestal.

But is she really a glowing picture of womanhood? We cannot deny that the idea of a successful daughter is easy to relate to and, while her empowered presence allows Trump to seemingly embrace modernity, he can maintain the old fashioned role for his wife. This empowerment of the daughter—rather than the wife— is perhaps something that people are more ready to accept. Thanks to Ivanka’s presence in the media, we imagine Trump is more likely to support women’s rights than men without daughters.

Ivanka conceals her father's sexist and offensive beliefs. With her fake flourishing of empowerment and feminism, she acts as a shield for her father’s misogyny, clouding the odious plans his administration has to further infringe women’s rights. So far she has supported all of Trump’s questionable views, even going as far as to call him a champion of women.

It’s clear that the concept of feminism is becoming increasingly hazy, forsaking politics, and instead pushing forward the vague idea of ‘empowerment’. Of course, depoliticizing the movement and changing it from dull to desirable makes it marketable. Corporations use feminism to sell beauty products because it (unfortunately) works: think of the ‘feminist’ rhetoric such as L’Oreal’s ‘Because you’re worth it’ or the slogan ‘You can be anything’ (apart from plus-sized), used to sell Barbie Dolls to young girls. The problem with this redirection of the feminist movement, is that almost anything to do with women can be labelled as ‘emancipating’. Ivanka is desperate to appear relevant and is (unfortunately) appealing to an elite class who, afraid of being stereotyped as the undesirable ‘bra-burning feminist’ or ‘lesbian man-hater’, are keen to embrace feminism as long as they can steer away from the politics.

Ivanka is acting as the face of a glamorous yet distorted ‘feminism’. The ideal of ‘respectable’ womanhood she represents is not only difficult for a lot of us to achieve, but dangerous for us to want! With women like Ivanka as role models, the future of feminism is at risk: a depoliticized soft-feminism certainly won’t achieve our rights. Real power is the result of diligence and tenacity and, in the face of future battles, this is something we cannot forget.