Lead image via Flickr User DonkeyHotey
On the most recent episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver dedicated a huge chunk of his program to the fact that we don’t know much about where Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner stand on most policy issues. Ivanka has defended her public silence on many important topics by saying, “I don’t think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree [with President Trump].” But, as they say, actions speak louder than words. Since Ivanka has made few clear-cut public statements about her vision for the world, we can look at what she’s actually done since Trump took office. Some in the media have been presenting Ivanka as a moderating influence in Trump’s White House, supposedly working behind the scenes on behalf of women. That said, is there anything to support this perception of Ivanka based on her work in the White House so far, or is she as much of a self-interested oligarch as her father?
Though Ivanka has made her position in the White House official, complete with an office and security clearances, her impact has been difficult to track. She herself said, “I think most of the impact I have, over time most people will actually not know about.” So far, the general theme of her work has been a rather symbolic form of feminism, heavy on implication and light on action. While she is a woman in a powerful place, and speaks of using her position to empower women, there is little indication that she will actually put her words into action.
A Theoretical Champion of Working Women
On April 4th, at a CEO town hall, Ivanka made a point of bringing up equal pay. That day, she tweeted “a reminder women deserve equal pay for equal work.”
Then, on April 10th, she tweeted some illuminating statistics on working women, courtesy of the Department of Labor:
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor demonstrate the vital role of women in our economy! https://t.co/OvnNuTon37— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) April 10, 2017
Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Ivanka met with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards in January. These gestures have also proven largely symbolic up to this point. Raising awareness has a long tradition in American philanthropy, but it rings particularly hollow when the person raising awareness supposedly has the direct ear of a person who could actually make a material difference in women’s lives. There are no indications that there will be policies that reflect what was publicized about her statements and meetings. Trump’s first hundred days have been marked by business-friendly proposals that cut taxes for the rich and hurt labor. What reason do we have to believe that equal pay legislation or expanded benefits for working women are on the way?
Even what little policy Ivanka has championed isn’t terribly helpful for many women, and again: there is nothing that suggests her proposals will become policy. The White House has stated that Ivanka is working on an overhaul of America’s child-care system. The only aspects of this overhaul to emerge to date are a tax rebate and a child-care savings account. This follows a recent trend in Republican policy in areas like healthcare: rather than setting up meaningful systems to help people, right-leaning politicians offer tax deduction which most people don’t know how to take full advantage of and tax free savings accounts that only help people who can afford to save money. Unsurprisingly, the Tax Foundation’s analysis of her plan concluded that it would mostly help parents earning six-figure incomes and cost the government billions. Even this small gesture is largely symbolic. Though Ivanka has lobbied for her plan, there is not much tangible interest on either side of the aisle.
Father’s Female Firewall
Ivanka Trump is not a champion of feminist policy. Ivanka Trump is not laying out a vision for working women. Ivanka Trump won’t even take meaningful stands on feminist issues. To date, if Ivanka Trump has had a use in the White House, it is to provide symbolic cover for her father’s continued assault on women. The Trump family seems to believe that if they simply say that Ivanka, and by extension, her father, are working on behalf of women, then it won’t matter if policy is actually put forward. While a number of mainstream media publications have offered fawning profiles, most of America isn’t buying it.
The German people have far less tolerance for Ivanka’s double talk than Americans do. Last week, Ivanka took part in an international conference on women’s economic issues. She claimed that her father is a “tremendous champion of supporting families,” and was subsequently met with boos from the audience. She went on to say, “I know from personal experience, and I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women.” The audience remained frosty.
This moment was a microcosm of what Ivanka’s White House legacy is shaping up to be. While last year, Ivanka was treated to articles about how she is the “power behind the throne,” the public is quickly seeing her for what she is: aristocrat first and anything else second. Until she can turn her superficial talk and pseudo-feminism into actual policy, she deserves to be booed wherever she goes.
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