Ivanka Trump has now been given an official but still unpaid role in the White House following complaints that she would not have to adhere to federal ethical standards whilst acting as an informal advisor to the President. Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s campaign, Ivanka has played a crucial part in the Trump administration.
It was Ivanka who introduced Trump at his presidential announcement back in June 2015, and not his wife Melania. While Melania has recently been described as the most private First Lady in history, Ivanka has been actively involved in the politics of the White House, including attending meetings with both Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau. From day one Ivanka has provided a softer side to Trump’s rhetoric, with some even suggesting she is a chief-actor behind the Trump throne.
At first Ivanka might have appeared as a flicker of hope for those fearful of a Trump presidency. During the campaign she spoke a lot about childcare and women in business, as well as appearing as a less impulsive and less temperamental version of the Trump brand. Her close relationship with her father gave many people hope that a Trump victory would not be as damaging to areas such as climate change and social justice as many feared.
Reports circled in February suggesting that Ivanka and her husband helped to block plans to veto LGBT protection laws set in place during the Obama administration. It seemed as if Ivanka really could be a moderating force in the otherwise destructive Trump presidency. Ivanka has even gone as far as calling her father a feminist at one point, suggesting the widespread accusations of misogyny were false. Trump might be the public face, but the real direction is coming from his daughter.
Yet despite promises to fight for action against climate change, Ivanka did nothing to stop her father last week as he took aim at Obama’s environmental policies. This backsliding on climate change has come under scrutiny from China and the European Union who have both stated that they will remain committed to the Paris agreement. If Ivanka did at first appear to have some sort of moderating effect on her father, she has failed here. The cuts are a huge blow to environmentalists across the USA and indeed across the world. Ivanka’s brand of feminism and liberalism is just that – a brand.
Ivanka’s campaigning for maternity leave excludes men, suggesting that parenting is only a women’s issue. The conservative right are attempting to reclaim a more traditionalist brand of feminism, in a way that benefits them. Although Ivanka’s promises about women in business are well-intentioned, she makes no attempt to help women from more diverse backgrounds.
A group of people who have previously been known to shy away from the ‘angry’, ‘loud’, ‘man-hating’ feminist image are now rebranding feminism into a blanket term to justify and hide conservative policy. When Ivanka called her father a feminist, she was attempting to cover up the misogynistic comments and sexual assault claims to which he is linked. But the label did not stop him attacking female reproductive freedoms in the global gag rule put forward in January. Kellyanne Conway may have been the first female campaign manager to win an election but this did not make Trump’s campaign anymore focused on equality.
Ivanka Trump will remain a key figure in the Trump administration as time progresses, but it seems unlikely that she will be a moderating force. Her commitment to a brand inclusive of liberal feminism, environmental commitments, and equality in the workplace seem to come before her drive to actually enforce any real change for real people. It is clear that the power still rests with the President, rather than the First Daughter.
Photograph: Michael Vadon via flickr.