Feminism Begins at Home, Ivanka Trump

By Molly Jong-Fast
Kim Min-Hee/Pool/Getty

On the very same week that her father faced at least his 16th accusation of sexual assault, the president’s daughter took the stage at the G-20 to speak on “women’s empowerment.”  

Days after E. Jean Carroll wrote about Donald raping her, and he responded by saying she was “not my type,” there was Ivanka again shopping her nebulous “women’s empowerment initiative.”

Trump Will Brush Off E. Jean Carroll’s Assault Allegation — but Women Will Remember

It was the first daughter’s second time speaking to the G-20. In Berlin in 2017, she had been “put on the spot about her father's attitudes toward women, booed and hissed at by the crowd, and grilled by the moderator about what, exactly, her role is in President Donald Trump’s administration.”  

This weekend, in Osaka, Japan, Ivanka declared that “we must continue to prioritize women's economic empowerment and place it at the very heart of the G20 agenda."  It was her usual shtick: too much gesticulation, overly articulated words strung together to sound impressive but ringing hollow. 

She wore a light pink Valentino dress that cost more than a semester of community college and reminded me of Princess Amidala from Star Wars as she delivered unobjectionable pablum: "This is a legacy worth fighting for and a future we can be proud to leave to our children."  Speaking of children, I feel comfortable as someone who has benefitted from nepotism saying that being someone daughter doesn’t in itself make a person qualified to do anything—yet it is Ivanka’s only qualification for her sprawling yet ill-defined job as a “senior adviser” in this White House.   

Her father’s administration has been notoriously uninterested in “women’s empowerment,” with its war on reproductive health and support for the global gag rule.  

Ivanka’s speech was mostly forgotten even as it was delivered, and the moment from this summit most people will remember is the crudely recorded video released by the French government showing her talking to British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.  

Lagarde rolls her eyes and turns away as Ivanka interrupts the conversation to note the male domination of the defense industry. One almost feels bad for Ivanka, so clearly out of her depth.  

But if this is an embarrassing moment for Ivanka, it’s a mortifying one for the people who are paying for her trip there, the American people.  

Ivanka also described her momentary foray into North Korea’s demilitarized zone as “surreal.”  Perhaps not as surreal as having a former fashion designer and her husband negotiate American foreign policy with the fashion designer’s father, the president of the United States.  

Ivanka is a cipher, so in a sense she is the perfect vessel for the women’s empowerment agenda of an administration run by whim that has no agenda for or for that matter interest in empowering women. It is an administration, though, that knows something about economic growth—when it comes to the Trump brand. 

As Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and other nations, put it: “It says to our allies, to everyone we do business with, that the only people who matter are Trump and his family members.”

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