Live from the Lilith Blog 1 of 2
February 16, 2017 by Alice Sparberg Alexiou
Ivanka Trump knows what her father is. How could she not? When she was nine, he jubilantly dumped her mother, Ivana, in front of all the tabloids for another, younger blonde, Marla Maples. He discarded Maples five years later (and perhaps discarded their daughter, Tiffany, as well), six years after that married Melania, and all along the way grabbed pussies, insulted women because of their looks, called a breastfeeding mother “disgusting,” and so forth. The man’s boorishness knew no bounds. So how can Ivanka, the self-proclaimed feminist daughter, not have contempt for him?
On the contrary: she craves his approval. She co-hosted “The Apprentice” with him. At the Republican convention last summer, she told the whole world that Trump is “a man I have loved and respected my entire life.”
So what is the real story here? Is she afraid of him? He’s a nasty guy: look at all those Republican men who hate him but don’t have the guts to stand up to him. Or is she afraid that if she doesn’t act the obedient daughter he’ll take away all those perks that go along with being Donald Trump’s daughter? But Ivanka has her own business—her clothing line doubles as vehicle to promote herself as the voice of working mothers everywhere—and her own income. Plus, she married into the wealthy Kushner family. So she doesn’t need her father any more to keep living her glamorous life.
Ivanka’s attachment to her father is about more than money. We get that she loves him; he’s her father, the only one she’s got. But if she wants to be able to walk down the street when she comes back to New York without having to put a paper bag over her head, she needs to separate from him. Publicly. Ivanka, you can say it, as my mother used to tell me, “in a nice way.” Yes, I know, it’s hard. The devil’s in the details. I can’t tell you exactly how, but a good therapist can. Go make an appointment. You need to deal with what your father said about you. You know, about how you’re so pretty, that if you weren’t his daughter, he’d date you.
Given Trump’s history with women, those words make us shudder. Now the billionaire businessman is also the leader of the free world, and there is no telling how much damage he is capable of inflicting on the entire globe.
Instead, a few weeks into her father’s presidency, which each day brings us another more outlandish and alarming outrage, Ivanka continues to allow her father to use her for cover. She’s the lipstick on her father’s pigginess. During the campaign, when CNN reporter Gloria Borger mentioned that people fault Trump for his sexism, Ivanka carefully replied: “There’s no way I could be the person I am today if my father were a sexist.” With her smooth-as-cream persona, gorgeous body, and fabulous outfits—her father is notorious for expecting his women look and dress like Barbie dolls—she offers herself as a connection to her father for all the poor women out there who voted for him out of desperation, and in their fantasies who look and live just like her. Trump, Ivanka assures us, will take care of all women, just as he takes care of her. What a clever marketing tool! In other words, she is telling us, believe what I say, not your own eyes or ears. Although she is careful not to promise us the moon. “I don’t express my views on policy except for childcare and women’s issues,” she told Borger. “It is incredibly important for me to participate in that conversation.” (Really, Ivanka? We couldn’t help but note your silence when Trump, surrounded by his phalanx of white men, signed the global “gag order” defunding overseas health organizations that offer family planning services.)
The elephant in the room is the Jewish angle here. Ivanka converted to Orthodox Judaism before she married Jared Kushner. Who knew then what a boon this would turn out to be for her father? Whenever a whiff of anti-Semitism escapes from Trump’s alt-right base—remember the six-pointed star on an anti-Hillary ad that some moron on his campaign staff copied from the website of a white supremacist group—Jared Kushner springs to action and defends his father-in-law. Meanwhile, Ivanka stands silently in the background, but we feel her presence. She’s the female face of the Trump administration, the Jewish female face, and by choosing this role, she has debased herself. She is too weak to stand up to her father or his administration, and therefore is no Woman of Valor.
Alice Sparberg Alexiou, a contributing editor at Lilith, is the author of The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City That Arose with It, and Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary. She is currently working on a book about the Bowery.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.