This past Tuesday was not the first time Refinery29 published a piece by Ivanka Trump. In January of 2015, she penned this article for us, tackling stereotypes of working women, pegged to the same #WomenWhoWork initiative that her new book, aptly titled Women Who Work, is built on. I assigned the piece and found her to be thoughtful and engaged with the idea of helping to bridge the gap between mothers who did and didn’t work — and to address the invisible costs of committing time to care at home. Even at the time, her ideas didn’t feel particularly intersectional or broadly inclusive — but they didn’t seem intentionally exclusive, either. And she did aim to advance the causes of working women in a way that was an important and meaningful part of the cultural conversation at the time. See here, here, and here, for some context.
But 2015 was a different time. The future felt truly and easily female (despite the problematic co-opting and commercializing of that phrase). Many women were taking feminism for granted (possibly even considering themselves frustratingly 'post-feminist'), Hillary Clinton was a few months away from announcing her candidacy, and we all (or rather, many but not nearly enough of us) had clear hopes for a world in which the U.S. would soon have its first female president in office. But that future has not yet come to be.
Instead, today we have a president in office who brags about sexual assault and grabbing women by the pussy; who is threatening the funding of Planned Parenthood in several significant ways; who is proposing a budget that diminishes funding for the arts, sciences, environmental protections, and many programs that address lower-income workers; who is potentially dismantling Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative…and the list goes on.
In light of all of that, today, the stakes for women feel higher. Especially for lower-income workers, for minorities, and for those who have been historically disadvantaged and disenfranchised by society. Ivanka Trump hasn't done an effective job of reaching out to or including those groups in her efforts. It's not clear that she has any desire to do so. And her movement doesn’t feel like nearly enough of what we need in an advocate for women today. (Jill Filipovic articulated this beautifully in the New York Times in January.)
And yet, she’s one of the most powerful women — if not the most powerful woman — in the nation today. She has the president’s ear. And when I read about her eyes welling up in the face of her father’s obstinance in handling that 'pussy grabbing' incident, I can’t help but feel hopeful that she’ll guide him toward a better path.
There is meaningful discourse to be had around whether or not Ivanka Trump is complicit in the wrongdoings of her father. But the desire for that discourse doesn’t suggest to me that Ivanka can’t have a voice on the Refinery29 platform, or that her advice to women in the space of negotiating, where she does have some expertise, isn’t valid or helpful.