Last night, the GLAAD Media Awards were held in New York City. Among all of the glitz and celebration, a seriousness was present. As she accepted the Excellence in Media Award, Debra Messing gave voice to the very real and very scary issues that the LGBTQ community is facing as a result of Donald Trump's presidency. "Our democracy and humanity have been under attack. But unless you are an unenlightened, straight, cisgender white male, you are a target," she told the crowd during her acceptance speech.
Messing's speech was funny, but unabashedly political, as well. Among her jokes ("It's time to make America gay again!" and a quip about the fact that she starred in one of "the most iconic gay shows" in history: "Smash!") were instructions on how to call the Congressional Switchboard in Washington, D.C. and commentary on some of the incredibly frightening policies that have been pushed by the Trump administration under the guise of "religious freedom."
The moment that got perhaps the most applause (among the multiple standing ovations her speech received) came when Messing appealed directly to "Secretary of Straight" Ivanka Trump, "one Jewish mother to another." To Ivanka, she said: “It’s not enough to simply say that women’s issues are important to you. It’s time to do something."
Messing's plea touched on the fact that, while Ivanka has long claimed to be a champion for women and was touted as her father's unofficial expert on women's issues, her record thus far is not great. Between the less-than-adequate maternity leave plan that she took most of the credit for (which would have excluded non-married mothers, adoptive parents, and same-sex couples) and her complete and total silence as the GOP has pushed for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and rolled back protections for women in the workplace, many people remain unconvinced that Ivanka is as committed to the well-being and advancement of women as she claims to be.
"You can change the lives of millions of women and children just by telling your dad stories about real people who are suffering. Don’t let him separate immigrant mothers from their American-born children," Messing continued. "Don’t let him take health care away from women who need it. Don’t allow him to make trans kids like Gavin [Grimm] fight in court for their basic human dignity.”
Ivanka has told the press that, while she does not always speak out publicly against her father, she privately expresses her feelings and opinions on issues and policies she feels strongly about. On a CBS This Morning appearance last month, she said, "I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence. I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard." She went on to explain, "Where I disagree with my father, he knows it, and I express myself with total candor. Where I agree, I fully lean in and support the agenda and hope that I can be an asset to him and make a positive impact. But I respect the fact that he always listens."
Messing's strategy of appealing directly to the humanity that Ivanka claims to possess is one that plays on Ivanka's claims that she is in private conversations with her father in an attempt to guide his policy, a role is one that is likely expanded in her now-official capacity at the White House. But whether or not it will work remains to be seen.
"Entertainment and news media shape not only culture but also decisions made in courtrooms, classrooms, and yes, even voting booths," Messing said. "The country needs excellence in media. Now more than ever, we have got to get to work."