No matter what Ivanka Trump says or does — and lately she has been doing more of both — the first daughter is bound to get blowback. For good reason.
After 100 days as a West Wing employee who isn’t cashing a government paycheck, she remains hard to pin down. Is she simply the pretty face softening the edges of the president? As she promotes her book, “Women Who Work,” does she really, really believe she is just another mom struggling to balance job and family? Is she blind to the ethical conflicts that will invariably arise when her multinational business negotiates deals abroad?
I still haven’t figured out what Ivanka’s role as senior White House adviser entails or how much power she truly wields. She reminds me, however, of the shape-shifters who populate the books of J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling. The Ivanka you get depends on the situation, and nothing underscores this duality more than her social media accounts.
On the one hand, she appears as the well-spoken, polished champion of female empowerment in a corner of government that badly needs one. On the other hand, she’s blind to the fact that her father has been recorded saying some terribly misogynistic things.
On the one hand, she’s developing a private fund to benefit female entrepreneurs around the world. On the other, she seems clueless about how the privilege of birth affords her opportunities others don’t have.
On the one hand, she has said she aims to make climate change one of her “signature issues.” On the other, President Donald Trump’s administration has axed some very important climate-change regulations.
On the one hand, she supports her father’s agenda of bringing jobs back to America. On the other, her clothing and shoe lines are made in an overseas factory. And on and on it goes.
Oh, the mystery that is Ivanka. A sphinx. A cipher. A most public unknown.
I suspect that how we feel about her — presidential conscience or parental apologist? — has as much to do with what we think of President Trump’s policies as our own conflicting views of women, of work-family balance, of nepotism, of privilege, even of a future that appears increasingly clouded by both internal and external threats.
So I decided to take a totally unscientific survey to learn what my female friends, perceptive critics all, have to say about Ivanka. I was surprised by some reactions, namely because political affiliation didn’t always predict their reactions.
“I wish she would change or add on her married name,” a Trump supporter told me. “Out of respect for her husband but also so it wouldn’t seem as though she’s using the family to brand herself.”
Texted a Hillary Clinton voter: “Poised, elegant, measured, likeable. I would say she’s the antithesis of her father!”
“Women who live lives of luxury from birth should resist commenting on the lives of the middle and lower classes,” wrote a 30-something mother of three who admired the “utopian” Bernie Sanders. “She’s delusional.”
From another: “I think she’s a hypocrite.”
Then from a registered independent who insists first wife Ivana, not Donald, should get the credit: “Ivanka is very much her mother’s daughter!!!”
“I prefer her over Obama’s suggestion of Beyonce as a role model for my daughter,” texted another “centrist” who appreciates that Ivanka is always photographed with her family.
And finally a more prosaic comment from a millennial who sat out the election: “All I can say is that I have two shoes of hers and they’re really nice.”
Huckster or advocate, sellout or pioneer, feminist or pseudo-fem — surely the next three years and nine months will tell us who Ivanka is, who she wants to be. In the meantime, the most photogenic of the Trumps will leave most of us scratching our heads.