Commentary

Dancing On A Glass Ceiling: The Many Roles Of Ivanka Trump

Lately, she’s adopted a fembot voice that is very soft and whispery — and so controlled it’s almost chilling. While making a point, she flashes a 90-watt smile that seems unconvincing, more like a very careful and meticulous tiger baring her teeth.

But really, who could blame Ivanka Trump?

Indeed, there she was, installed in her job as “advisor” to the President for less than a month, when she was suddenly catapulted into the hot seat of all time.

Having been invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Berlin to attend the W20 Summit and participate in a panel entitled “Inspiring Women: Scaling up Women’s Entrepreneurship,” Ivanka was seated next to economic luminary Christine Lagarde, the head of The International Monetary fund. She was being grilled by a German moderator about the apparent contradictions in her father’s treatment of women.

Ivanka had mentioned, in a typically punchy, brand-building way, that her father had been “a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.”  

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With that, the audience at the Intercontinental Hotel started to hiss and snicker.

The moderator, journalist Miriam Meckel, then asked Ivanka to speak to that reaction, and answer a question that’s been upsetting many Americans, as well.

“The German audience is not that familiar with the concept of a First Daughter,” she said. “What is your role? Who are you representing? Your father, as the President of the United States? The American people? Or your business?”

That’s when the nervous smile appeared. “Certainly, not the latter,” she said, adding that the role is “rather unfamiliar.”

It was a humble answer, and perhaps a sympathy play. What bothered me the most was her response to the snickers: "I've certainly heard the criticism from the media, and that's been perpetuated, but I know from personal experience, and I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women….”

And that’s where our First Daughter lost me.

Much as I would like to feel compassion for her being put in a no-win position, she accepted the job. It’s hard to know what hold her father has over her, a married mother of three, who has already built her own fashion and accessories empire and acquitted herself well as one of the Talmudic judges whispering in her father’s ear on “The Apprentice.”

That goes for her husband, Jared Kushner, too. He was running his own family’s real estate empire when he was called away into the West Wing to not only sit in on high-level policy meetings with the President — but also, apparently, to spin straw into gold.

Jared was given a portfolio so massive (bring peace to the Middle East, end the opioid epidemic, etc.) that tens of superheroes, if not gods, could work on those assignments for decades without finishing the job.

As for Ivanka being pictured in the Oval Office, sitting next to the President at his desk, a friend responded this way on Facebook: “If I arrived in my dentist’s office to have a root canal, and he had his daughter sitting next to him on a stool, with no qualifications in dentistry but was there to ‘advise him,’ I would leave.”

Granted, Ivanka was between a rock and a hard place in Berlin, and European journalists and audiences are far less deferential to politicians than the American press.

But for Ivanka to call her father a “champion of women” is going so far that it actually blew a hole in the space/time continuum. Even worse, addressing all Trump pushback as “criticism from the media that’s been perpetuated,” is just playing back her dad’s most “alternative” factoids card.

For starters, two days after the inauguration, approximately 3.2 million people turned out for Women’s Marches all over the world to protest her father’s actions and policies.

To my surprise, when I called her out for this on Facebook, many otherwise-liberal men, who were not Trump supporters, rode in to Ivanka’s defense, offering things like “Ivanka is fiercely intelligent” and a “superior human being.”

To be sure, forgetting the flagrant nepotism and conflicts of interest, there’s a whole other flank of Ivanka-worship going on in the country. I didn’t know she has surpassed Kim Kardashian as the nation’s new female role model for cosmetic surgery, influencing young women from Texas to China who want to copy her features.

Dr. Gabriel Chu of Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter: “How many people have her look, went to an Ivy Leagues school and hold their own in business and socially?”  She’s seen as someone “classically pretty and not overdone.”

Well, we can’t hate her because she’s beautiful — if in danger of getting overdone.

I wanted to be fair. There’s no one way to embrace feminism. And Ivanka holds an unprecedented, ahistorical role in the White House. Maybe she can be a moderating force?

Having heard that Melania plans to move into the first residence and receive “media training,” I was wondering how P.R. professionals would advise Ivanka on how to walk her unique personal tightrope.

So I called up the closest person I know to Olivia Pope: Dorothy Crenshaw, head of Crenshaw Communications.

“If she were my client, “ Crenshaw said, “I would advise her that her opinions and positions should be far more substantive and detailed than what we’ve heard to date. She can be loyal to her father by not criticizing him openly, but she loses credibility with statements that defend or deny his more controversial behaviors.”

Crenshaw added: “She should focus like a laser on the women’s empowerment issue, rather than popping up at every White House meeting sitting next to every head of state.

“No more photos of her Aspen ski vacations, no more Air Force One shots, no pics of her hobnobbing with celebrities, no dressed-for-the-party tweets. She needs to develop a 12-point plan with the best experts on the issue and/or help craft a key piece of legislation so she can point to her actions, not just empty words.”

Lastly, “I would also advise her to thoroughly divest from the Trump organization business interests like the hotel, and increase the separation with her fashion business, but that’s probably a moot point.”

Indeed. Ivanka received licenses in China for her fashion lines around the time her father was serving chocolate cake to President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. He later reversed his decision to name China a currency manipulator.

Also, Ivanka’s new book, “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,” is being published on May 2. There’s more of the same vague boilerplate in the forward. She writes: “I am committed to working harder than ever to help unleash the full power of women and girls to accelerate the pace of progress both in our country and around the world.”

Her father’s actions have already rolled back many important protections for women on the reproductive and job fronts. And so far — as with that “Saturday Night Live” parody commercial for a perfume the SNL gang named “Complicit” —  she’s looking into a mirror and seeing her father’s reflection.  

If she is trying to shatter any ceilings, they’ve all been lowered and papered over — dramatically.

Still, it all reinforces the Trump brand.

9 comments about "Dancing On A Glass Ceiling: The Many Roles Of Ivanka Trump".
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  1. Deirdre Hanssen from The Promo Zone, April 28, 2017 at 10:19 p.m.

    Great headline Barbara and a balanced piece. I totally disagree with Ms. Crenshaw that Ivanka's opinions "should be far more substantive" in future. She isn't qualified for whatever job she does have in the White House and why should we care what she thinks about anything? She and Jared are the perfect examples of succeeding by nepotism, not abilities.

  2. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, April 28, 2017 at 10:24 p.m.

    Just a crazy thought: What if Ivanka and Jared had respectfully declined her father's offer to join the administration, on the grounds that such an overt act of nepotism would undermine his credibility in office, and that they could do more for the causes they wish to serve from the respectability of private service?

    Unfortunately, they share the hypocritical hubris of many born to wealth and privilege, somehow believing that they could perform such miraculous acts in these advisory roles that the taint of nepotism would eventually fade. 

    I'm just hoping that the product of all of the corruption and conflicts of interest Trump has brought to the White House will be some serious legislation to prevent any of it from happening again in future administrations.  I believe that if those laws were already in place, Donald Trump would never have run for the office.

  3. William Sobel from SobelMedia/NY:MIEG, April 29, 2017 at 7:50 a.m.

    Excellent Barbara...Bravo!

  4. Jane Farrell from Freelance, April 29, 2017 at 10:52 a.m.

    The only way Ivanka and Jared can be of any benefit is if they are a somewhat reasonable counterpoint to mad dog Steve Bannon. And she should acknowledge that her father has made some unfortunate "misstatements" or something like that. Even a small acknowledgment will help her sound less ridiculous. But that's not going to happen. She doesn't even have the guts to admit that people besides that amorphous beast, "the media," have legitimate reasons for criticizing her and her father. Her father's daughter, when all is said and done.

  5. Nancy Levine from Self, April 29, 2017 at 1:43 p.m.

    Thank you, Barbara, for shining a bright light into the Trumpian darkness and rhetoric proffered by the First Daughter. Truth-telling at its best!

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 30, 2017 at 12:07 a.m.

    No good will come from this black cloud. Lucretia Borgia, the pope's daughter is who Ivanka is.

  7. PJ Lehrer from NYU, May 1, 2017 at 1:37 p.m.

    Does it?  The boycott's working.  Soon the Trump brand will be on life support.
    More here...

    http://pjlehrer.blogspot.com/2017/02/all-boycotts-and-bumps-are-not-created.html

  8. Jim English from The Met Museum, May 4, 2017 at 1:06 p.m.

    Thanks Barbara.  I enjoyed the NYT headline from Jennifer Senior's review of I's book, "Inspiration From Ivanka, Humility-Free."   Hiss, hiss!

  9. Jim English from The Met Museum, May 4, 2017 at 1:06 p.m.

    Thanks Barbara.  I enjoyed the NYT headline from Jennifer Senior's review of I's book, "Inspiration From Ivanka, Humility-Free."   Hiss, hiss!

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