Ivanka Trump is a talented speaker and possibly gifted politician who on Thursday night gave the best speech of this week’s Republican convention. In it, she acknowledged the changing role of women in America before delivering a pack of false promises about Donald Trump’s interest in addressing gender inequality.
Ivanka described a father with a long commitment to hiring women, and talked about the company that she helps him run as a place where “women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother she is supported and not shut out.” She noted that “women represent 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force and 40 percent of U.S. households have women as primary breadwinners,” though she failed to mention the high percentage of those breadwinning moms who are single parents, or the high percentage of single mothers who live below the poverty line. Unmarried women without children, Trump noted, now make 94 cents to the male dollar, while married mothers make only 77. What this led her to conclude is that “gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy, motherhood is.”
And so, Trump continued, her father would “change labor laws that were put in place when women were not a significant portion of the workforce, focus on making quality child-care affordable and accessible for all.”
Trump went on to argue, correctly, that “policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties, they should be the norm” and then claimed that while “politicians talk about wage equality,” her father “has made it a practice his entire career” and promised that Donald “will fight for equal pay for equal work and I will fight for this too, right alongside of him.”
This portion of Ivanka’s speech was beautifully delivered, cogent, and mostly right on the money. It was also, with regard to her father, an enormous crock.
If Ivanka Trump is looking to be part of a two-for-one presidential team that brings our labor, economic, and social policies up to speed regarding women’s participation in the workforce, she should really get on the phone with Hillary Clinton. Clinton is the candidate running on policy proposals that would cap child-care spending at 10 percent of family income, boost pay for child-care workers, implement early childhood home visiting programs. and guarantee paid family leave — the basic building block of humane workplace policy that this country so embarrassingly lacks.
Ivanka certainly shouldn’t cast a vote for her father, a man who has not only shown zero interest in addressing any of the workplace inequities his daughter laid out, but whose campaign rests partly on the premise of returning America to the earlier era Ivanka described, in which women were treated as dependents, not as economic actors or as professionals or as equals in any realm.
In fact, just hours before Trump’s daughter took the stage, his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had given an interview in which he described Trump’s appeal to women lies with fact that “there are many women in this country who feel they can’t afford their lives; their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills.”
This is the Trump’s campaign vision of women — they are wives whose economic concerns extend only to their husband’s earning power.
And if you believe this is some sort of internal dispute — that there is substantive tension between Manafort’s vision and Ivanka’s view, and hers will win out — I would submit that every available piece of evidence supports the fact that Trump himself, and certainly the party he is leading into November, wants to return women to a subservient past, and actively obstruct policies that would better support them, or treat them as fully human.
Donald Trump has said, not in some nebulous adolescence, but as a 48-year-old, twice-married businessman and father of four, that “I think putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.” He has written that his big mistake in his first marriage, to Ivanka’s mother, Ivana, “was taking her out of the role of wife and allowing her to run one of my casinos … I will never again give a wife responsibility within my business. Ivana worked very hard … but I soon began to realize that I was married to a businessperson rather than a wife.”
Donald Trump has called pregnant women an “inconvenience” for employers. Asked directly about implementing paid-leave policies that are at the very heart of the motherhood penalty Ivanka described to the nation on Thursday, Donald Trump has said, “we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful [of mandating paid leave].” Donald Trump has mentioned child care during his presidential campaign, but has suggested that it should be up to private companies: “You need one person or two people and you need some blocks, you need some swings, you need some toys.” The kind of privatized solution that Trump envisions — in addition to being aggressively stupid in its assumptions about what child care and early education entail — is the opposite of what Ivanka suggested was necessary: revised laws and policies that make affordable child care a norm, not a random perk.
Moreover, Donald Trump has said he would not raise a minimum wage since “salaries are too high,” which will come as news to the two-thirds of minimum-wage workers who are women, many of whose low salaries — along with lack of paid leave and affordable child care — contribute to the pay gaps that Ivanka cited. Donald Trump has referred to women as disgusting bleeding bimbos and fat pigs and dogs and pieces of ass; he evaluates them on aesthetic scales of 1–10, has written that “for a man to be successful he needs support at home, not someone who is always griping and bitching” and that “you have to treat [women] like shit.” Donald Trump has bragged about not changing his own children’s diapers and suggested that “there’s a lot of women out there that demand that the husband act like the wife … [but] that’s not my thing.” He said, in 2005, of his children, “I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids.”
This does not match Ivanka Trump’s vision of women as working mothers who require new social policies. This matches Paul Manafort’s vision of women as wives whose only economic realities are their husbands’ economic realities.”
Why is Ivanka trying to pass off her caveman dad as a paragon of gender equality? Clearly to make an appeal to the women he’s losing so badly. But what does she take America for? Does she really believe she can just invent a policy position that bears no relationship to her father’s rhetorical record or stated policy interests? Does she think that if she says her father is going to support equal pay and subsidized child care — policies that generations of activists have dedicated their lives to making real — that we will forget that he is a sexist pig who treats women as interchangeable pieces of meat? And what if she believes what she says? Can she have confused the respect he evinces for her and her professional success with a coherent view of gender equality that he clearly lacks with regard to every other woman on the planet? In the best possible scenario, is she trying to push him toward a more evolved approach or make him publicly accountable for her promises?
Even if that were the case, she shouldn’t hold her breath. The Republican platform does not include any mention of child care, day care, early education, equal pay, or paid leave, though it does strongly oppose gay marriage, single parenthood, cohabitation, abortion, and every one of the developments in marriage and economic patterns that have changed the world for women in the way that Ivanka Trump correctly described.
No, if Ivanka believes we need to alter our social and economic policies to better reflect the lived realities of today’s women and men, their economic needs and familial responsibilities, then she would do better to visit with the Democrats in Philadelphia next week. There she’d learn about the politicians who support things like paid family leave, higher minimum wages, subsidized child care and early education programs. There she’d encounter the party about to nominate for president a working mother whom her father — the man she’d like us to believe treats women with respect — described on Thursday as a purveyor of “death, destruction, terrorism, and weakness.”