While we wait to see exactly what type of role Ivanka Trump will play in her father’s administration, some are calling her possible stepping in as First Lady a “win for feminism.” Catie Warren of The Huffington Post suggests that “in a year where we had the first female nominee of a major party,” perhaps it’s time that the role of First Lady be given to someone who is “qualified, rather than someone who is simply married to the man in office.”
“Should the rumors be true, that Ivanka Trump — a Harvard educated mother of three who has donated and supported politicians on both sides of the aisle — will step in as the hostess of the White House, well, America could do a lot worse,” she wrote earlier this month.
However, others are not so convinced. Around the same time, Elle Magazine‘s Sady Doyle argued that Ivanka’s involvement in the Trump White House is dangerous for women because she’s too successful.
“Ivanka Trump—blond, pretty, well-mannered, given massive amounts of power over the citizenry thanks to nothing but her genetic makeup—is the closest thing we’ll get to a princess,” she starts off her essay. “Which is how we’ll all get to find out: Princesses are terrifying.”
Doyle argues that Ivanka is an “exceptional woman” whose success provides men with an excuse to blame less successful women for their own hardships and failures, while assuring women that sexism can be overcome as long as you try hard enough.
“Patriarchy has always had room for the Exceptional Woman—the one woman smart enough, sweet enough, strong enough, soft enough, pure enough, sexy enough to satisfy all of our culture’s contradictory demands on women, and thus make it to the top of a sexist system on merit alone. Patriarchy needs that woman,” Doyle continues. “She tells us that the system is survivable for women—you simply have to be the right kind of woman.”
The problem here, according to Doyle, is that Ivanka is not the feminist we’d like to believe she is because “she’s helped make a self-confessed sexual predator who ran the most openly misogynist presidential campaign in modern history palatable to a large number of Americans” and that she “provides her father with a human credential and downplays his sexism.”
While many have cited Ivanka’s education, business success, motherhood, and record of advocating for women’s rights as reasons why she could help women during a Trump presidency, Doyle asserts that those are the very reasons why women won’t benefit from her presence in the administration, concluding:
We’re not meant to benefit from her; we’re meant to look at her, and think about how we can be more like her. We’re meant to blame ourselves for falling short, as we have with every other Exceptional Woman to date. Ivanka is the Disney princess; we’re the peasant chorus members who watch, and serve, and sigh at her pretty hair. Hell, maybe we’ll even pitch in some background vocals on a few of the big musical numbers. Peasants always do, in those movies, even though they’re probably all starving.
“Sounds like a Kennedy,” Maggie McKneely quipped in response in an article for NewsBusters. “Be successful, ladies; but not too successful, or else a women’s magazine might write a hit piece about you.”