Ivanka Trump is executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization and an entrepreneur with a degree from the The Wharton School of Business. The eldest daughter of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump also heads up IvankaTrump.com, a Tumblr-style mood board of Audrey Hepburn pictures, interviews with high-profile working women, and tips on packing for business trips and preparing for big presentations.
It's kind of GOOP meets Lean In.
On International Women's Day this year, IvankaTrump.com released seven shareable e-cards to mark the occasion. In keeping with the brand, the messages were generically empowering and sugar sweet. One of them featured Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who survived an attempted assassination by the Taliban and was named the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate.
Yousafzai, also notably, has recently called Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims “full of hatred, full of this ideology of being discriminative towards others.”
In the months since her father first declared his presidential candidacy, Ivanka has become one of his most front-facing and outspoken defenders—whether it's over his remarks calling undocumented Mexican immigrants rapists and killers or his suggestion that Carly Fiorina was too unattractive for the White House.
And while endorsements from white supremacists like former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke have pushed even some Republicans to call him too extreme for the presidency, Ivanka has been resolute in her her support for her father, traveling with the campaign and working to turn out voters in states from New Hampshire to South Carolina.
None of which seems to have damaged her—or her brand. That kind of resilience may be a testament to her well-controlled public image, but it's also an indictment of the hollow brand of women's empowerment she has been marketing. The smiling, soft feminism of the Ivanka brand—which has swapped out any meaningful political context for a vague notion that women are really great—was always empty empowerment.
Her full embrace of her father's campaign should make that point impossible to ignore. And yet, it hasn't.
Ivanka Trump wants you to vote for her father, a man who has pledged to ban Muslims from entering the United States until he can "figure out what is going on" and has said he would "take out" the families of suspected terrorists. Ivanka Trump® wants you to share this e-card of Malala.
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A fawning January Town & Country cover story articulates Ivanka's dual roles well: "Amazingly, the perpetual fracas that swirls around Donald bypasses her. She enhances him, but he does not damage her."
It's an unenviable position to be in—the daughter of a candidate like Donald Trump—but Ivanka has embraced the role of her father's defender and become a strong spokesperson for her family.
It would appear that the racism and xenophobia that Donald has staked his candidacy on has no place in the neatly curated, girl power-focused world of Ivanka Trump®. And yet it is very clearly a part of his daughter's life, even as her work brands itself as a "celebration of women" in "their various roles in professional and personal capacities: building careers, raising children, nurturing relationships and pursuing passions."
So how can Ivanka Trump reconcile the conflict between endorsing a racist candidate who calls women pigs and female empowerment? By pretending it doesn't exist.
When her father suggested that Carly Fiorina was too unattractive to be president and that Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she asked him a straightforward question about his record, Ivanka said his comments were being manipulated by the media.
"I think a lot of the sensationalism around this was orchestrated, largely by the media," she told CNN in October of last year. "Look, my father is very blunt. He is very direct. He is not gender-specific in his criticism of people and people he doesn’t particularly like or people he does like but thinks they’re wrong on a particular issue.
"I don’t think he’s gender targeted at all," she continued. "Like I said, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, I wouldn’t be a high-level executive within his organization if he felt that way. He has always supported and encouraged women. And truthfully, he’s proven that over decades.”
In the same Town & Country story, Ivanka rejected the idea that his comments about Kelly, Fiorina, and others meant he didn't respect women:
You could also list a few comments he's made about men that are unflattering. I think he's highly gender-neutral. If he doesn't like someone he'll articulate that, and I think it's also part of what resonates about him. He'll say what he's thinking. I think that's very refreshing, because with most politicians I've witnessed, you have no idea if what's coming out of their mouths is married to their viewpoints.
In fact, she called him kind of feminist.
"He 100% believes in equality of gender, so, yes, absolutely—socially, politically, and economically," she said in response to a question about whether or not she thought her father was a feminist.
Deflection has been Ivanka's primary response since the start: When she introduced her father's campaign in June of 2015, she celebrated Donald as "the opposite of politically correct" and a man who "says what he means and means what he says." The reality television star turned Republican presidential frontrunner then went on to give a speech in which he called Mexican immigrants criminals.
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best," he said at the time. "They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
The blowback was swift, and Ivanka was among his first defenders. “My father has so many amazing friends from Mexico,” she told supporters at his Manchester, N.H., campaign headquarters the following week. “His statements were completely misconstrued and truthfully, it was very unfair how the media picked it up and twisted his words. He was talking about illegal immigration and a porous border between the U.S. and Mexico.”
By now, Donald's platform has come to be defined by a few things: building a "big, beautiful wall" along the U.S. border and a companion program of mass deportations, a pledge to defund Planned Parenthood, a commitment to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the country, and claims that the minimum wage (which nets a full-time worker just $15,080 annually) was too high. These are all policies that would, on their face, harm millions of women in the United States and abroad. But of her own business and the #WomenWhoWork campaign, Ivanka speaks in clear terms about empowering women: "The whole point of my brand is that women should be architecting the lives they want to live."
Even as she has played the role of character witness for her father's presidential run, Ivanka has also tried to put distance between herself and his policies: "It's not my place to articulate those [policies] for him. I'm not part of the campaign," she told CNN in October. "I'm very busy and he's kept me very busy working alongside my brothers and running the organization now that he's taking this step. I'll leave policy to him."
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Ivanka's #WomenWhoWork campaign features interviews with female CEOs and women in high-dollar philanthropy about their first jobs and morning routines. In her profile with the campaign, Lauren Bush Lauren, the founder and CEO of FEED and granddaughter of George H. W. Bush, encourages women to "Go for it—don’t let inexperience hold you back." In another, the co-founder and CEO of Birch Box instructs women to never "accept 'no' from someone who can't say 'yes.'"
It's all feel-good women's empowerment stuff, and it has made Ivanka a go-to voice for women's magazines and other outlets running advice for or profiles of women in business. She may not be a household name everywhere, but Ivanka's business pursuits and personal story have been covered in publications from the Wall Street Journal to Vogue. She has also been incredibly successful in those pursuits: her estimated net worth is somewhere around $150 million.
But the apparent contradiction between Ivanka's public role as her father's defender and feel good ambassador of women's empowerment hasn't presented much of a dilemma to the outlets that profile her. While the Trump supporter profile piece—why, exactly, do so many people back a candidate who hesitated to denounce the Ku Klux Klan?—has become a genre unto itself, recent pieces like this interview with Cosmopolitan make a quick mention of her father "shaking up the 2016 election" before pivoting to Ivanka's advice on how to feel more confident at work.
Even as she works to turn out the vote in support of her father, Ivanka remains teflon in the face of headlines about the racism and violence that increasingly defines his campaign.
So do the Muslim women, undocumented women, and low-income women who would be disproportionately harmed by her father's policies have a place in Ivanka's empowering world of #WomenWhoWork? Maybe someone should ask.
Representatives for Ivanka Trump declined to comment for this story.