As the world watches horrified at the images of migrant children ripped away from their parents at the US southern border, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of the Trump administration’s self-appointed champion of women and children’s rights: Ivanka Trump. As a senior aide in her father’s West Wing, Ivanka has frequently been the leading (and sometimes only) voice advocating for women and children; some of her pet policy projects have been the expansion of the Child Care Tax Credit and the establishment of the World Bank’s We-Fi Fund to invest in female entrepreneurs around the world. Given her supposed interest in aiding women trying to support their families, it is particularly galling that Ivanka has remained silent about the plight of migrant parents and children.
With this shameful silence, Ivanka might be showing us her true colors. Thus far, she has been able to disclaim responsibility for some of the administration’s other unpopular actions (Muslim ban, ACA repeal) by maintaining that such issues are outside her wheelhouse. However, through her policy work and her curated image as a working mother, Ivanka has made women and children the epicenter of her wheelhouse. In fact, she highlighted the challenges of working motherhood as a central theme in her best-seller, Women Who Work. So then, what can be inferred when this “champion of women” remains silent as our government rips children away from mothers who are trying to give them a better life?
Two cynical theories come to mind. The first is that Ivanka’s pro-women stance is simply a façade- designed to render her father more palatable to conservative women. The other theory is that Ivanka truly cares about women, but only white women and their children. Perhaps this is why she swiftly condemned Roy Moore when he was accused of molesting white teenage girls forty years ago, but has stayed silent on the plight of migrant women who are fleeing the threat of sexual assault. Perhaps this is why she insensitively brags about spending time with her children while showing indifference to thousands of women who are forcefully separated by theirs. Now, I’m not saying that Ivanka Trump is a racist, but I do think that her failure to speak out against brown children being confined to cages speaks loudly to her true priorities.
I’ll end this piece with a fun fact: I was in the same Marketing class as Ivanka in college. Even back then, she was keenly aware of the value in personal branding. Upon her father’s election, it became clear that Ivanka sought to re-brand herself from mid-tier socialite and “businesswoman” to an international humanitarian, a la Angelina Jolie, who uses her wealth and power to advocate for those less fortunate. The only problem with this strategy is that you need to constantly reinforce your chosen brand image in order for it to stick. Now that Ivanka’s chosen brand is clashing with her father’s brand as a cruel, xenophobic authoritarian, Ivanka’s silence is showing us whose brand is strongest.