Yesterday, Ivanka Trump posted a photo of herself seated at the Oval Office desk across her social media platforms, following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the White House. In the image, she’s flanked by her father, President Donald Trump, and an awkward Trudeau. The caption reads, “A great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table!”
Except, that last time I checked, “Women having a seat at the table” was not tantamount to “Sexist, racist demagogue invites privileged daughter to sit at his desk for a bit”. It’s just extreme nepotism, something Trump deployed alarmingly when he called out Nordstrom for dropping his progeny’s clothing line.
Unfortunately, America had its opportunity to give a woman a seat at the table. The table First Daughter Ivanka Trump is sitting at, to be precise, in the form of a democratically elected female President. Ivanka’s photo serves to remind us that if women want to be heard, they must be invited to speak. In the version of feminism shilled by Ivanka, women must ask powerful white men for permission. It’s the most palatable type of feminism: one in which women may be powerful, but never disruptively so – their power closely guarded by male gatekeepers who dole it out in rations.
“Her dad opening the door for her is not feminism – it’s white elitism. It does not benefit all women, only a certain type of woman”
Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump – an incredibly rich white woman – recalling Solange’s A Seat At The Table to talk about her own personal “empowerment” is an ironic accident that only leads one to consider the vast divide between her own charmed life and the rest of America’s women. What she fails to recognise in captioning this photo is that her dad opening the door for her is not feminism – it’s white elitism. It does not benefit all women, only a certain type of woman.
Moreover, her father’s track record with “empowering” women includes grabbing them “by the pussy”, reinstating a global gag rule withdrawing US funding for international family planning organisations, and asserting his intention to overturn Roe v. Wade. And when it comes to powerful women, Trump has shown an equally aggressive propensity towards blatant sexism. His obsessive attacks on Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly, in which he regularly referred to her as “crazy”, as well as his ongoing verbal sexist abuse of Hillary Clinton during the Presidential campaign betray Trump’s anxiety around women brighter – and more legitimately employed – than him. It’s unlikely that Trump has any intention of actually improving conditions for women at all – something Ivanka, being at least compos mentis, should know, further proving that there’s only room for one at this table, and only when Trump says so.
What we need is capable, clever, democratically elected officials who have the interests of women at all intersections of society at heart, and not just in lining the wallets of a few, already powerful, white women. With the very fundamentals of women’s rights at risk in the US – from the right to unfettered access to abortion to the wage gap that seems to grow exponentially for women of color – what the country needs is proportional political representation for all sexes, races, religions and orientations.
Follow Kat George on Twitter here @kat_george