From the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has relied on Ivanka to convince women that he’s not the human embodiment of every shred of misogyny they’ve faced in their careers and personal lives. Her latest effort, a video on Trump’s meager proposals for child care and maternity leave, launched on Friday.
“The most important job any woman can have is being a mother,” Ivanka says in the video. This is a surprisingly dismissive opening line for a video meant to capture the support of working mothers, who presumably invest a great deal of time and energy in their paying, non-maternal jobs. It seems she’s already given up on working women without children, whose lives are bereft of the meaning and importance their reproductive capacities were meant to provide. One wonders, in Trump’s estimation, what a man’s “most important job” might be. It’s certainly not fathering—Trump has proudly denied that he’d do any parenting beyond “supply[ing] funds” for his kids. He’s also said that men who care for their children are acting “like the wife.”
For women who’ve embraced their most important human role in addition to some kind of extraneous, barely-worth-mentioning additional employment, Ivanka promises that her father will “change outdated labor laws” and advocate for child-care tax credits and paid maternity leave. That’s maternity leave, not parental leave, mind you—fathers and mothers who don’t physically give birth don’t factor into Trump’s ideal family plan. It must be some miserable sign of progress that Donald Trump—who’s called breast pumping “disgusting” and pregnancy “an inconvenience” for employers; who expressed disgust that Kim Kardashian had “gotten a little large” while she was pregnant; who once insulted wife Melania in front of a reporter for not losing her “baby weight” fast enough after giving birth—is endorsing a message that doesn’t explicitly frame pregnancy and motherhood in degrading or sexual terms.
Just three days after this ad made Ivanka’s pro-Trump case to the working mothers of America, the Associated Press has threatened to thwart her hard work with a new investigation of Trump’s alleged history of sexual harassment on the set of The Apprentice. The allegations are nauseating: Eight Apprentice crew members recalled Trump repeatedly victimizing a camerawoman in front of her peers, telling her that that he liked her butt and that the only woman more attractive than her was Ivanka. Trump reportedly made a routine of calling out female contestants for being “hot” and asking the men in the room if they would have sex with that day’s chosen target. One member of the crew told the AP that Trump once singled out a female contestant and asked the room, “You'd fuck her, wouldn't you? I'd fuck her. C’mon, wouldn't you?” While Trump amped up his public humiliation, the crew member recalled, the woman was “shrinking in her seat.”
This investigation suggests what many have long suspected: That Trump’s contempt for women and obsession with their looks puts him in the same category as his mentor, former Fox News head and alleged serial sexual harasser Roger Ailes. It also gives Trump’s critics another entry for their lists of his campaign’s many hypocrisies. How can he claim to support and advocate for working women when he’s habitually objectified and belittled the women who’ve worked for him? How can anyone give Ivanka credence as a successful booster of female entrepreneurs when she doesn’t pay her interns?
When Ailes’ reputation crumbled this summer under dozens of allegations of severe sexual harassment, Donald Trump said he’d hope Ivanka would leave a company if she ever faced such treatment; his son Eric suggested that his sister was too strong to “allow herself” to be sexually victimized at work. But throughout her tenure in the family business, Ivanka has endured constant reminders from her father that he’d sleep with her if they weren’t related, that she’s got the world’s “best body,” and that her value to him is primarily based on her beauty. The AP’s story supports a narrative that’s uncomfortable to confront: The longest-running victim of Trump’s sexual harassment is his own daughter.