Ivanka Trump introduces President Trump at the Republican National Convention
Ivanka Trump campaigns for her father at the Republican National ConventionBloomberg

When Ivanka Trump Tries to Rebrand, Don’t Forget She Sold You Out

Ivanka is a powerful woman, yet she has consistently used that power to help block wage-equality efforts and our right to choose.

Ivanka Trump looks like a model, speaks like a CEO, and often approaches life with the misplaced confidence of a cisgender man at a pregnancy support group. From the first moments of her father’s presidential campaign, she and Donald Trump formed a mesmerizing pair, treated by the media as if they were a monstrous king and the princess who believes in his warm heart. Without ever being elected to any office or appointed by a government body, Ivanka Trump became one of the most powerful women in the country.

She promised to act as a “moderating force” on the Trump White House. Instead she became a tireless propagandist for it—supporting and promoting her father’s administration for four years, and shilling to try to get him four more. Through her work, and often through her silence, she endorsed his every dangerous lie, damaging policy, and hard-right judiciary appointment, cosigning his indifference to human suffering. She showed that though their foundation shades differ, underneath their vastly different modes of self-presentation, Ivanka and Donald Trump are exactly the same.

Ivanka Trump’s job has always been selling herself to the public—when she inevitably starts that again, we should be conscious of what it is we’re buying. 

Jemal Countess

As her father’s administration draws to an end, there is no doubt that the Trumps will remain in public view. Donald Trump could launch a cable news network, or even another bid for president. Ivanka’s future is less clear, but it will certainly involve attempting to sell us something—a book, a TV show, a fashion line, or herself, as a politician in her own right.

But buying into a rebranded Ivanka would be a moral disaster. There is no separating the beautiful, charming, and talented parts of Ivanka Trump from the cruelty she helped normalize as part of the Trump administration.

Some fans of Ivanka hold on to the myth that her relationship to her father is just that of a dutiful daughter, but that’s not true—she was a close advisor to her father throughout his years as a racist birther conspiracist, she was in meetings at his side through every step of his run for office, she took a full time job in his administration, and she is credited with aggressively getting out the MAGA vote, particularly among white women, in 2016 and 2020.

Rather than acting as a moderating force on the president or his administration, she acted as a moderating force on the American people. She didn’t curb her father’s policies; she curbed the public’s responses to them

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Ivanka supplied a steady stream of pleasant images and photo ops to confound and contradict reports about the chaotic reality of the Trump administration. She broadcast details about her focus on women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship while quietly forging quiet political alliances with Senator Lindsey Graham, a powerhouse of anti-choice, anti-women’s-health, and anti-fair-pay voting. She posted on social media and spoke publicly about closing the gender pay gap but supported her father’s work to block the Obama-era initiative that would have helped do exactly that. She stayed silent during the nomination to the Supreme Court of arch-conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh and celebrated Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. In March she came out as “unapologetically” anti-abortion. 

Even her anti-sex-trafficking work earned alarm from experts, who said that the White House congratulated itself on coming down on sex trafficking while actually reducing protections for survivors of trafficking.  

Far from moderating her father’s views or behavior, Trump was radicalized by her time in the White House. In the early days she reportedly pushed the president to stay in the Paris Climate Accords, pushed to protect LGBTQ rights, and focused on passing paid family leave. But soon she took up many of his beliefs, supporting his policies publicly and staying silent throughout his many lies and scandals. She firmly cosigned his presidency, raising tens of millions of dollars for her father’s reelection campaign. She campaigned indoors and maskless during the pandemic, standing by an administration that continues to lie about the fact that Americans are dying en masse. She sowed distrust in the 2020 election outcome, ignoring repeated, clear proof that it was fair. 

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For some political junkies, Ivanka Trump’s catapult from socialite to the seat of power might have come as a surprise. But millennial and Gen X women have watched her rise for over a decade.

We grew up with her. We followed her as a teen model, a 20-something It girl, and a 30-something would-be mogul and reality television personality. We have known her as a supposed liberal, and we have known her as a “proud Trump Republican,” as she put it last March. We’ve been with her since her center part was first fashionable, and then somewhat dated, and then fashionable again. We’ve watched her—savvier than her brothers—take advantage of every single opportunity available to her, and it has felt personal.

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It’s personal because she gained her power, in part, by perfecting the kind of femininity that women have been told to aspire to our entire lives. She curated the image of a stylish, put-together, hard-working business woman—who is also very much a dutiful daughter, hands-on mother, and devoted wife.

In reality, her situation is neither attainable nor aspirational. Trump is an heiress who got a top job through nepotism and ran an apparel business that closed, though not before producing its clothes at a factory that violated Chinese labor laws. She was an officer of a Trump foundation that admitted to using money intended for charity—including money raised at a fundraiser for veterans—for the Trump campaign and for Donald Trump’s businesses. She’s not our relatable mom-friend—with her husband, she has an income over $100 million a year. But when she steps off of Air Force One with a perfect blowout, husband and adorable children in tow, we might want what she has, even though we don’t want to think about how she got it.

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 As women, we desperately want to see another woman succeed. And it’s complicated because Trump is, herself, frequently the target of sexism. Criticism of her all too often invokes her femininity in a way that enforces the idea that there is something indecent about being a woman.

Ivanka Trump is a strong, powerful woman. And if you dream of a better world, you’ve been taught that supporting powerful women is essential to attaining it. But powerful is not the same as good. Strong is not the same as feminist. Trump’s success comes at the expense of most other women—most people. 

She’s the ultimate, unhealthy product of the culture of the “girl boss”—she’s what we get when we seize on the idea that women must support women who are conventionally successful, even if their success lies in disenfranchising other women.

In the coming months and years, she’ll certainly make an attempt to reintroduce herself, to redeem herself, to separate herself from her own actions. Remember: She already told us who she is. This time, let’s believe her. 

Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.