Image by Abuellaloca
Dear Mr. President (and Ivanka),
I hear your daughter is getting an office in the White House. Wow! finally, a woman in White House under the Trump presidency, just not quite how I imagined it. A lot about this new move of yours makes me very unsettled, to say the least. But seeing as you have simply ignored the many, many Americans who disagree with you, I am directing this letter to Ivanka in addition to you in hopes of perhaps reaching her in ways we have not been able to reach you. She is touted as being your most trusted advisor after all.
Ivanka, in your book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work, you talk a lot about the many disadvantages of being born rich and privileged. In fact, based on your own account, enormous privilege carries quite a burden, a burden you feel few could handle. In addition, during your father’s presidential campaign you worked very hard to convince the American public, and especially women, that your success is not a product of your privilege, but instead, more a product of your hard work, perseverance, and most importantly, your smarts. No doubt, you are smart. You know very well that in only downplaying and hopefully making your privilege ‘seem’ insignificant that you have a chance at accessing the support and admiration of women like me.
But, not all of us fall blind to your more superficial attributes, like your mainstream good looks or your seemingly calm, controlled and carefully crafted words. Not all of us fawn over your ideas disguised as wisdom or for your carefully-chosen, non-bristly politics. To us women who also feel we have worked hard in our careers, and have persevered and have smarts, your new “rise” to the White House is like a slap in the face. Recently, Kate Andersen Brower, author of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies described you this way: “We’re fascinated because she’s beautiful, well-spoken, calm, almost steely, so collected and so opposite to her father. She’s the most prominent woman in this (incoming) administration next to Kellyanne Conway, one of the few women in the Trump orbit.” Amazing, what power! Yet, just a few months back when asked what role you would play in the new administration, you answered that you’d only be a daughter; seems like you’ve had a change of heart. For women like me, who measure one’s worth more by their actions and less by their words, for us who choose not to use our femininity or privilege as an entry point to power, the irony is very obvious.
It’s not enough to safely stand in the middle and play both sides of the field. You benefit from your privilege, yet you feel you have just the right mix of experience and wisdom to counsel women on how to reach success in their own career. Perhaps you could have gone about winning the hearts of women like me in another way. Surely you know the story of Gautama Buddha (The Buddha), born into privilege and only when one day he walks outside the walls of his home does he see sickness, poverty and death. In short, Gautama Buddha abandons all privilege to help people reach enlightenment. Obviously, I am not suggesting you walk away from your privilege. Yet, you can’t say your privilege plays no part in your success then turn around and take a position which yields great power primarily thanks to privilege. What is most incongruent is that you also write advice books for women about how they too could reach the top. Something about this seems off, illegitimate, and even dishonest. You have every right to embrace your privilege, you also have a right to write books directed at women on how to reach the top, but in my world doing both is called hypocrisy, the two realities do not go together. In embracing privilege as you have done this week you only distance yourself further and further from women like me.