Watching Ivanka Trump speak at the RNC last week, I thought ohhhhhhhhh I get it. Racism + empowerment for overwhelmed white women is Donald Trump’s new electoral strategy. He needs white women’s votes to win.
And so he shows us his daughter, who seems to embody everything we want to be. Her likability and success – she’s a Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand – and apparent feminism is being used to distract white women from Donald Trump’s racism and sexism while still being able to play to the racists and sexists.
Ivanka Trump’s feminism is being used to distract us from Donald Trump’s racism and sexism.
She told us that there are more female executives than male executives in his company. She told us he has always hired women and paid them equal to men (The Boston Globe fact-checked that and found it to be untrue; in his campaign right now, he pays his women employees 74% of what the men earn). She told us that yes, there is a gender wage gap in the United States, but not in the Trump companies. She told us that the legislation governing workplace and labour policies were invented in a time when women were not in the workplace and so need to be changed to reflect our new reality, which is that 40% of US households are headed by women breadwinners.
She said that she and Donald Trump would together fight to change these policies – the implication is that she’s talking about maternity leave – and make daycare affordable.
With that, she is speaking to the reality that women and especially mothers are overwhelmed, overworked and under-resourced and need systemic change to address and accommodate the pressures of their daily lives and careers.
With that, she is rallying women, mothers and feminists to support Trump.
More specifically: she is rallying white women, white mothers and white feminists to support Trump.
The figures she cited about the gender wage gap – and like another writer, I’m not quite sure where she got them or if she got them right, because the most oft-cited research is slightly different than the figures she quoted – for example, were the ones that apply for white women.
According to Ivanka Trump, women earn an average of 83 cents to the male dollar. Single women without children earn 94 cents, she tells us, but mothers make only 77 cents.
The gender wage gap, she tells us, can be explained by motherhood – and so policies need to be changed to support working mothers.
What she did not tell us – deliberately, because that would undermine the way her father is leveraging white racism – is that an even more startling gender wage gap can be explained by racial discrimination.
Black women, on the other hand, earn 60 cents to the white male dollar.
Hispanic women earn 55 cents to the white male dollar.
Ivanka Trump did not cite those figures. She cited the figure that applies to white women. When you say “women” make 77 or 79 cents to the male dollar, you’re saying women = white women and you’re ignoring all other women because that number only true for the most privileged women in the country. It is only true for white women.
Saying women make 77 or 79 cents to the male dollar is only true for the most privileged women in the country. It is only true for white women.
Women who belong to minority groups make far less than white women’s 77 or 79 cents.
Ivanka Trump did not cite those figures. She cited the figure that applies to white women.
And that’s revealing and deliberate.
What that tells us is that the Trump campaign is betting that white mothers and white feminists are willing to overlook Donald Trump’s racism and xenophobia in order to get what they need to succeed in the workplace: federal maternity leave policies and affordable daycare.
The fact that Ivanka Trump was the person to introduce Donald Trump is also revealing. She is young, professionally pretty, famous, poised, polished, married with children, and a successful executive and entrepreneur (I’m now mortified to admit that I have Ivanka Trump shoes in my closet). She is everything women are supposed to be. (She’s a Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand.) Many, many, many women will look to her and look to this speech and respect her for having and being everything many of us want for ourselves.
Ivanka Trump as an aspirational figure and model of female success – a Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand – is being used to attract white women to the Trump campaign. Her speech used feminist language, potential empowerment and structural change in order to distract white women from the racism the Trump campaign directs at visible minorities.
Her career success, her beauty and her apparent feminism is being used to cover up the xenophobia of the Trump campaign and her own father’s documented pattern of public and overt sexism and misogyny.
This is how the language of feminism and empowerment gets used to invite white women into positions of power at the expense of other women and visible minorities.
White women and mothers know, intimately, their own struggles. But because American life is still so segregated – the social networks of white people in America are 91% white and fully 75% of white people have no social relationships with anyone at all who is not white – white women are not confronted with the daily struggles endured by people of color. So they can overlook it. It doesn’t seem real to them.
More importantly: it doesn’t adversely impact them.
They can ignore the fact that black people were assaulted at Trump rallies and that Donald Trump hesitated to disavow KKK support and that he pretended not to know what the KKK stood for. They can ignore the damaging political and daily consequences that a Trump administration would inflict on people of color because it might serve white women’s interests and empowerment – maternity leave! day care! – to do so.
To attract the votes and support of white women, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump are leveraging white women’s social segregation and lack of substantive relationships with people of color and counting on harnessing white women’s desires for career success, work-life balance and empowerment.
They need white women to win.
They’re counting on white women caring about their own success and not caring about racial justice.
They’re betting white women will sell out other women and people of color to rise, themselves. (It’s a form of position-switching.)
The language and promise of women’s liberation is being used to advance and perpetuate injustice and a racist agenda.
Racism + empowerment for overwhelmed white women – and the two things overlap – is the Trump electoral strategy.
White women: is that okay with you?
And what are we going to do about it?
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