Underneath my yellow skin

An Open Letter to Ivanka, Woman to Woman

Ed. Note: I know I said I was done with politics, but, apparently, politics aren’t done with me. I still keep abreast of current events, and I can’t help but react when shitty things happen, such as the president pulling out of the Paris Accord. One thing that has been poking in my craw for some time is how Ivanka is treated with such kid gloves. Leave Ivanka alooooooone, cry many of the (mostly male) journalists. One in particular, Chris Cillizza, seems to have appointed himself as her white knight, pun intended, excusing her for not speaking up against her father in public. It’s been both baffling and fascinating to me how differently Ivanka has been treated by the press as opposed to, say, Chelsea Clinton. In fact, the aforementioned Chris Cillizza neatly displayed this hypocrisy with these two tweets: 

It’s OK to pile on Chelsea who isn’t a politician and hasn’t evinced any interest in being a politician, but LAY OFF IVANKA (who, need I remind you, is actually a part of her father’s administration). There are many theories why this is the case, and I think it’s because Ivanka is pretty in a conventional way and has carefully cultivated herself to be nonthreatening. When she speaks, she smiles softly and speaks in this breathy voice, which the psychologist in me says is how she’s learned to deal with her father.

At any rate, this note is threatening to become a post in and of itself, so let’s move on. 

Dear Ivanka:

Hey, girl. Can we talk? Is it OK if I call you Ivanka? I feel as if I know you, and it’s because you’re in my goddamn news feeds almost every day. I know you’re a busy woman, what with doing your business deals while simultaneously…what exactly is your job in the administration? I’ve never been sure, and you’re pretty coy about it–as is everyone else around you. Anyway! You have been called your father’s whisperer, which is the defense given to why you don’t stand up to him in public. Cillizza, who I mentioned in my note, was eager to defend your honor, saying what daughter would be expected to stand up to her father in public*?

It’s not that I don’t sympathize–I do. We Americans only have to deal with this president as our president; you’ve been his daughter all your life. You probably learned early on that you had to play along to get along, and you’ve learned that lesson well. You either intuited or learned the hard way that if you contradicted your father, there would be hell to pay. So, instead, you molded yourself after him, but in a softer, more traditionally feminine version that you knew would appeal to him. You made yourself the ideal woman to gain his approval, and as I said, I am not without sympathy. It’s not easy growing up under the tyrannical thumb of a narcissistic, arrogant, explosive tyrant, and you’ve done the best you can to adapt to the circumstance. If you were just a private citizen, I would completely sympathize, but because you are part of American politics, for worse or for worst, I have to observe how your dysfunctions are affecting the country.

Back to being your father’s whisperer. You’ve stated that you argue with him in private, trying to change his mind. You’re adamant about this, in fact. I had a discussion the other night with my BFF about this. She’s a more positive person, and she thinks you actually believe what you say about wanting women to be equal, climate change, etc., but that you just can’t stand up to your father. She does think part of your feminism is rooted in the ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ mentality that sometimes clueless (my word, not hers) rich people have when they don’t want to reflect on how privileged they’ve been, but she thinks you’re sincere.

I, on the other hand, am more cynical, and I think you’re talking the talk, but not walking the walk. You know you’re your father’s best asset, and you’re using that to his advantage (to gain approval from him, as you’ve done most things if not all in your life). You’ve carefully cultivated your brand to be appear a strong woman who is simultaneously not threatening to the men around her, and I have to give you grudging points for being so successful at it. Let’s not forget, too, that you won the genetic lottery as well, because physical beauty is undeniably a factor in how people view you. You’re traditionally Western-centric attractive, which allows you to get away with a whole lotta shit. I think you know you have no chance in hell to change your father’s mind, but you want to get bonus points for saying you’ve tried. You also probably know how your father appears to other people, which is why your position seems to be more of a PR one than anything else.

Here’s the thing. Either you’re being cynical in saying you talk to your father behind the scenes to change your mind or you’re shit at it. Your father pulling out of the Paris Accord proves that as climate change was supposed to be your baby. You’ve tried to spin it by saying you’re looking at the long term or whatever bullshit, but it is as unanimous as it can be that your father fucked this one up. The CEO of Goldman Sachs said it was a bad idea, for fuck’s sake, so your father can’t even hide behind the idea that it’s good for business. When you’ve lost Goldman Sachs….

I don’t blame you for doing what you’ve had to do to cope with having a raging narcissist as a father. I DO blame you for acting out this family dysfunction on the American political stage.

Side note to journos: Ivanka is part of this presidential administration. That means her words and actions are fair game. To treat her as merely the president’s daughter is a dereliction of your duty, and, quite frankly, reeks of sexism. You would never say that about Eric or Donald Jr. She’s thirty-five years old, which means she’s a grown-ass woman who is responsible for her actions and her words. If she were not part of the administration, I would agree that she should not be targeted, but she is. She chose to be part of the administration, which means she has to deal with the hard questions. Stop giving her a pass just because you want to schtupp/protect her. Now, back to the open letter.

Ivanka, I don’t think you should be part of this administration, but we’re past the point of where ethics mean anything. Since you aren’t going anywhere, I just have one request for you. Please stop pretending that you’re anything but a mouthpiece for your father and a way to make him appear more moderate than he really is. He doesn’t respect you as a person, and it’s clear he only views you as an extension of himself. I think it would be better for you if you broke away from him completely, but barring that, shut the fuck up about how you’re working on changing his mind in private. It’s insulting to hear, and it’s a fool’s errand, anyway. I would invite you to join the resistance, but I know that’s folly as well. Instead, I’ll settle for you not being in my news feeds every day.

Sincerely, Minna




*If it seems like I’m picking on Cillizza a lot, I am. It’s because he’s the epitome of the white knight syndrome in effect, and he can’t even see it. He wants to protect the fragile Ivanka from those mean liberals who are treating her like she’s her own woman in full control of her faculties and her decisions! This is a pretty good analysis of the treatment of Chelsea vs. Ivanka by the media, though I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion.

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