The XX Factor

Ivanka Trump’s Defense of Her Cosmopolitan Interview Is Ludicrous and Insulting

Ivanka Trump introduces her father during a campaign event at the Aston Township Community Center on September 13, 2016 in Aston, Pennsylvania. 

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images

Ivanka Trump did not come off well in a Cosmopolitan interview published Wednesday, in which she seemed gobsmacked that journalist Prachi Gupta dare ask her substantive questions about her father’s child care plan instead of simply fawning over how great she was. So she sent out some tweets on Thursday afternoon in response to the interview. Unfortunately, she didn’t come off well in those, either.

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As many critics have pointed out on Twitter, Ivanka’s argument here is full of holes. For one thing, it is impossible to set “politics aside” when discussing family leave and child care policies, which are crafted and enacted by politicians. Ivanka agreed to the interview with Cosmopolitan to discuss her influence on her father’s platform as he is campaigning for president. There is nothing about the situation that does not fall under the purview of “politics.”

Then there’s Ivanka’s self-congratulation that she’s “working to raise awareness on issues that are of critical importance to American women and families,” and the implication that she has played a role in these issues’ emergence into the mainstream. Both of these statements are ludicrous. As New York’s Rebecca Traister chronicled in a post published Thursday, feminists and progressives—including Hillary Clinton—have been fighting for equitable and supportive family policies for decades. Ivanka, meanwhile, allows the workers who design the garments sold under her name to go without paid family leave. I’ll assume that Ivanka sincerely believes in “policies benefiting women+families,” but to erase the history of activism that has made paid family leave a viable issue during a national election is ignorant and insulting.

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What’s most galling about Ivanka’s statement, however, is her presumption to tell Cosmopolitan how to do journalism. I imagine Cosmopolitan’s editors would define the publication’s mission more broadly than “advocating change,” but let’s say for the sake of argument that this is indeed where Cosmo’s focus belongs. “Advocating change” was the precise impulse behind Gupta’s questions about Trump’s exclusion of fathers and adoptive couples from his paid leave plan. Trump’s family leave plan gives married birth mothers six weeks of paid leave (where the actual money will come from is still unknown), which is manifestly not enough. It apparently does nothing for straight fathers, gay fathers, adoptive parents of all sexual orientations, or unmarried birth mothers. The plan assumes that mothers, and mothers alone, are responsible for caring for infants, which perpetuates the gender gap at home and at work. It is, as my colleague Michelle Goldberg wrote on Tuesday, a “terrible” policy.

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Ivanka doesn’t get an automatic pat on the back for this inadequate, sexist, heteronormative plan just because it’s better than nothing. (It’s arguable, in fact, whether Trump’s plan is better than nothing.) She doesn’t deserve gratitude for talking about family leave policies decades after the Family and Medical Leave Act was first introduced. And she isn’t entitled to kid-glove treatment from the press. If Ivanka is going to take credit for her father’s family leave policy, she should expect serious questions about how it works—and she should come up with better excuses when she can’t answer them.

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