When Ivanka Trump’s lifestyle brand, Ivanka Trump HQ, tweeted about making champagne Popsicles for Memorial Day, it became the most “important” thing on social media over the holiday weekend. The snark wrote itself — on a day honoring the military dead, you’re celebrating? Team Ivanka’s “let them eat Popsicles” moment was yet more tone-deaf fodder for the case that the Trumps are a family of overindulged idiots.
But maybe we should back off — not off the Trumps, but off the unfortunate optics, and focus on the substance of what Ivanka’s father is doing in office. Because there is plenty there to talk about — and that Ivanka could do, but apparently hasn’t yet done, to embody her self-appointed role as champion of women and children in her father’s administration.
Ivanka is a key player in the administration, which leaves her rightly open for criticism and critique, especially since she’s also tied her brand to her newfound feminism lite. But there can be a sexism-infused tone to the Ivanka criticism, a way in which her husband, her father and her brothers are treated more seriously than she is, and yet still held to a lower standard.
In this case, Ivanka is being held accountable for something she probably had nothing to do with; it’s unlikely she was the brain trust behind the champagne Popsicle recipe, and she certainly wasn’t the social media intern stuck tweeting on a long weekend. And in any event, it’s a dumb tweet about Popsicles. Maybe every social media critic spent their Memorial Day in deep and solemn contemplation for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the United States, but I think it’s more likely that a few of them went to a barbecue.
We can, of course, walk and chew gum at the same time; it’s possible to critique a tweet and also care about more important things.
Which is why substantive critique of President Trump — and yes, his daughter, too — is key. President Trump is currently working to undermine Obama-era provisions that made birth control free for many American women, a policy that contributes to lower rates of unintended pregnancies and abortions, and gives women important tools for personal, professional and economic stability. Trump’s Global Gag Rule also cuts off contraception access to women overseas, in the poorest nations on Earth.
At the same time, Ivanka is pushing a global fund for female entrepreneurs, managed by the World Bank. Saudi Arabia, a country where a woman’s male guardian is obliged to make nearly all major decisions on her behalf, became the object of Ivanka’s praise after it donated $100 million to the initiative. Never mind that Saudi women can’t work, travel or obtain health care without male permission, or that for women around the world, entrepreneurship is a distant dream if they can’t plan their families and are continually pregnant (lack of access to birth control also contributes to maternal and infant deaths).
And that isn’t even getting into the web of obfuscations, cronyism and incompetence that has tainted the Trump team from the earliest days of the campaign.
Champagne Popsicles should be the least of our worries.