Ivanka Trump, Everywoman

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Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar fillyjonk says:

    I will say there seems to be something “everywoman” about a woman constantly vacuuming up the crumbs others gleefully throw on the floor in front of her, and her being expected to keep smiling through.

    Leaving Ivanka out of it and just using the stereotype “1950s housewife” in heels and pearls – or even a modern woman in slacks and with her hair a bit of a mess – it would still have some resonance with women, i think.

    Or for that matter: anyone who “serves” in ANY capacity knows the feeling (or at least what I personally project as the feeling) of wanting to scream at people who are making your life harder, but being expected to keep it all inside. People who work retail are probably the best example of this but I have also experienced it both in my paid career (professor) and my volunteer life. (oy vey. I’m now remembering an instance where I very nearly rage-quit a position, but didn’t, because the people I was actually serving appreciated me; it was the group leadership that kept coming up with reasons how I could be “better” without offering any actual support for me to become so)Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      That whole lack of empathy towards people in service is a constant issue. Or maybe it’s less a feeling of empathy and more a pathology of “I get shit on at my job serving others, so I’m going to shit on this service person in order to make myself feel better/get back some sense of power.”Report

  2. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    True, it could have worked with any generic stand-in. But I think using Ivanka makes a stronger statement because she is polarizing. (So many looked at this and called it disgusting, saw it as an attack, mocking her and “taking her down a peg” by showing her doing something so menial as vacuuming which implies she’s too good for such a thing, but I digress). I think the contrast of a symbol of wealth and privilege doing a household chore and others making it harder for her is more powerful.Report

  3. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    are too feminine or not feminine enough

    See also Kyrsten Sinema, who showed up to the Senate floor in apparel a lot of people decided was inappropriate (personally, I couldn’t have cared less, except that it made people lose their shit over something so trivial, which always amuses me).Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      The Colorado House and Colorado Senate rules have a coat-and-tie provision that applies to everyone on the floor of either chamber, members or not, when in session. “Tie” is interpreted loosely: bolos, scarfs, ribbons, all of those are acceptable. That’s pretty much the extent of the dress code. Blue jeans are occasionally seen. One member was noted for going barefoot. Staff mythology included a senator who was a full member of one of the tribes who one day wore full tribal regalia which the presiding officer, after consulting with the parliamentarian, deemed to include components that satisfied the coat-and-tie rule. When the weather is hot — the Colorado Capitol building is not air-conditioned — the presiding officer is allowed to relax the coat rule, but not the tie part.

      The sergeants-at-arms keep a variety of coats and “ties” in their little room. When I was a staffer, I was killing time on the sidelines one day and raised the question with one of the sergeants as to how he was supposed to respond. “It’s a standing order, so I wouldn’t have to appeal to the presiding officer. Politely inform the member that their attire did not conform to the rules of the Senate, offer them a coat and tie from our stock, and if they declined, tell them that I was required to escort them from the floor and the chamber unless they wanted to raise a point of order with the presiding officer and challenge the rule.”

      For the record, the US Senate does not enforce a dress code. The US House does. As I understand those, the dress Sen. Sinema wore with the boots would have been fine in either chamber. The sleeveless outfit she wore for the swearing in would not have been allowed in the House.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It’s fun doing some light substitution and seeing what happens.

    Imagine putting Hillary Clinton into such an art installation in… three years since 2016? 1995.

    People throwing crumbs for Hillary Clinton to vacuum up.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Hillary Clinton would probably laugh and wish that she had merely faced those challenges. As would any of the Obama family or the Bush family. You get elected president and the opposing fruitcake wing of the party will throw crap at you and everyone related to you. That’s been the norm since, what, the 90’s?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, sure. That might be Hillary Clinton’s response.

        Ooooh! We could have an art installation showing her baking cookies!

        Would that be the only response to such an installation? (Would her response to the installation be seen as the only important one?)

        Have reporters sat down with Ivanka and asked her “what do you think about this art installation?”

        (What would be the response of reporters going up to Hillary Clinton and asking her “what do you think of the art installation showing you baking cookies?”)Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          Don’t you mean baking cookies after killing Vince Foster in the 90’s. Or making scones with child sex sex slaves with Podesta at Comet Pizza. Or flipping pancakes after laughing about refusing to send help in Bengazi.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Probably “is that all?” Or now that she’s not running for anything anymore maybe a salty “Fish off media vermin” she’s never loved the media and vice versa.Report

        • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

          They did ask Ivanka for an opinion. She said something to the effect of lifting women up instead of putting them down.
          My opinion of the work would not change at all if it was Hillary Clinton instead because I don’t see it as a work intending to “put her in her place” or to suggest she or or Hillary would be better off vacuuming or baking cookies.
          The public reaction would likely be the same as what I have seen, but from opposite ends of the spectrum.Report

          • Avatar CJColucci says:

            Once someone plays the Hypothetical Hypocrisy card, there’s no point in engaging.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              It’s not a “hypothetical hypocrisy” card. It’s an attempt to reframe.

              “Would I have a problem with this art if one of my oxen were getting gored?” is always an interesting question and having art where someone throws things at a representation of a politician strikes me as obvious an art installation where part of the interpretation involves an ox getting gored.Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

                It doesn’t reframe anything for me because I don’t think it is in any way a political statement. Not in the sense of government or electoral politics. Social politics perhaps.
                I don’t look at this as a piece about a politician so much as a piece featuring a woman who happens among many other things to be a politician. Her current position is just what makes her recognizable and a topical choice for the work.Report

  5. Avatar George Turner says:

    I wonder if the artist knows that Ivanka is a Democrat who donated thousands and thousands to Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Corey Booker?Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

      I think this argument contains an unsupported assumption that the artist is driven by her own anti-Republican/Trump sentiment, and thus a presumption that the piece is critical or derisive toward Ivanka.

      I don’t understand why that is the go-to assumption. Is there something about the artist Jennifer Rubell that would predispose that conclusion? Is she a known anti-Trump liberal? Otherwise, I think that makes a big leap in logic.

      Another point I wanted to make (and which I made above): if all a person sees is literally Ivanka vacuuming and somehow finds that demeaning, what is that saying? That a menial household chore millions of women do every day is beneath her? That it’s an insult to portray her as a doing a normal chore?Report

  6. Avatar CJColucci says:

    I’ll never be a thin, willowy billionaire heiress

    Most likely, neither will Ivanka. Trump probably isn’t anywhere near as rich as he says, and I very much doubt that her share will go to ten digits.Report

  7. Avatar Stillwater says:

    When viewing conceptual art it’s always important – no, necessary – to read the artist’s statement about the work, so’s to not infer the wrong statements from the work itself.

    “Here is what’s complicated: we enjoy throwing the crumbs for Ivanka to vacuum. That is the icky truth at the center of the work. It’s funny, it’s pleasurable, it makes us feel powerful, and we want to do it more,” notes Rubell. “We like having the power to elicit a specific and certain response. Also, we know she’ll keep vacuuming whether we do it or not, so it’s not really our fault, right?”

    OK. Good. Now, discuss! (/only sorta kidding)Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

      I did, of course, read the artist’s statement. It is right there in the link I included, as is the broader statement about the many roles a woman/Ivanka is expected to play. It doesn’t change my interpretation.

      The fun of throwing crumbs exists whether its Ivanka or a generic stand-in; it’s just that using Ivanka makes some folks feel more justified in their glee and less ashamed of treating another person that way.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Em, I meant that more as a PSA to consumers of conceptual art than as a specific critique of anything you wrote. (Also, as a not-so-subtle dig at this type of “art”.) It’s endlessly amusing to me that “conceptual art” always includes written instructions for correct message-consumption written by the artist her or himself.Report

        • Avatar Em Carpenter says:

          Gotcha. That is funny, now that you mention it. Maybe that’s why the artists always say “there is no one correct interpretation!”Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            For example*:

            Posted in front of a box of Cheerios rotating around a stuffed animal: “In this piece I explore how the tension between global capitalism and the intrinsic rights of animals embues children with a sense of hopelessness about their future. The piece is interactive, of course, and there is no one correct interpretation.”

            *No actual, existing are was harmed in the creation of this artist’s statement and any resemblance to real art is purely coincidental.Report

  8. Avatar George Turner says:

    According to Business Insider, she and her husband are already at $1.1 billion. She’s only $300 million of that, which I suppose helps make their wonderful marriage work.Report

  9. Avatar fillyjonk says:

    It now occurs to me that “stop and ask yourself: am I gleefully throwing crumbs” could be a new “check yourself” type phrase. Kind of like “punching down vs. punching up” (though to be honest I prefer there to be no punching at all).

    I dunno. What I see as a growing incivility in our culture bothers me. I will admit it bothers me less (a little less) when it’s a public figure who’s known for polarizing statements or a tone-deafness toward how “real” people live. It bothers me a lot when some ordinary schmoe gets hounded at their workplace or whatever – like that Wikipedia editor guy who took all kinds of crap because, apparently, he was chubby and bearded, but not, you know, Chris Pratt-style chubby and bearded.

    or maybe I’m not making any sense; for a variety of reasons I am having a bad-brain day.Report

    • Avatar veronica d says:

      like that Wikipedia editor guy who took all kinds of crap because, apparently, he was chubby and bearded, but not, you know, Chris Pratt-style chubby and bearded.

      Agreed. That guy is awesome and the person attacking him was awful.

      It’s worth noting that I only observed one person attacking him, and she was (as far as I can tell) an attention-seeking, narcissistic freakshow.

      Which of course, we gave her tons of attention.Report

      • Avatar fillyjonk says:

        What frightens me a little about what the modern world has become: if you are not, by the popular definition of “beautiful,” a beautiful person, and you wind up in the public eye somehow – even if you do something commendable – you’re going to get dragged for it. And you have no recourse. You just have to sit and take it, because trying to fight back just makes it worse.

        (I have always been insecure about my looks, so maybe I’m being oversensitive).

        Or if someone has a speech impediment. Or if they’re awkward. Or whatever. It’s like we’ve devolved back to our snotty seventh-grader state, or never progressed beyond it.Report

        • Avatar veronica d says:

          We live in a narcissistic age. Achievement means little. Image is everything.

          It’s freaking exhausting, tbh.

          Beauty is valuable, the way art is valuable. I’m certainly not the sort to dismiss beauty.

          That is not the problem. The problem is narcissism, image obsession, shallowness, hollowness, ennui. It’s soul crushing — even if you are so lucky to be beautiful.Report

  10. Avatar George Turner says:

    Ivanka tweeted

    “Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter.”Report

  11. Avatar Maribou says:

    For me part of what’s interesting about this work and part of what fascinates me about Ivanka is the relationship of women’s subjugation and their place in the kyriarchy (as symbolized, not saying it’s literally subjugating anytime someone does those things) and literal patriarchal abuse by one’s father. I mean, it’s speculative on my part to assume the president has abused Ivanka (and his other children) but it’s a speculation I haven’t been able to shake, particularly since I consider terrorizing one’s mother in front of one to be a form of abuse in itself and I’m pretty damn sure that happened.

    Thinking of her vacuuming up crumbs in that context makes me think a lot of things.Report

  12. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    She and Jared are just as much ancien regime as Trump and Donny Jr. She is the most competent of the group though.Report

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