Dear suburban American ‘shy’ women, please don’t melt under Ivanka Trump’s pressure.
Women and girls are counting on your vote— worldwide.
Ivanka Trump knows American suburban women feel vulnerable, even shy these days. And so she tries to influence us.
“He will push policies that will protect the most vulnerable,” she told a crowd of predominantly women in Wisconsin last week, referring to her father, Donald Trump.
She hoped that her mostly white suburban female listeners (who haven’t been loving Trump lately) would soften up — like the ice cream she raved about.
Ivanka doesn’t look like she eats a lot of ice cream. But she believes that all women she addresses in America will overlook that. She thinks we’ll think of soft things rather than COVID death rates, rather than how one in four women have had to step back from their careers because of COVID-19.
She thinks women haven’t seen the reports by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that show how mothers are getting furloughed far more than fathers due to COVID-19 and are left doing more household chores.
She assumes suburban women will forget about children outside of their own neighborhood— children taken from their mothers who seek asylum at the US border. And she hopes American moms don’t know about the 545 refugee children reported lost last week after being separated from their moms, due to Trump’s leadership.
Trump once said, “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally… you have to take the children away.”
But Ivanka didn’t talk about the fact that many of those mothers who lost their children while detained by ICE may be fleeing domestic abuse and gang violence. Instead she went on about ice cream, to Wisconsinites.
I can understand the chilling distance Ivanka feels, and hopes voters feel, when she refers to her father’s views towards the vulnerable. Like Ivanka, I’m a privileged white American Christian woman. I’m from the Midwest, and I grew up in a safe white suburb. But unlike Ivanka, I know about the people she bypasses when referring to the ‘vulnerable’. Now that I live in Europe and work with refugee moms and children, I’ve had to face a reality that it seems Ivanka doesn’t grasp.
“I don’t want to accept what they make us do,” said a refugee teen from Afghanistan last week to me over the phone. She referred to the fact that she’d been asked to clean homes for 15 francs a day — a rate well below the hourly fee legally required for all cleaning people in Switzerland. Though the number seemed unethical to me — she wasn’t objecting to that.
This girl from Afghanistan simply didn’t want to do “women’s work” she explained. She wanted to work with refugee boys, cleaning trails and collecting trash on the pristine Wanderwegs of Switzerland instead of vaccuming, mopping, and loading dishwashers. But her social worker wouldn’t permit her to do ‘boy’s work’.
“She says I must do women’s work.”
This soft spoken refugee teen had been separated from her mother at the European border. So, after surviving a harrowing journey to freedom, this discrimination was the final straw she couldn’t bear to carry.
Because the teen had lived without rights — she valued equality more than Ivanka Trump, more than me, and more than most American women I know. Like a messenger, she clarified the value of what we lose if we re-elect Trump.
She had spent a childhood serving men meals while she went hungry. She left lack of education and child labor. She escaped abuse by a man who tried to “sell her” to an adult man as his bride. She trekked to Europe with nothing but the clothing on her back, to where I met her in a Swiss camp. And there she rediscovered herself as a human, with valid needs and rights. Eventually, while living at a refugee center she became certain of her boundaries as a woman — more certain than many American women I know, especially Ivanka Trump.
“When you’re a star… you can do anything to women,” Trump said several years ago. Then our current Commander in Chief bragged further about grabbing women by that body part between our legs. Today, he gropes American women with new tactics, first talking down to us about our dishwashers, suburbs and his suburban housewife assumptions. Then he rushed the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice who once called herself a ‘handmaid’. And finally, he pushed his beautiful daughter on us.
But in the Midwest Ivanka Trump didn’t talk much of uncomfortable stuff — who has time for that? Instead she talked to Midwestern female voters about ice cream, milk, and love. She feigned a desire to move to Wisconsin while avoiding real issues she hoped women with relative privilege might easily overlook.
Ivanka didn’t talk about her family’s denial of COVID-19’s impact and how that denial has divided a nation in need of unity.
She didn’t talk about COVID disabling the vulnerable including black, brown, and low-income children far more than others. She didn’t mention families without jobs or aid checks, without access to affordable healthcare — families who trusted the Trump administration to protect them during a crisis.
And she didn’t talk about how the rushed nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, whose views on rights of asylum seekers, laid out clearly by Human Rights First, represent one more enormous step backward for women, globally.
Ivanka Trump assumes white suburban women overlook all this while quietly accepting her father like some did in 2016. She assumes our relative privilege and our desire for comfort will keep us quiet, blind, and cuffed.
Though Stephanie Krider Executive Director of Ohio Right to Life is obviously pro-life, even she recently said, “Always, there has been this undercurrent where he just does not respect women and he does not like black and brown people… Nothing about his words or actions are kind or gentle or faithful or full of self-control.”
Regardless of how American women feel about abortion, masks, or even refugees, they should hear this haunting message: refugee women from all over the world have told me how they’re willing to lose almost everything in order to gain choices about their bodies and their lives.
They don’t only want anti-racism. They want freedom from from oppressive societal structures, from men rendering them invisible. They want these things so badly that they’re willing to traverse mountains, live in tents, and cross seas for the things many American women like Ivanka Trump still fail to recognize as valuable — the same things Trump tries to steal.
Though Trump once said he can do anything to women, I pray we show him he’s wrong, this week— for all girls and women in American and worldwide.
Even shy American women can see through a whitewashed story.
“You don’t have to help me. I’m not afraid,” the Afghani teen said to me. She was shy when I met her. In fact, she barely talked.
But now she said, “Don’t worry. I’m strong.”
“Yes, you’re strong,” I said. “And you inspire me…”