Donald Trump has expressly said he would want his daughter Ivanka Trump to quit her job or even find a new career if she thought she was being sexually harassed at work. His son Eric soon followed with another victim-blaming statement, saying only women who aren’t “strong” or “powerful” enough succumb to sexual abuse in the workplace.
It’s not surprising to find the male members of the Trump family utterly devoid of human empathy, but what comes as a shock is that Ivanka, who has been labeled as a champion for women, would brand sexual harassment as “harmless,” especially when she herself claimed to be a victim of harassment in her 2009 book, “The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life.”
“Sexual harassment is never acceptable and we must stand against it,” wrote Ivanka in the book. “At the same time, we must recognize that our coworkers come in all shapes, stripes and sizes. What might be offensive to one person might appear harmless to another.”
She wrote in her book that she was often getting catcalled while working at her father’s construction sites. She said that once she told the crew she was the boss’s daughter, they would always “fall over themselves apologizing.”
Of course, it’s easy for Ivanka to deter would-be harassers by invoking the name of the big boss — who just happened to be her father — and putting the fear of the employer’s wrath in their minds. She could stay safe in the knowledge that something like that would never happen to her again, just by virtue of her relationship with the employer. But what about those women whose fathers do not hold a position of power in their daughters’ workplaces?
What about, for example, Gretchen Carlson, who accused Ivanka’s father’s close friend, Roger Ailes, of demanding sex from her in exchange for a promotion? You can bet it appeared offensive to her and harmless to Ailes.
Ivanka stated in her book that she had an anxiety dream when she started her first job after college, which was not with her father’s company. She wrote that she tried to hide herself behind “plain black pantsuits” with her hair “pulled back into a bun,” to avoid any unnecessary confrontations with the construction workers.
The tactic was quite convenient for her but what of those women who are not allowed to wear pants in their workplaces? Should they be fair game for coworkers who “come in all shapes, stripes and sizes?”
In terms of dealing with sexual harassment though, Ivanka had this stellar advice to give: “Learn to figure out when a hoot or a holler is indeed a form of harassment and when it's merely a good-natured tease that you can give back in kind.”
Clearly, Ivanka fails to understand that several women who complain of sexual abuse hardly do it over “a hoot and a holler.”
Many women are forced into providing sexual gratification to their supervisors through oral sex or any other kind of sex, often under the threat of getting sacked or in order to better gigs. Former BBC reporter who joined Fox News was propositioned for sex by her colleague and when she refused, not only were many of her lucrative gigs canceled, she was also fired by Ailes when she went to report the incident to human resources.
Ivanka might not have suffered through these hardships, coming from a privileged family with a powerful name, (and therefore, incapable of putting herself in another woman’s shoes) but a little sympathy is still due, and if she thinks “harmless teasing” is the extent of sexual harassment in workplaces, she clearly doesn’t understand the problem, at all.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Joshua Roberts