All Quiet on the Feminist Front: Sexist Attacks on Women in the Trump Administration

May 8th, 2017 4:27 PM

Incest. Prostitution. Brainless beauty. Liberal media people have accused prominent women in the Trump administration of these and more. Yet, hypocritically, feminists have been slow to defend Kellyanne Conway, Ivanka and Melania Trump against these blatantly sexist attacks.

The most recent example: on May 5, Real Time host Bill Maher suggested that the first daughter was in a sexual relationship with her father. Although this was Maher’s second televised joke about incest between Donald and Ivanka Trump, feminists made no outcry, revealing a striking fact about the girls’ club: While feminists claim to advance women, many discount conservatives, revile them or ignore sexist attacks against them.

The message is clear: only progressive women deserve defense. 

Kellyanne Conway: ‘What Do Feminists Owe Her?’

Conway made history as the only victorious female presidential campaign manager and then became a senior counselor to the president. Feminists, who should applaud her accomplishments and high position in the administration, instead despise her.

The career woman and mother of four has been subject to base attacks from liberal media, including Saturday Night Live, the New York Times and other outlets. Now, she’s been characterized as a slut and a stalker. Talk show host Chelsea Handler even joked about putting her in the microwave.

In February, SNL regular Kate McKinnon assumed her Conway persona in a controversial sketch parodying Glenn Close in the movie Fatal Attraction. Implying that the political counselor was so hungry for exposure that she would grant sexual favors to news correspondents in exchange for airtime, lingerie-clad McKinnon attempted to seduce Jake Tapper (Beck Bennett), even holding a knife to his throat.

Many journalists, including the hosts of ABC’s Good Morning America, agreed that the sketch went “too far.” But Whoopi Goldberg and her fellow hosts of ABC’s The View clearly found it amusing. Smiling, Goldberg called it a “great thing,” while co-host Sunny Hostin found it “really, really well done.” Feminist media like Cosmo and Teen Vogue – outlets that are usually quick to point out sexism – were remarkably silent.

Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson called the short video SNL’s “edgiest take on Trump’s top advisor,” but she proffered no criticism of the hyper-sexualized, violent content. Similarly, although Vox’s Caroline Framke did concede that the video was a “little bit sexist,” she chose to focus on SNL’s new manner of portraying Conway as “a ruthlessly ambitious extension of Trump … willing to do what it takes to get her way.” 

The following month, Conway was again the victim of sexism when the media widely publicized a photo of her, phone in hand, kneeling on the Oval Office couch. Several days after the much-talked-of picture broke, Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) commented that Conway “really looked kind of familiar there in that position,” garnering some backlash. But not enough, according to former Ted Cruz campaign communications director Amanda Carpenter in an op-ed (surprisingly) published by Cosmo.

While Chelsea Clinton admirably defended Conway, her mother did not. And as Carpenter noted, Jake Tapper gave Nancy Pelosi an on-air opportunity to condemn Richmond’s insult, but the House Minority Leader instead shrugged that she didn’t know the details of the situation. 

Conway has truly received the worst of both kind of female-directed attacks -- she is either sexualized or ridiculed for her appearance. While some feminists have been logically consistent, defending Conway from the latter, others have not.

Daily Beast senior editor Erin Gloria Ryan confessed her inability to “dredge up any sympathy” when people commented “how tired” Conway looked. “I can’t mourn the downfall of a fair-weather feminist, a woman who has used her power to hurt other women,” Ryan wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “Ms. Conway made her bed. And now it’s time for her to get some sleep.”

In a piece titled “What Do Feminists Owe Kellyanne Conway?”  Jezebel writer Stassa Edwards condemned sexism but was simultaneously reticent to defend Trump’s counselor. “I’m not certain that expending energy on defending Conway is in the best interest of ‘all women’ or if it’s simply in the interest of maintaining the sanctity of the white feminine body,” she wrote.

Ivanka Trump: ‘Hypocritical, Faux-Feminist A**hole’

When the Wharton-educated first daughter is not the target of incest jokes, media people have called her offensive names, reduced her to her appearance and condemned her as a faux feminist. Presumably, feminists only guard “their own” against sexist digs, as few have come to Ivanka’s defense.

On their respective talk shows, hosts Bill Maher and Trevor Noah both implied indecency between Ivanka and Donald Trump. Maher’s recent incest quip, involving a suggestive hand gesture, is not his first. In February, while discussing Nordstrom’s discontinuation of Ivanka’s clothing line, he crudely joked: “You know what, of all the people, Mr. Businessman, he should understand, they dropped it because the merchandise just wasn’t moving. The only one interested in getting in Ivanka’s pants is him.”

Noah echoed the vulgarity. “I feel the first rule of Ethics Club is ‘Don’t hire your daughter’,” he stressed on the Daily Show. “This is one of those stories that goes so deep: Nepotism, conflicts of incest, compromise of national security.”

Buzzfeed Senior Culture Writer Anne Petersen did not go quite so far, but she was similarly critical. Analyzing pictures of the father and daughter together, she wrote: “These photos aren’t proof of an improper relationship, but they connote a certain type of relationship: in which Ivanka was trained, from an early age, to think of herself as either a possession or a prop.”

Despite Ivanka’s successes and her degree from Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton Business School, the former model has been continually denigrated for her good looks.

Discussing her father’s policies during her first international diplomacy trip, the first daughter was subject to murmurs of dissent by the German audience. Late Show host Stephen Colbert immediately took aim, commenting: “Today, [President] Trump sent Ivanka to Berlin to participate in a women's conference, making her the first Trump to attend a women's conference that didn't include a swimsuit competition.” 

Few liberal journalists take her seriously.

After the recent release of Ivanka’s new book, Women Who Work, feminist writers came out in full force against her. Slate staff writer Katy Waldman condemned Ivanka as a “Twilight glampire” and her book as “trash,” while Refinery29 managing editor Jessica Blankenship called the first daughter “the Rachel Dolezal of feminism,” a reference to the NAACP official who was exposed as white. Huffington Post contributor Charles Clymer got aggressive. “Hey @IvankaTrump,” he tweeted, “your dad is eliminating the ‘Let Girls Learn’ program. Is it time to admit you’re a hypocritical, faux-feminist asshole?”

Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott called Ivanka an “artificial sweetener,” whose job is to make her father more palatable. But others call her “complicit,” a view promoted by SNL in a skit starring Scarlett Johansson.

“Ivanka Trump is not a ‘moderating influence,’” wrote The Globe and Mail op-ed columnist Sarah Kendzior. “She hawked her book while her sexual molester father made rape a pre-existing condition.” (President Trump, of course, did not.)

Bess Kalb, a writer for Jimmy Kimmel, tweeted in the same vein: “Ivanka Trump is my favorite feminist who is committed to politically bolstering her anti-choice father who’s accused of raping her mother.”

Yet, even while they ridicule the first daughter, feminists can’t stand her successes. 

Elle’s Sady Doyle went full force against the first daughter in a December 15 hit piece actually condemning her for her triumphs. “Trumpism is unsurvivable for women who do not happen to be exceptional Ivankas,” Doyle wrote. “The goal of Trumpism is not to benefit women. The goal is to benefit one woman, Ivanka, or the one type of woman she represents.”

Doyle went on to denounce Trump’s feminism as “femvertising.” In the same vein, Petersen attacked the first daughter for her “insidious brand of postfeminism” in a piece ominously titled: “Don’t Cry for Ivanka – Fear Her.”

Melania Trump: “As Ugly on the Inside As She Is Pretty on the Outside”

Liberal media people have primarily slandered the first lady for her appearance and modeling career, calling her everything from an “Instagram first lady” to a “hooker.”

Last month, the Daily Mail issued an official apology to Melania Trump, agreeing to pay the former model nearly $3 million in damages for promoting the claim that she worked as an escort -- hardly the only libelous claim Trump has faced.

During a segment with Rachel Maddow, New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston commented that Trump had done “very sleazy porn.” Although Maddow objected with a “Hey hey hey,” the media ignored the slanderous accusation.

In February, model Emily Ratajkowski tweeted that a New York Times journalist had called Trump a “hooker.” The reporter, Jacob Bernstein, later apologized, but not all feminists came to Trump’s defense. “No woman ever should be called a ‘hooker’ — but it is fair game to call out Melania Trump as a slut-shaming enabler,” Teen Vogue writer Emily Lindin tweeted.

After a Twitter tussle between Donald Trump and rapper Snoop Dogg, Snoop’s nephew tweeted: “Ayo @realDonaldTrump shut your punk ass up talking shit about my uncle @SnoopDogg before we pimp your wife and make her work for us.” No major media outlets covered the threat.

During his “Savage Love” podcast, vile speaker and gay activist Dan Savage exclaimed: “God knows there’s enough hate in the world and I don’t want to add to the sum total, but forgive me, I have got to get this off my chest: I f—ing hate Melania Trump.”

“But there are some folks on the left who not only don’t hate her, they view her as some sort of sympathetic figure,” Savage continued. “It’s definitely not true in this case. Mrs. Trump, Melania Trump, is as ugly on the inside as she is pretty on the outside.” Presumably, Savage has not met Mrs. Trump, leading us to conclude he judged her by his view of her husband.

When it comes to the First Lady’s looks, the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan was quick to critique Trump’s official portrait, taken by photographer Regine Mahaux. “Mahaux has given the public a two-dimensional version of Trump: just the gloss, just the façade. Trump is the fantasy, the dream … An Instagram first lady.”

Media people have also taken it upon themselves to prove that Melania is unhappily wed. Chelsea Handler, uninhibited as usual, tweeted on the First Lady’s birthday: “Melania Trump celebrated her birthday in DC, when she blew out her candles, she wished she was married to Barack Obama.”

In a piece titled “Inside the Trump Marriage: Melania’s Burden,” Vanity Fair contributing editor Evgenia Peretz suggested that the first lady married for money. “Until November 8,” Peretz wrote, “Melania Trump’s marriage provided her with a golden Fifth Avenue fortress, at a price — putting up with her husband’s humiliations and boorishness.”

Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s spokesperson, firmly condemned the negative suppositions. “Vanity Fair chose to publish not only a false story, but one that is degrading to women,” she wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “When you consider it is a magazine that is tailored to women, it becomes even more offensive.”

And that is exactly the problem.