Melania, Ivanka, Ivana, Marla and the Role of Women in Trump's World; Is Putting Dad Back in Charge the "Great" Part of Trump's "Again"?

By Burleigh, Nina | Newsweek, February 10, 2017 | Go to article overview

Melania, Ivanka, Ivana, Marla and the Role of Women in Trump's World; Is Putting Dad Back in Charge the "Great" Part of Trump's "Again"?


Burleigh, Nina, Newsweek


Byline: Nina Burleigh

Just a few hours after American voters bitch-slapped feminism on November 8, two women followed Donald Trump onto the stage at his postelection party. Gliding in heels that would challenge a ballerina, first-lady-to-be Melania Trump and first daughter Ivanka Trump were camera-ready at 3:30 a.m. Melania had wriggled into a white, off-the-shoulder Ralph Lauren palazzo pants jumpsuit; Ivanka was wearing one of the ice-skating dresses she favors, a powder-blue Alexander McQueen frock that showed off her long legs. Somewhere out of the frame, two former wives of the president-elect, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples, already had notions of ambassadorships buzzing in their brains like vibrators.

These queens in the House of Trump--all of them having served variously as models, arm candy, reality-show stars, humiliated sidekicks and shopping channel mavens--are vestal virgins in the temple of acquisition. They are significant even for those who don't worship there for what they reveal about the emotional life of the 45th president of the United States and his views on the role of women. During the course of Donald Trump's adult life, a span of 50 years, America became a better, more tolerant nation, and the women's movement was a big reason why. Trump, however, is a living link to another era. His first prenuptial agreement was penned by mob lawyer, Senator Joseph McCarthy acolyte and Richard Nixon ally Roy Cohn. (Former President Barack Obama was in junior high when Cohn wrote it up.) Norman Vincent Peale--evangelist of mid-20th-century self-improvement--presided over his first wedding.

When Trump first married, marital rape was still exempted from American laws. (In fact, in a divorce deposition, his first wife would accuse him of marital rape, but she backtracked later and claimed she meant that she felt emotionally violated.) There were still families--Trump's own, for example--where the elder generation found the word pregnant offensive. Abortion had been legal for only three years. Women were either Mrs. or Miss and were still vastly outnumbered by men in graduate schools (they are now in the majority). About half as many women worked outside the home as do today. Now that women are more independent and working mothers have pushed men a little into the drudgery of domestic work, some men are confronting an existential crisis. As much as any lost factory job or fading national whiteness, putting Dad back in charge is the "great" part of Trump's "again."

The wheels of that change are already rolling: Congressional defunding of Planned Parenthood means fewer legal abortions and less affordable contraception, the repeal of Obamacare ends the federal mandate that insurers cover contraceptives, and Trump's promise to appoint anti-choice judges will soon kill Roe v. Wade. Many Americans could soon be where women were when Trump was born--1946--giving birth whether they want to or not and, consequently, unable to pursue careers.

The Trump Queens, in many ways as surreal as their king, exist beyond the dramatic changes in the lives of the average American woman over the past half-century. They will preside over the court of an end-times Camelot on acid, wielding enormous power over stylists and foreign dignitaries in exchange for surviving the ultimate reality-show challenge: impressing Donald Trump, his fellow oligarchs and captains of supranational corporations with their looks and poise. They have paid for that power in measures of dignity. As the new president once said, "It doesn't matter what they write [about you] as long as you have a young and beautiful piece of ass."

Of the three Trump wives, the first, Ivana, is the only one close to Donald Trump's age--just three years younger. She, like him, came of age in the yuppie era, and she, alone among the Trump wives, aspired to be a working woman and is the only wife with whom Donald ever shared his business life. …

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