Yes, it’s squicky that President Trump’s attorney is tweeting boastfully about his lingerie-clad daughter. But let us step back and ask why it’s squicky. Is it the seeming disregard where the incest taboo is concerned? If not in act (and let me be clear: there’s zero reason to think any actual acts are at stake), then in terms of etiquette, or polite conversation?
For insights, check out the following passage from Caitlin Flanagan’s brilliantly-written new profile of Ivanka, or, rather, analysis of Ivanka-ism, where Flanagan addresses, head-on, “the sexual charge that seems to exist between Donald and his daughter, the one that has been freaking all of us out for a decade-plus”:
Donald Trump is a man incapable of euphemism, which is what our national obsession with the family romance demands. We are a country of father-daughter dances, the growing trend of “daddy-daughter date night” (Ivanka’s 5-year-old daughter recently enjoyed a “date with Dad” at a Nationals game, per her mother’s Instagram account), and the expectation that the father of the bride will turn in a performance based on the gentle melancholy of losing his best girl. All of this involves deeply sublimated emotions, but Donald Trump is incapable of repression, so we are treated to his discussing Ivanka’s breasts with Howard Stern and telling the host that it’s okay to call his daughter a “piece of ass.”
Flanagan later offers this less-than-reassuring sentence: “The president doesn’t see his daughter in only sexual terms, of course.”
Obviously the incest taboo angle is a lot of what’s squicky here. But I’m not sure if that’s the main issue, because — again — I don’t think there’s any widespread concern that actual incest is taking place. I think it’s at least as much about men’s differing expectations for daughters (go out in the world and be brilliant!) than wives (stay in and produce a sandwich!). More broadly, it reminds of society’s great hopes for young girls, and corresponding indifference or even hostility to success of grown women. The hot-daughter meme is creepy both for the self-evident reason and for a less-scandalous but still important one: our society’s inability to celebrate women who aren’t, in addition to whichever other qualities they may possess, young and gorgeous.
I leave you with the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” song that was stuck in my head, unavoidably, while writing this post: