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How Trump’s Nordstrom Tweet Took the Aspiration Out of Ivanka’s Brand

Imagine the following: You have an important business client, but they’re wavering. There’s a setback in your arrangement. You’re dealing with it. You’re on top of things. And then suddenly, boom, there’s your father — you are, for the purposes of argument, an adult woman, married with several kids — decides to tweet his disappointment at, as in @, the company.

There’s a lot to decode in Donald Trump’s anti-Nordstrom tweet, an event that appears to have further damaged Ivanka’s brand, and that would indeed pose various presidential-ethics questions, if we were not already awash in such a sea of those that it’s hard for a new one to even register. Anyway, a reminder of the tweet’s contents:

“My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”

What comes through most immediately is that the myth of Ivanka, Businesswoman In Her Own Right, is shattered. “My daughter,” as though Ivanka were one of those 15-year-old heiresses with a ‘handbag line’, as versus… a somewhat older heiress with various business endeavors well past the ‘trunk show at family friend’s Hamptons’ house, as a favor’ stage. It’s clear that Trump gets — that everyone gets — that this is about him, his presidency, his brand, and that Ivanka-stamped merch is of interest only by association.

Then we have the “great person” interlude. The second sentence starts off as a generic statement of family loyalty, but then veers of into a subtweet of another Ivanka myth, namely that she’s her father’s conscience. Setting aside the odd placement of “terrible,” what’s Donald getting at?

The message is clear: Ivanka is to be cast as a nice liberal when it’s convenient. Donald engages in a bit of — yes, wild, I know — modesty here, very uncharacteristic, yes, but there’s a point to it. By acknowledging the obvious — that he’s in constant desperate need of a nudge “to do the right thing” — he sets up Ivanka as somehow untarnished by his awfulness, even while she, you know, profits from his role. And even as he involves himself in business dealings that ostensibly have zilch to do with him and that reallllly shouldn’t have a thing to do with his presidency.

But it’s the infantilizing angle that I can’t get past. I think I might, for once, feel sorry for Ivanka. Not for having her line dropped by Nordstrom — oh, she had that coming — but for being a grown-up woman whose boundary-lacking father couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at [email protected]. Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.

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