Ivanka, We’re Not Buying It — Your Words, or Your Clothes

The great ambiguity at the center of the Trump campaign goes as follows: Are we witnessing a grand political ambition, or a great big advertisement for a brand? Yes, in a sense all politicians are brands, all candidates selling something. But I mean in the literal sense: Donald Trump is selling, like, widgets. Goods and services (and steaks) with “Trump” stamped on them. If he wins, he’s president! But if he loses, he’s still a brand, one that just got a ton of free advertising.

Ivanka, too, is a brand, and a somewhat more complicated one. If the Trump brand image is ‘crass douche’ or maybe ‘1980s teen movie villain’, the Ivanka Trump one is something like Sheryl Sandberg ultra-lite. Remember in the 1990s when there was “girl power” and it was kind of like feminism but not really? Or more recently, when we’ve been asked to derive feminist significance from the fact that Taylor Swift appears on social media with a “squad” of female friends? It’s kind of like that, but the fantasy is that you’re a successful young businesswoman and ex-model who also happens to have a rich father and rich husband but you’ve kept your name (which is… Trump) and you’re an independent, self-made career woman and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

This may be attributing too much power to branding. Ultimately we all need to get dressed, and if you’re working in an office, you need inoffensive office-wear, which is evidently what Ivanka sells. I wouldn’t assume every woman with an Ivanka-branded shift dress in her closet is or ever was some sort of aspirational Trump-o-phile. But until recently, so what if some women were Ivanka-admirers? Who am I, an occasional goop-browser, to judge?

A political campaign crossed with an ad campaign lends itself naturally to economic boycotts, organized as well as visceral. Trump hotels are discreetly rebranding themselves “Scion,” while Upper West Siders question whether they really want to live in a building called “Trump.” And as Joanna Walters reports in the Guardian, there’s an Ivanka-brand boycott afoot, led by a woman named Shannon Coulter (see the tweet above), and driven by the #GrabYourWallet hashtag, a reference to Trump’s own “grab them by the pussy” comment. “Women Who Work,” Ivanka’s almost comically tepid slogan, still reads as empowering, and thus hypocritical when juxtaposed with a candidate whose disregard for women in and out of the workplace is so pronounced.

Normally, viral-and-aggregated brand boycott stories make me suspicious: Isn’t even discussing the topic just more free advertising? Doesn’t controversy sell? Here, though, the issue seems a bit different. The brand-such-as-it-is is everywhere. Its name is already recognized. Bad publicity is, I think, in this case, a real thing.

Trump Boycott Now Includes Ivanka’s Brand

Trump Boycott Now Includes Ivanka’s Brand

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood. Her book, , will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.

Ivanka Trump Brand Boycotted

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