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In it, Trump defends her father’s paid leave proposal — which she herself is largely credited with crafting — from another recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that criticized government involvement in instituting paid leave. That editorial, titled “The Ivanka Entitlement” and published on May 25, positioned the paid leave debate as one “devoid of reason” and “delusional,” and argued that it should fall exclusively under the jurisdiction of the private sector. Citing the magnanimity of Netflix’s family leave policy, the editorial concluded by advocating that “a growing and dynamic economy will lead to more generous employee benefits than Mr. Trump’s proposed political redistribution.”
Trump, however, disagrees — and her well-articulated response might just convert some of her naysayers to her side.
Her counter-argument begins: “By now, many are familiar with the benefits of paid family leave: Healthier children and parents in more tightly bonded families, greater financial stability and stronger attachment to the labor force are among the most important.” Which is all well and good, and all things we’ve heard the First Daughter say before. It’s what she says next, though, that proves more significant.
“Unfortunately, those who need these benefits the most aren’t getting them; the poorest, most vulnerable workers in our society get left behind,” Trump wrote. “Currently, only 6% of workers in the bottom income quartile have access to paid family leave. Studies show that these individuals — particularly women without a college degree — are far more likely to lose or quit their jobs in the event of childbirth, resulting in a far greater cost to society over the long term.”
What, you may wonder, makes the inclusion of this (quite true) passage so important? It marks a shift in the “Women Who Work” author’s emphasis on the experience of primarily privileged women in the paid leave debate, which has served as a major source of criticism directed at Trump’s so-called activism. Her July 4th editorial, however, seems to show a certain reception of that criticism, and maybe — just maybe — a desire to redirect her efforts in a more inclusive way.
“Making it easier for new parents to return to work after the arrival of a new baby,” the editorial continues, “is a critical part of solving the persistent gender and minority pay gap that exists in part because of prolonged periods away from the workforce and challenges with re-entry… we agree wholeheartedly that government benefits should not be a substitute for private-sector investment. We see a national paid-leave benefit as the necessary floor from which private sector companies and state governments can build.”
It stands to be clarified: Are Trump’s targeted mentions of a more diverse array of women’s lived experiences alone enough to convince us that her brand of activism has suddenly transformed into one devoid of classism? Of course not. This is one editorial, the weight of which seems pretty damn puny when juxtaposed with the insane magnitude of classism — and racism, and sexism — present in the administration she’s a part of.
That said, as her father continues to hurl insults of unparalleled juvenility at even his most minor critics, Ivanka Trump has at least proved herself receptive to feedback in a way that stands to benefit a larger pool of Americans. Specifically when it comes to paid leave, we’ve seen that receptiveness demonstrated when she transitioned from proposing paid leave for only birth mothers to promoting leave for fathers and adoptive parents, too. Now, we’re potentially seeing it again, as her jargon seems to advocate for more than just the rights of wealthy white women.
We’ll have to wait and see, of course, if her words are actually backed by action. But a U.S. in which the rights of all working parents — regardless of race, gender, and/or socioeconomic class — are valued and prioritized is a country we'd all benefit to live in.
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