What if there were a place you could go, right now, to escape from the 2016 election? A magical, distant sweet spot on the time-space continuum where this presidential election and the muck it’s mired in just vanish into the ether? What if you could get there without spending any money, without even leaving your house? Without leaving your couch? Does such a wonderland truly exist?
It does. It’s Ivanka Trump’s Instagram.
And her Facebook. And her Twitter. Her social media presence is this pleasant, pastel, nowhere-space, where no one is grabbing anyone by the anything, where no one is sending anyone to jail. Where no one is running for President of the United States.
Her social media provides, in the progressive parlance her father likely abhors, a safe space. In an election season in which there seems to be no escape from the campaign — where it is difficult, if not impossible, to make it through a 24 hour stretch without reading, thinking, or talking about the election — Ivanka’s pages may well be some of the only internet real estate where November 8th (or 28th, or 35th) is just another day to be a woman who works.
References to the campaign are fleeting, restrained: A picture of the op-ed she wrote for the Wall Street Journal about her father’s plan for working mothers, of Ivanka giving a speech at a campaign event. Though her father’s name appears a few times, like on the sign outside his just-opened Washington, D.C. hotel, his face is scarcely seen, save for a few snapshots from the night he accepted the GOP nomination. For the most part, Ivanka’s color palette skews less republican red and more ballet pink.
Ivanka’s brothers do not share her sensibilities. Donald Trump, Jr.’s Twitter is completely devoted to GOP politics and his dad’s candidacy. His cover photo is an almost comically on-the-nose choice: A photo of a jumbotron reading “TRUMP PENCE MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” with fireworks bursting in air in the background. Eric Trump’s cover photo is an image of the entire Trump family onstage at the Republican National Convention, red, white, and blue confetti flurrying down from above. His feed is lousy with references to #CrookedHillary and alleged corruption in the Clinton campaign. Tiffany Trump’s Twitter shows the same cover photo as Eric, but where her half-brothers lean on accusatory vitriol, Tiffany’s tone is sweet, if shallow. She shares behind the scenes photos from debates and upbeat, positive press about herself.
But not Ivanka. Ivanka’s social media feeds appear, by and large, blissfully unaware that an election is taking place and that her father is taking part. It’s like an elaborate piece of performance art. (Not to suggest all social media is not, on some level, performance art.) She tweeted nothing the day of, or days after, the Access Hollywood tape came out; the morning after the second presidential debate, at which her father assured viewers his flippant remarks about the ease with which celebrities can sexually assault women was just “locker room talk,” Ivanka greeted Monday by jumping around and smiling.
A scroll through Ivanka’s Instagram immerses you in the kind of pastel, inoffensive, ultra-feminine, boring-yet-captivating, dull-but-lovely sorority-scape. It’s like a never-ending bridal shower for a gracious, bland acquaintance. It’s sipping prosecco and eating macarons in a DryBar at the edge of an infinity pool. It’s an inspirational quote attributed to Emma Watson that, it turns out, is actually a proverb by a rabbinic sage. Ivanka is seen, in various photos, by herself or holding her infant son on her lap while engaging in some theoretically-professional endeavor — holding a pen, for instance, or gazing into the middle distance — beneath the catchphrase “We are women who work.”
Compare Ivanka to her across-the-aisle analogue and friend, Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea’s feed is almost wholly focused on her mother’s candidacy: She promotes her mother’s events, retweets eloquent critics of Trump, and leads followers to information about her mother’s plans for office and ways to get involved in the Clinton campaign. Even her tweets that are not explicitly about the election— like feel-good and/or on-brand news stories — have some connection to a social or political issue. Chelsea could choose to use her social media platforms to re-introduce herself to the country on her own terms; she seems to have opted, instead, to double-down on the Clinton family brand, at the expense of a personal one.
But Ivanka’s social media presence keeps her dad at a distance. She has her own brand to protect, one she plans to return to post-election, regardless of the outcome. “I don’t intend to work for the government,” she told Fast Company this Monday. The publicity from her father’s campaign seems to have helped Ivanka’s brand: According to Forbes, her clothing line generated $100 million in revenue last year, a reported $29.4 million over the previous year. When Ivanka wore a dress from her own line to the Republican National Convention — a $138 blush-colored shift— she tweeted out a link to a similar number so followers could “shop the look.” (The actual dress, part of her fall/holiday collection wasn’t yet available for sale.)
It remains to be seen if that trend will continue, though, as women abandon Donald and take offense at Ivanka’s refusal to denounce her dad. The New York Times reported recently on a handful of shoppers who have taken to protesting Trump by refusing to patronize his hotels and golf courses; one woman, appalled at Donald’s description of African Americans (“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs”) returned an Ivanka Trump sundress that “fit me really nicely.”
“The way he talked about black people — it’s like we are not human,” she told the Times. As for Ivanka, she said, “I feel like she’s a puppet to her dad.”
Though Ivanka doesn’t use her Instagram or Twitter to comment explicitly on politics, her presentation isn’t apolitical, either. Together, the curated images and text emanate this ideal, mildly-modern-but-mostly-traditional GOP sense of womanhood. She’s a doting mother and loving wife whose work, through no apparent effort, does not intrude on her family life; a tasteful, elegant, refined, thin, blonde, white woman who never speaks a word out of turn and keeps whatever incendiary or controversial political views she may have to herself.
But by declining to aggressively advocate for her father and his policies, Ivanka creates a blank space onto which liberals can project a favorite fantasy: That deep, deep down, Ivanka doesn’t really support her dad after all. She’s a closet progressive, a Gryffindor in a Slytherin’s sheath dress. That, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie mused in her speculative fiction for the New York Times, she is donating money to the Clinton campaign on the sly.
Whatever the calculations behind her online presentation, the result is an interface that alienates no one except those so fervent in their political beliefs they are enraged by her refusal to engage, particularly as sexual assault allegations against her dad rise in number and volume. In her only official campaign stop since the release of 2005 recording, Ivanka avoided mentioning the tape and the allegations that followed altogether. Her only comment on the tape and its aftermath came in a statement to Fast Company: “My father’s comments were clearly inappropriate and offensive and I’m glad that he acknowledged this fact with an immediate apology to my family and the American people.”
For nothing rises in volume in the delicate, put-together calm of Ivanka’s Instagram. Even the all-caps quotes read less like shouting than like cheerleading. Or maybe what they really call to mind is a very enthusiastic invitation to a delightful, cozy getaway. A place where the real world doesn’t exist.