Mourning After: Dear Ivanka

Mourning After: a letter from Dear Ivanka


Much like you, we are professional women and mothers. We are, in the parlance of your lifestyle-branding Gesamtkunstwerk, #womenwhowork. We also share a set of regional values—remember the ones that Lyin’ Ted unsuccessfully mocked? The vilified bubble of New York privilege and cultural elitism that the rust-belt electoral college so passionately rebuked? Is it too pithy to say that we might have enough in common that the four of us could maybe be friends? That there might be just enough conversational fodder to at least get us through one of those tedious dinner parties?

Maybe… if it weren’t for your Dad. 

We need to talk about your Dad, Ivanka. 

It seems that some of us Americans wanted a big, white powerful Daddy. Your Daddy, Ivanka! Your Daddy, and your entire family. The Trumps: Towers. Casinos. Hotels. Golf courses. Handbags. Steaks. Marrrr-a-lagggoo.

It just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Growing up in this Trumpy splendor probably gave you some great expectations—and who could blame you? Don’t we always return to things we know? Whether squalid or golden? Holy or venal? We understand all of this, Ivanka, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that you married a billionaire. Nor is it shocking that the soles of your shoes are always strangely pristine or that your cashmere is always clean or that a nice lady comes to your house every morning so you don’t have any unseemly dirty dishes mucking up your sink.

With privilege comes great responsibility—moral responsibility, hygienic responsibility, social responsibility, and, of course, cultural responsibility. Galas and benefits and art patronage. Did we mention that we’re friends with some of the artists whose works you hang in your apartment and proudly use as backdrops for your endless stream of selfies-cum-advertorials? Small world, we know.

Your social-media accounts and Town & Country interviews promote a vernacular of your one-thousand-thread-count life, but it doesn’t matter how adorable your children are or how proudly your Jared smiles or how often you show us your fitness and beauty routines, your plush upholstery, because there’s a problem.

The family is sick. It’s not just your family, Ivanka. It’s the family! We live in an age where we know deep down that the mythos of the family is over. It just doesn’t work. But despite this painful truth—our divorce rates, the spike in single parenting, the ossification of the concept that marriage is a viable mechanism for policing reproductive and social morality—some of America still wants a Daddy. And you and your Dad are the last dying breath of our collective phantasy.

Perhaps, more to the point, the two of you epitomize the Family’s death: the final nail in the coffin. Daddy is three wives in. Ivanka, your mother, is hidden away like a withered, Prada-clad Miss Havisham while you and Melania—would-be sisters in a bad porn—are trotted out for the cameras like fancy prize-winning cats.

Do you feel sorry for your mother, whose name sits inside yours? Back in the day, you grew inside of her! She was young then.

Beauty and success usurp all moral imperatives. How much does it cost to have skin that perfect? How many lives is the Trump dynasty built upon? We can’t think about this for too long because it concerns us, Ivanka. It furrows our brows and dilates our pores, and doesn’t everyone know that worry deranges beauty? That it makes us old? We know that Daddy doesn’t like that—he’s said it on television countless times, with endless flourishes. Old is ugly and useless and flaccid; it damages the brand, Ivanka.

But let’s not dwell on ugly things. 
Ivanka, with your beauty and, now, official power, this is your moment—you are the pinnacle of this family upbringing! You even gave us an autobiographical self-help book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life!

But what does it mean to you when your father talks about your body? The frank implications of incest between you is terrifying. The way he touches you. It might be the quintessential sign of our civilization’s disintegration. Please at least tell us you don’t like it! Please say that even if you profit from it, deep down it fills you with anxiety? Maybe shame?

What about your brothers? What’s it like with them? Are they like your father? Do they look at your stepmother’s breasts? Does Daddy need his sons to know he gets all the pussy? Just curious…
Now that you’re our First Family, we’re not exactly prying when we ask to know what kind of family we are going to be living with for the next four years. Our big white Daddy in that big White House—and you’ll be there helping him, the perfect hostess. You’re the head whitewasher in this new big happy family arrangement.

Help us Ivanka. Because if 46 percent of the country wanted a Daddy, then it is from you that we need to hear what we are in for—the First Daughter, his true and only beloved. 
We will grow louder. More vigilant, more hysterical. We can’t stop pleading with you, like a Rosary with the beads repeating, no, Daddy, no, Daddy, no, Daddy, stop, Daddy, please, Daddy, no. 

Alissa Bennett
Alison Gingeras
Jamieson Webster

Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

For more, read the December issue of Artforum: “The Year in Shock”—critics reflect on the upheaval of political and perceptual experience as we know it.