A Washington Post reporter is suggesting that based on the answers provided by both Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his son, Eric, to the hypothetical of someone sexually harassing Ivanka Trump like Roger Ailes has allegedly done to many women in the workplace, it’s possible neither man understands what ‘victim blaming’ means.
During an interview in a USA Today opinion piece, Trump said that his daughter “would find another career” or “another company” if treated the way Roger Ailes, the ally he has expressed “love” and support for, has allegedly treated many women at Fox News, allegations that led to his departure as chairman and CEO. Eric Trump doubled down on this attitude during an interview with CBS’ Charlie Rose, stating his sister, “as a strong person,” would never “allow herself to be subjected to that.” Both statements have drawn condemnation from figures in the media, including former Fox host Gretchen Carlson, who sued Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.
In an August 2 blog post, Post reporter Janell Ross points out that the privilege Ivanka Trump has of being able to change career or work place isn’t shared by most women, underscores how this solution would “leave the harasser in place,” and calls the idea that strength is all that’s needed to respond to sexual harassment “plain wrong”:
On Monday, USA Today published a column in which the elder Trump was quoted saying that were his daughter Ivanka Trump to face workplace sexual harassment akin to what former employees have said that former Fox News chief and on-again, off-again Trump ally Roger Ailes subjected them to, Ivanka would find another career or company. Just like that.
Just to be totally clear, this is what the elder Trump said:
“I would like to think she would find another career, or find another company if that was the case."
Those are his words. USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers described that response as retrograde and, “startling even by Trumpian standards.” By Tuesday morning, Eric Trump did what so many of his father's supporters and surrogates have been called upon to do this week. Trump offered an explanation for Trump's comments. During an interview with Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning,” Eric Trump, said this:
“I think what he’s saying is, Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman, she wouldn’t allow herself to be objected to it, and by the way, you should take it up with Human Resources, and I think she would as a strong person, at the same time, I don’t think she would allow herself to be subjected to that. I think that’s a point he was making, and I think he did so well.”
Now, on to the content of the two Trump men's comments, and some things that don't seem to have crossed their minds.
Here's one: Ivanka's status as the daughter of two billionaires, the head of her own companies, manager of many lucrative projects and the wife of a very wealthy man also born to a wealthy family — all of which might make her response to harassment different than it might be if none of those titles applied.
What's more, their “solution” would likely leave a harasser in place.
It would force a worker, who may feel that the job or some project or aspect of their job is what they are uniquely called to do, to accept the “punishment” of leaving that task or opportunity. That harassed worker would have to endure all the personal and economic upheaval associated with leaving that job.
Meanwhile, the harasser and anyone aware of the harassment would emerge with a strong sense this behavior will not be a problem in the future.
As for Eric Trump's suggestion that a “strong” woman like his sister, Ivanka, would not “allow” this sort of thing happen or should simply go to HR, there are more than a few reasons to be troubled. Among them: there's little reason believe that the world and its HR departments uniformly work that well for all American workers.
The Trump definition of strength on terms that may not be an option for a large share of workers — say, for instance, that 40 percent of American mothers who are the primary or sole breadwinner in their families — is definitely something. Let's start with plain wrong. It's an idea that can have very real implications for the careers of victims, the companies for which they work and the entire country.