After Cohen’s testimony, how much longer can Ivanka Trump play dumb?

Ivanka plays dumb about Russia a lot to the media, telling ABC News that she knew “almost nothing” about the negotiations to open a massive Trump Tower in Russia that continued, as we now know, long into the general election campaign. But as Dan Friedman of Mother Jones has detailed, the evidence suggests otherwise. It was Ivanka who emailed Cohen in 2015 with a lead she thought could produce a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure the deal. She also reportedly suggested an architect for the Moscow tower. The building plans included a spa named after Ivanka and a notation that “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities” were to be approved by her.

More broadly, Cohen’s testimony on Wednesday was a reminder that the Trump Organization wasn’t the sprawling corporation that Republicans would have people imagine, but a sparsely staffed and closely held family company. Unlike at a large corporation with a complicated hierarchy and many moving parts, the leadership of the Trump Organization — consisting of Donald Trump himself and his three eldest children — were intimately involved in the company’s dealings.  Under those circumstances, it’s preposterous to imagine Ivanka wasn’t involved in the Moscow talks, which were clearly geared towards one of the biggest projects — if not the very biggest — the Trump company had ever developed.

But so far, Ivanka has not received even close to the level of scrutiny her husband or brother has received. Even after Cohen’s testimony, the headlines have been more focused on Donald Trump Jr. than his sister:

Part of the difference is that Don Jr. has testified under oath about this project, and could now potentially be investigated for perjury. But sexism almost certainly plays a role, as well.

Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, bumbling idiots though they are, are men who wear expensive suits. They better fit the stereotype as the kind of person who might be involved in a conspiracy involving electoral meddling crimes and seedy real estate deals. Ivanka, however, presents herself a the “first daughter” — no one calls any of her brothers a “first son” — hiding behind the stereotype that women are involved in domestic matters and not criminal intrigue. Even Ivanka’s “businesswoman” persona is tilted towards the domestic, with an  emphasis on her fashion lines and not on her role in her father’s real estate empire.

Donald Trump and His Work Wives

Mr. Trump’s penchant for hiring women into often vaguely defined but closely held roles.

.. “Women, according to Trump, were simply more loyal and trustworthy than men,” Mr. Wolff writes. “Men might be more forceful and competent, but they were also more likely to have their own agendas. Women, by their nature, or Trump’s version of their nature, were more likely to focus their purpose on a man. A man like Trump.” Mr. Trump, the author continued, “needed special — extra-special — handling. Women, he explained to one friend with something like self-awareness, generally got this more precisely than men. In particular, women who self-selected themselves as tolerant of or oblivious to or amused by or steeled against his casual misogyny and constant sexual subtext — which was somehow, incongruously and often jarringly, matched with paternal regard — got this.”

The term “emotional labor” gets vastly overused, but this is a textbook example. The women who work for Mr. Trump aren’t just required to perform their professional tasks; they also have to coddle and care for a volatile patriarch.

Donald Trump doesn’t just have a woman problem; he has a work wife problem.

.. the terms “work wife” and “work husband” sneaked into the lexicon, describing what are typically benign workplace intimacies: a close co-worker with whom you share not only tasks but also complaints and office gossip.

.. as women who work know, egalitarianism is not always the norm, and many of us have found ourselves serving as the caretaking “work wife” to the emotionally needier male co-worker or superior. This is common dynamic, if a seldom-addressed one (it certainly went unmentioned by the “Women Who Work” author, Ivanka Trump, who occupies this very role in her father’s professional world).

.. What Mr. Trump demands of his female subordinates, though, is something greater than your still-sexist but wholly run-of-the-mill concerns about gendered expectations in the workplace. Women like Ivanka Trump, Hope Hicks and Kellyanne Conway don’t just counsel the president and liaise with the press and public; they offer a feminine salve, simultaneously sanctioning Mr. Trump’s sexist commentary and buttressing his ego by situating themselves as little girls in need of direction from Big Daddy (literally, in Ivanka’s case).

.. Benevolent sexism is more insidious. In the view of the benevolent sexist, women and men should occupy fundamentally different roles, with the men as patriarchs and women, with our naturally maternal and gentle dispositions, as helpmates and caretakers. In some conservative, religious or simply strongly male-dominated communities, you see this dressed up as a form of feminism — the idea being that women can find respect and purpose by tapping into our intrinsic maternal nature.

.. When Mr. Trump’s defenders use the fact that the president has employed and encouraged a handful of women — to, as we now know, also serve as his uncompensated therapists — as a shield against accusations of sexism, they are deploying a similarly mendacious argument.

.. So what if the requirements for being treated as “special” involve playacting hyperfemininity, stroking a man’s ego and carefully managing his feelings? That’s just how men are, and that’s what men want.

.. Assumptions that women will monitor and manage men’s emotions span industries and political persuasions. It’s not that subtly sexist men refuse wholesale to hire women; it’s that they often hire a small number of us, with the unspoken but swiftly understood expectation that we will be the uncompensated “chief feelings officer.” Then they often lose respect for us because we play this very role.

.. But when faced with bosses or colleagues who require this hybrid of good-daughter devotion and quasi-maternal coddling from their “work wives,” women have two choices: Expend the unpaid effort and lose valuable time and energy, all while knowing you’ll never be as respected as a man who doesn’t have to handhold and head-pat his employer; or refuse to do it, and risk losing the job altogether. It’s not just the craven Kellyannes and Hopes and Ivankas of the world who opt for the former.