Donald Trump, much like post-2014 Taylor Swift, is having his feminist rebranding moment. His reinvented self doesn’t completely hinge on surrounding himself with a "squad" of extremely beautiful, mostly white women (although he seems to be generally good at that), but it does include throwing his own Trump-Pence "Women’s Empowerment Tour."
Oh, sweet, Donald Trump is going to ... empower me?
Leaving aside the fact that his campaign decided to announce this female voter outreach at the home and garden show in Columbus, Ohio (I guess all the non-clichéd lady places were taken that day), the women’s issues discussed by the surrogates for this campaign made it even worse, because according to the Mansfield News Journal, "none of the speakers touched on women's rights or women's health issues."
When asked by reporters what the goal of the tour was, Lara Trump (the candidate’s daughter-in-law and one of the surrogates for the project) candidly responded, "We really don’t have any idea what we’re doing, except we said, ‘We’ve got to go out and tell people what a great guy Donald Trump is." So it seems like the Trump campaign’s most pressing women’s issue is Trump’s own character.
Although the female empowerment tour seems to be more about repositioning the candidate than about the actual women he purports to want to "empower," the campaign didn’t stop there to try to chip away at their 9-point deficit with female voters compared with Clinton.
Unrelated to the whirlwind tour, Trump also proposed a new six-week paid maternity leave and child care policy. Although he is charting new territory for his party by even mentioning the words "paid maternity leave," his plan comes with its own set of flaws, the most glaring one being that he hasn’t said how he’d actually pay for it. Instead, he says, the costs will be offset by vague, unverifiable sources like "increases in economic activity," "better trade deals," and "immigration reform."
Which is Trump-speak for "I have no clue."
Donald Trump’s plan isn’t just unrealistic — it’s also archaic because it leaves out half of the US population: men.
Just like having "blood coming out of your whatever," his parental policy is just for ladies, which reinforces the idea that it’s not a man’s job to care for babies and that workplaces shouldn’t account for it. Many economists argue only offering maternity leave actually hurts all women in the workplace, not just moms, because it can invite hiring discrimination against women in general.
If it sounds crazy that a boss would be reluctant to employ a mother, Trump joked back in March that he shouldn’t fire his daughter Ivanka, a top figure in his campaign, for having a baby because she "had a baby, like, five days ago" and was already back working on the campaign trail. He also described pregnant employees as "an inconvenience" during a 2004 interview with NBC’s Dateline.
Trump could actually help mothers by ensuring men can do their fair share as partners, but given the candidate’s past comments on his own views of fatherhood, it’s no surprise his parental leave policy leaves men out of the tricky business of caring for their own offspring. In an interview with Anthony Cumia in November 2005, Trump claimed that men who help raise their children by, say, changing diapers are acting "like the wife."
Trump’s policy also doesn’t explicitly help male same-sex couples who have children or men with primary child rearing duties. His policy proposal says the law will apply to all couples recognized by federal law, but the policy overall does not seem to apply to men. Overall, about a quarter of all same-sex couples are raising children.
And of course it’s hard to believe Trump is dedicated to bettering the lives of mothers in the workplace when he himself often has not offered maternity leave to many of his own employees. The fact that Roger Ailes, a high-profile serial sexual harasser, is reportedly helping him with debate prep also doesn’t signal he has working women’s best interests at heart.
But it’s not like Donald Trump believes sexual harassment is a serious problem that should to be tackled by anyone but the person it’s happening to. No wonder he’s still willing to go on the record calling Ailes as a "very, very good person" despite being ousted for demeaning women on the regular.
Like much of Trump’s campaign, his feminist rebrand seems more like a publicity stunt than an actual attempt to better the lives of the people he purports to want to serve with his presidency. Trump is scrambling for the female vote, but frankly, women may be starting to smell his desperation.