“Dear Ivanka,” reads a letter to President-elect Donald Trump’s daughter, published in Artforum earlier this week. “We need to talk about your Dad.”
“It seems that some of us Americans wanted a big, white powerful Daddy,” they wrote. “Help us Ivanka,” they entreat further down. “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.”
Halt started posting to Instagram under the name “Dear Ivanka” two weeks ago, sharing portraits of the future First Daughter in impossibly chic gowns or posing with her picturesque family. The images were affixed with scathing captions that point to what they have deemed a hypocritical value system.
“Do you believe in anything?” they recently wrote beneath a shot of Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.
On Nov. 28, Halt took to the streets, protesting in front of the Puck Building, owned by Kushner’s family. Artists like Cecily Brown, Rob Pruitt, and Marilyn Minter were in attendance. The crowds reportedly amassed 500 people in total.
Dear Ivanka described the protest as “a candlelight vigil to collectively voice the anxieties and concerns of fellow citizens in the wake of the Trump administration’s cabinet appointments and announced/expected plans.” They voiced these anxieties, very deliberately, in a demonstration directed at Ivanka, not her father, the actual president-elect, or her step-mother, our country’s future First Lady.
The letter was directed at her, too.
“There are a number of reasons for this, but most specifically the letter was addressed to her because it has been made very clear to the public that she will fulfill the role of the First Lady,” Bennett wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “Melania has been a relatively silent figure throughout the campaign and post-election period, while Ivanka has not only been the female face of this family, but has also been granted certain privileges of access that Melania has either declined or not been offered.”
For artists in particular, Ivanka is a curious access point into the Trump administration. She is, as the three professional women and mothers behind the Artforum letter point out, a fellow #womanwhoworks. Ivanka also has a history of collecting art, rubbing elbows with gallerists and artists, occupying the same spaces as Bennett (Team Gallery director), Gingeras (curator) and Webster (psychoanalyst and cultural writer).
In their letter, which Bennett emphasized was a statement from Halt at large, the three point specifically to the problems associated with thinking of Trump as a “Daddy” president.
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.
Writers across the internet have emphasized that critics can be anti-Trump without resorting to slut-shaming the women involved in his administration. The letter seems to imply that the unfavorable picture of Ivanka and Melania described above is a result of the “Daddy” president ideal.
“The father is symbolic of provision, protection, security, hope, the alleviation of anxiety, a new sense of what is possible,” Bennett wrote to HuffPost. “These are things that we all want and are perfectly reasonable expectations and desires in life, but not necessarily from a president and certainly not from this president, whose profiteering has largely been constructed around ethical loopholes and legal uncertainties.”
Families, she added, no longer function as springboards to success for most of America. “We think this return of that longing for a paternalistic leader fits up neatly with this fact,” she added. “The outcome of this election is a clear indicator that 46 percent of America is angry and feels that something significant is ‘broken,’ that we have lost our grounding. That grounding is, in the most familiar sense, The Family.”
The letter concludes:
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.
And you can check out more from the Dear Ivanka Instagram below: