Has any president in the history of the United States had a more fraught relationship with women than Donald Trump? He flagrantly cheated on all three of his wives, brushed off multiple accusations of sexual assault, publicly ogled his eldest daughter, and bought the silence of a porn star and a Playmate.
How does he get away with this behavior in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp? And what are the roots of this profound misogyny?
Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women (Gallery Books) by Newsweek national politics correspondent Nina Burleigh, answers these questions by examining the six most important women in Donald Trump’s life – his mother and grandmother, his three wives, and his first-born daughter. The book grew out of a Newsweek cover story in which Burleigh assessed the influence of the Trump wives and daughter Ivanka – in their poses, pageant shows, modeling careers, brands and businesses – on Donald, but more broadly on American women.
Months later, Burleigh published an article on the Trump women’s preferred shoe – the stiletto pump – which netted her more personal hate mail than she’s ever received.
In Golden Handcuffs, Burleigh focuses primarily on Trump’s relationships with his wives as well as his daughter Ivanka.
On Ivana: Burleigh details how Ivana went from wife to businesswoman and how Donald felt it ruined their marriage. She writes that Donald repeated many times over the years, “advising men that putting their wives to work was a bad idea and earning the loathing of feminist America, itself a badge of honor among his political base.”
Post-Donald, she writes, “Ivana embraced the Trump brand and styled herself after Donald’s ideal femme – primped, stilettoed, bejeweled, peroxided, bustier, like a mistress, not a wife. She also styled herself as a mini-Donald, with her yacht, her younger men, and her voracious embraces of capitalism and ‘deals.’”
On Marla Maples: Burleigh says, “Her marriage to Donald lasted exactly three years, four months, and 12 days before she herself was fired.”
On Melania: Burleigh writes, She was a malleable goddess, gorgeous and silent, trained to be looked at, the perfect accessory as Donald sailed into his sixties. She understood the rules, and she played by them. But when he ran for president, and she had to teeter on stage not just to pose in her four-inch Manolo Blahniks, but stand on them and speak, he broke the rules. She did not sign up to become the First Lady of the United States of America.”
On Ivanka: Burleigh writes, “The amount and kind of plastic surgery she underwent as a teenager and young woman is a matter of big-boobed and sanitized female beauty, plus the example of her own mother’s increasingly dramatic efforts to stave off natural aging, must have left a mark of the young woman’s self-image.
“Ivanka has worked hard crafting an image of herself as a subtler, calmer version of the man…And with her father in the White House, she is his female alter ego, as angered by the slights and as certain of her rectitude and instincts as he is.”
Golden Handcuffs is a revealing, comprehensive and provocative exploration of how Trump’s upbringing shaped his relationships with his wives and daughters, which in turn have shaped his attitudes toward women in general.“Where they come from and what they do now and in the future matters because they have or have had the ear of the most powerful man on earth,” says Burleigh.
Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women is currently available for purchase.
Nina Burleigh covers politics for Newsweek and is a New York Times bestselling author of five critically acclaimed works of creative non-fiction. Golden Handcuffs is her sixth book. She has written a screenplay, two novels and hundreds of works of journalism, essays and book reviews, on a wide array of topics including culture, politics, gender issues, science, and the environment.