In the middle of Berlin's tree-lined avenue of Unter den Linden, a large bunch of Berliners in fur stoles and fake pearls are bopping around to Brecht poetry and woke German rap. If they weren't surrounded by police vans, it might sound like a regular Tuesday night in Germany's subversive capital, but the glitter and full-length skirts are here to protest a deep hypocrisy: Just opposite is the Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle exhibition space, where Ivanka Trump is the guest of honour of a gala held in the name of women's empowerment. As the protesters see paparazzi outside the venue snapping—a sure sign of the so-called First Daughter entering the prestigious building—the boisterous crowd make sure they hear their chant: "Your feminism's fake, you only care how much you make!"
Ivanka Trump is visiting Germany at the invitation of Prime Minister Angela Merkel, who asked her to be part of the W20 summit on women's economics. Her first stint on a panel discussion didn't go smoothly. The crowd of conference-goers booed and hissed as Ivanka attempted to defend her father's blatant sexism. And the Coalition, who organized the Gala Für Alle ( "Gala For Everyone" in German) on the street outside couldn't agree with these detractors more. A diverse group of English-speaking immigrants and Germans who are concerned about the spread of far-right politics and Trump's electoral win, the Coalition is helping to coordinate events that voice the widespread rejection of the international rise in fascism, including Ivanka's bit part as a walk-on feminist as and when it suits the Trump administration.
"The hypocrisy is incredible," Aimee Male, from the Coalition tells me. "[She] gets up there and says 'I'm an entrepreneur, I care about women and want more women to take control of their own lives'. Cool—but how did you get rich? From sweatshop labor, at the expense of the 99 percent!"
Indeed, Ivanka's fashion line has been the subject of much criticism already, from revelations of the mistreatment of Chinese garment workers making her clothes, to boycotts from the #GrabYourWallet movement and Nordstrom's removal of her products from sale. The brand is now so toxic that a discount store started relabelling the clothes as "Adrienne Vittadini".
Ivanka may have denied that she was in Germany representing her brand, but she was most definitely there on behalf of her father and his government, whose track record on advocating women's issues is equally execrable. Experts have warned that the expansion of the global gag rule that Trump has imposed will kill millions of women around the world, while his legislation defunding Planned Parenthood put US women's health in jeopardy. Native American women are fighting to keep control over their sovereign land under Trump, and immigrant women risk having their lives torn apart by his Muslim ban, while hate crime steadily rises. Meanwhile, Foreign Policy has published leaked reports stating that Trump plans to strip all funding from a State Department agency that promotes global women's rights. How can women succeed they do not have access to safe health provisions, clean water, or—in the case of trans women—public bathroom facilities? Where was Ivanka when these women needed empowering?
"It makes us feel really uncomfortable," says Male. "What's worse is that she was invited by Angela Merkel directly to take part in the W20." Much meme-ing has been made of the German Chancellor's apparent dismissiveness to Ivanka on her recent visit to the States. And yet here the First Daughter is, and she's on an international panel discussing the best ways to lift women out of poverty. "We feel [these guests are] very unrepresentative of working women and women's struggles in general. You look at the people who were invited and then look at the rest of the world—this is not representative."
The protesters at the Gala Für Alle are also enraged at the choice of host for this evening's event: Deutsche Bank. "Not only are they Trump's bank, but they were also crucial in 2008's economic meltdown, supporting bad loans for low-income people who were then tossed out of their houses," says Male. "They are also a tertiary funder of the Dakota Access Pipeline, from which they still have yet to divest. Yet they say that they support environmental policies at the same time—the doublespeak is extraordinary. And now they're now hosting a gala for all these feminists. This is pinkwashing—pretending that they're empowering women when at the same time doing things that are harming them."
Outside the Gala for the W20, there's a definite chill in the spring air, but the Gala Für Alle is keeping things warm with a set from explosively enthusiastic German rap trio Die Tsootsies and sophisticated jazz-pop from Godmother. Like all the bands who played, they're vocal about the complacency of corporate feminism. "This whole conference is about putting lipstick on the pig that is the one percent," Joey Hansom from Godmother tells me. "I am totally in favor of women in positions of power—in government, in business and in the bedroom—but we need leadership that supports all its people, including all women, not just the rich white ones."
Speaking of rich white women—inside the Deutsche Bank building, the guests of the W20 gala in their jewels smile serenely amidst the pristine white linen tablecloths and hovering suited bodyguards. And yet, as we all go for another round of "Ivanka, Ivanka, we don't really wantcha!", plastic cups of beer in hand, I know which party I'd rather be at.
All photos by Anastasia Muna.