That Donald Trump is personally abusive towards women is beyond dispute. That is just another aspect of his charming personality, in addition to his racism. That the current White House has a toxic culture is also obvious. So in this climate, who are the women who work in close proximity to the president and what has been their experience? As far as I am aware, not having read the book, Michael Wolff’s book does not reflect much on gender issues in general, though he does talk about specific women.
Erin Gloria Ryan has an article that looks at what Wolff has to say as this question. At the senior levels, the two people who appear most prominently are Sarah Sanders and Kellyanne Conway and they both seem to have drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid and are more Trump than Trump, in the former case aided by the awful genes she inherited from her father, right wing religious extremist Mike Huckabee. And of course there is that symbol of nepotism, Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
One of the few competent people in the administration was White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh.
Katie Walsh, who bounced from the RNC to White House deputy chief of staff and out to a pro-Trump Super PAC, is written as Reince Priebus’ “sidekick,” despite being just about the only competent person in the book. In Fire and Fury, she sees herself as a professional, “heads-down-get-things-done kind of person.”
Wolff playfully calls her a “swamp creature,” and then points out why “swamp creatures” are necessary to making Washington work. Walsh went to a “reliable [feeder] of swamp talent]” college, and snarks that government is “not really an Ivy League profession.” Despite the “joylessness” of the way Walsh and other swamp creatures dress, Walsh, ever sounding the alarm, is among the first to realize that the president is an actual idiot.
Of course, Walsh did not last long. In a later column, Wolff describes what happened to her.
On March 30, after the collapse of the health care bill, 32-year-old Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff, the effective administration chief of the West Wing, a stalwart political pro and stellar example of governing craft, walked out. Little more than two months in, she quit. Couldn’t take it anymore. Nutso. To lose your deputy chief of staff at the get-go would be a sign of crisis in any other administration, but inside an obviously exploding one it was hardly noticed.
There is also the lesser-known Hope Hicks, now the White House communications director, who is supposed to be someone whom Trump greatly trusts because “she never challenges him and always does exactly what he wants”, a necessary quality for anyone who wants to be in the employ of this petulant narcissist.
One of the strangest parts of Fire and Fury is when Wolff casually confirms that then-PR aide Hope Hicks was having an on-again-off-again affair with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is married and has children. Hicks, like Ivanka and Kellyanne, is also living in an “alternate reality,” following the President around as his dutiful “shadow” who would always support his view or type up a dictated lie, no matter what.
I did find interesting this throwaway quote in a review that described the presence of female assistants as “young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair”, which is how women appeared in the 60s in music videos and cheesy sci-fi films. Somehow that does not surprise me.