It’s been a bad week, you don’t need me to tell you that, and during these moments of darkness and depleting sources of hope, we must turn to the light and find joy where we can. Since Ivanka Trump, the new accompanying description for the definition of “complict”, has no other uses on this planet beyond exploiting feminist discourse for narcissistic gain and giving Katherine Heigl research material for the inevitable Armando Iannucci satire of her life, we cannot help but gloat over the scathing reviews of her latest book.
Let’s be honest, this book was never going to be good. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has its own myriad of problems, but it at least came from an earnest place. Women Who Work, Trump’s attempt to cash in on that “feminism as capitalist tool” trend, is a transparently egotistical folly, and fortunately for us, the critics are calling that out.
Not only is it a terrible book, but it’s one full of shockingly misused quotes from other sources. In one instance, Trump (or her ghostwriter, because come on) quotes none other than Toni Morrison for a quick pep-talk on finding a work-life balance: “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” That quote is from Beloved, a book about actual slavery. Bang up job, Ivanka!
It's weird to read a book by Ivanka Trump and see her using Junot Diaz and Toni Morrison's words. pic.twitter.com/s613yXXUxH— Pete Souza Petty (@KendraJames_) May 2, 2017
And now, onto the reviews. Brave souls who sacrificed common sense for the greater good read the book, and so it is our duty to give them our precious clicks and revel in the schadenfreude feast, as critics dug deep to find just the right level of artful hatred to describe the awfulness of this milquetoast vanity project turned propaganda exercise.
Reading it feels like eating scented cotton balls… Ostensibly a business guide for women, Women Who Work is a long simper of a book, full of advice so anodyne (“I believe that we each get one life and it’s up to us to live it to the fullest”), you could almost scramble the sentences and come out with something just as coherent.
“Women Who Work” is mostly composed of artless jargon (“All women benefit immeasurably by architecting their lives”) and inspirational quotes you might find by Googling “inspirational quotes.” Her exhortations feel even emptier than usual in light of Trump’s stated policy goals. “We must fight for ourselves, for our rights not just as workers but also as women,” Ivanka writes, and, elsewhere, “Honor yourself by exploring the kind of life you deserve.” The imagined audience for the book is so rarefied that Ivanka confidently calls paying bills and buying groceries “not enormously impactful” to one’s daily productivity. Her nannies are mentioned twice, if you count the acknowledgments; no other household help is alluded to at all. On the book’s second-to-last page, she finally, briefly mentions the need for paid leave and affordable childcare.
She almost certainly delegated the writing of this book, which largely consists of other people’s business and lifestyle advice mashed up into a lavender balm of corporatized psychobabble. Perhaps that is what Trump means by “rewriting” the rules of success… Like certain health care bills, these words are not meant to be read. They are puffs of scented air that you purchase so that you can display the container in a prominent place.
In this way, the book is not really offensive so much as witlessly derivative, endlessly recapitulating the wisdom of other, canonical self-help and business books… It’s a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes… So the why of her book becomes easy to discern. She’s extending the Trump brand.
Trump’s book, written before the election but published Tuesday, is a grab-bag of generic work-life advice for upper-middle-class white women who need to “architect” (a verb that pops up a lot) their lives. But underneath that, and perhaps more remarkable, is Trump’s inability to truly recognize how her own privileged upbringing was key to her success… If this book is any indication, the women served by her activism will be culled from a fairly elite group.
Step 1: Be born extremely rich