Not enormously impactful

Jia Tolentino read Ivanka Trump’s new book and found it wanting.

In the preface to the book—titled “Women Who Work,” after an “initiative” she launched, in 2014—Ivanka emphasizes that she wrote it before Donald Trump became President. She has since announced that she will donate the profits and refrain from publicizing the book “through a promotional tour or media appearances,” in the hopes of avoiding the appearance of ethical conflicts. (Instead, she has been shilling for the book on Twitter, where she has nearly four million followers.)

Which is a conflict of interest. What on earth makes her think it’s ok to shill for the book on Twitter? She’s exploiting her name recognition as the president’s daughter to flog her shit merchandise. That is not ok.

“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.

What about eating and being able to make the rent? Is that enormously impactful?

“Women Who Work” should put an end to the idea that Ivanka is particularly self-aware. In the book’s third paragraph, she assesses her father’s Presidential run by saying, “I have grown tremendously as a person.” Later, she laments not “treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care” during the campaign. She warns the reader of the dangers of one’s inner circle turning into an echo chamber.

Plus, she works for him, she doesn’t speak up for his many victims, she doesn’t publicly tell him to stop publicly insulting women – Alicia Machado, Elizabeth Warren, Megyn Kelly, the list is long.

Which came first, Ivanka’s women’s-empowerment initiative or her desire to sell more shoes? The initiative evolved “very organically,” she writes. And yet throughout the book she reverts to the tone of a pitch deck: “I designed my company around a larger mission. Whether you’re trying on a pair of my heels or perusing my Web site for interviewing tips, my ‘why’ is to provide you—a woman who works—with solutions and inspiration.” A few pages later, she describes her entry into the fashion business as a “market opportunity . . . ready to be seized.” The book ultimately doesn’t try very hard to obscure the fact that the Women Who Work initiative was created, as the Times recently reported, as a way to make Ivanka products more marketable.

“Female empowerment” as marketing tool – who could have seen that coming?

The book is full of random advertisements for Trump companies, like this one: “Scion Hotels offer energized social experiences and shared work spaces designed to bring people together to exchange ideas and create.” Sometimes Ivanka even deploys Trump’s comically obtuse diction: “I personally love the word ‘curious.’ I identify with it quite a bit because I am deeply curious.”

I think not.

The other quoted experts—and there are hundreds—are all over the map. There’s Stephen Covey, the business consultant and teacher who wrote “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” There’s Socrates. There’s Toni Morrison, who is quoted as saying, “Bit by bit, she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” (Ivanka does not note that those lines are from the novel “Beloved” and refer to freedom from actual slavery; in this context, they are used as the chapter divider before a section on time management, in which she asks women, “Are you a slave to your time or the master of it?”)

Oh, brilliant. Good choice. Thank god she’s “curious.”

By the end of the book, she’s basically speaking to no one. Wealthy upper managers with families don’t need to be reminded of the importance of setting goals, and Ivanka’s directives are utterly irrelevant to anyone struggling to pay for childcare and housing at the same time. Women outside the corporate world and creative class do not figure into her vision of endless upward mobility at all. In one chapter, she writes, with a sense of courage that is jaw-droppingly misplaced, “If I can help celebrate the fact that I’m a superengaged mom and unabashedly ambitious entrepreneur, that yes, I’m on a construction site in the morning and at the dinner table with my kids in the evening, I’m going to do that.” And why wouldn’t she? Who wouldn’t celebrate that level of ability and accomplishment—except, maybe, the type of man who would say that putting your wife to work is a dangerous thing? The fundamental dishonesty of Ivanka Trump’s book is clearest in the fact that she never acknowledges the difficulty of knowing, or being governed by, anyone like that.

Her book and everything else about her.

4 Responses to “Not enormously impactful”