Reading it feels like eating scented cotton balls

Usually NPR is far too bland and timid and mainstream for me these days, but Annalisa Quinn’s review of Ivanka Trump’s “book” is pleasingly blunt.

Trump’s new book shares a name and a mission with her company’s marketing campaign: Women Who Work. Organized into sections with titles like “Dream Big” and “Make Your Mark,” Women Who Work is a sea of blandities, an extension of that 2014 commercial seeded with ideas lifted (“curated,” she calls it) from various well-known self-help authors. Reading it feels like eating scented cotton balls.

“My company was not just meeting the lifestyle needs of today’s modern professional woman with versatile, well-designed products,” Trump writes, undermining the care she has taken in interviews to avoid appearing as if she’s using her position to promote her brand. “It was celebrating those needs, at a price point she could afford.”

Marketingspeak all the way – lifestyle, lifestyle needs, modern, professional, versatile, well-designed, affordable…and price point. Just saying “price” is too shopkeeper-like, I guess, but “price point” makes it sound important. I bet the word “purchase” appears hundreds of times while “buy” isn’t there at all.

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.

And that person has a job high up in the US administration!

“I’ve curated my best thinking, as well as that of so many others, in the pages of this book,” she writes (wordsmiths?), and what she means is that she rehashes her previous writings and borrows heavily from lifestyle gurus and corporate feminist authors like Sheryl Sandberg, while simultaneously claiming Women Who Work offers something radically new, “a hopeful, more authentic alternative to the way work has worked previously.”

At an affordable price point.

“[P]assion,” she writes elsewhere, “combined with perseverance, is a great equalizer, more important than education or experience in achieving your version of success.” If only the poor were more passionate.

Ah but more to the point – look how handy that is for Daddykins. He’s got zero relevant education or experience, and he’s thick as a plank, but what he does have could be called passion. It could also be called aggression, hostility, rage, sadism, narcissism, temper, thin skin, resentment…but passion is an available euphemism. There he is, orange with passion and flapping with perseverance, overcoming his total lack of education or experience or wisdom or ability to think. Awesome.

Trump’s lack of awareness, plus a habit of skimming from her sources, often results in spectacularly misapplied quotations — like one from Toni Morrison’s Beloved about the brutal psychological scars of slavery. “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another,” is positioned in cute faux-handwritten capitals (and tagged #itwisewords) before a chapter on “working smarter.” In it, she asks: “Are you a slave to your time or the master of it? Despite your best intentions, it’s easy to be reactive and get caught up in returning calls, attending meetings, answering e-mails …”

Oh dear god.

In a section called “Staking Your Claim,” she writes, “Simply put, staking your claim means declaring something your own. Early in our country’s history, as new territories were acquired or opened — particularly during the gold rush — a citizen could literally put a stake in the ground and call the land theirs. The land itself, and everything on it, legally became that person’s property.” Over and over again, Trump’s message is: Take whatever you can get, and then print your name on it.

Not true. A stake was not all it took. A citizen also had to live on the land for five years.

Of course there’s also the fact that the land already belonged to other people, albeit in a communal sense as opposed to an individual possession sense – but whatever. I don’t expect Ivanka Trump to bother to learn anything about what she’s writing.

Many of the inspiring quotations Trump stakes a claim to here seem to have been culled from apocryphal inspiration memes. For instance, on the subject of asking for a raise, she quotes another black women writing on racism, Maya Angelou: “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.”

But the real, very different line is from Angelou’s memoir The Heart of a Woman, and it is a piece of advice about living in a racist world. “Ask for what you want,” Angelou’s mother tells her, “and be prepared to pay for what you get.”

At least she doesn’t tag that one #itwisewords, too, — I.T., standing, of course, for Ivanka Trump.

That’s how you make everything belong to you: you put your name on it.

H/t Gretchen

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