Ivanka Trump is writing a book. Due out March 2017, it’s titled Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules of Success. And what is her message about women who work? Well, that’s a great question.
Due out in March 2017, publisher Portfolio promises “the book will advocate an ‘inclusive and celebratory’ vision for working women and help them ‘create the lives they want to live,’” the Associated Press reports (note the word “inclusive,” which will become important later). Trump proclaimed in her announcement:
When I first launched my #WomenWhoWork initiative almost two years ago, I was advised by many of the top creative agencies to lose the word, “work.” One after another, they suggested that the idea of “women and work” wasn’t aspirational and wouldn’t resonate with a millennial audience.
I disagreed. If you ask me, there’s nothing more incredible than a woman who’s in charge of her own destiny—and working daily to make her dreams a reality.
It’s not like Ivanka is doing something unprecedented here. In the wake of Lean In, writing a guide to living your most empowered life has become practically a proscribed step in building one’s public brand as a woman, with results of varying quality—Sophia Amoruso’s Girl Boss, Arianna Huffignton’s Thrive, Megyn Kelly’s Settle for More, etc. Trump has been laying the groundwork for this for some time, between regular public appearances and her “#WomenWhoWork initiative.” As she said in her announcement:
My team and I have been laser-focused on making IvankaTrump.com the destination for professional women. Our site is home to inspiring thought leaders, smart content and solution-oriented tips curated for women who work. Today, I’m beyond excited to announce the next evolution of our message—a book!
So what is their message, exactly? Sample IvankaTrump.com content about women and work includes “The New Paradigm of Feminine Leadership—and What it Means for You,” guidance from Ivanka herself on negotiating, and advice for women returning to the workforce after a long absence. Fairly generic cheerleading, in other words, with a sprinkling of general business advice—which doesn’t really take into account the majority of women’s biggest hurdles in the workplace, like securing affordable childcare and fighting back against the institutional sexism you know is there, but you just can’t quite collect enough receipts to call an employment lawyer.
But perhaps the book will have a little more meat. After all, the book’s Amazon listing promises “highly tactical, solution-oriented content”! In a statement from her publisher, she said:
“Today’s generation of working women is the first to be able to unabashedly embrace the fact that our lives are multidimensional,” Trump said in a statement issued by her publisher. “We’re deeply invested in our careers, but they don’t solely define us. For us, it’s about working smarter, not harder; integrating our personal passions and priorities with our professional goals in order to architect lives we love.”
The concept of “work-life balance” has dominated conversations about women and work since the height of the backlash ‘80s; the trick is saying anything remotely new or useful about it. So what’s Ivanka’s contribution to this long-running discussion? Well, maybe if we take another look at the book’s Amazon listing:
For the CEO of her own company or a recent college graduate, a mother working full time at home to raise a family or a part-time freelancer, this book celebrates the fact that, when it comes to women and work, there isn’t one “right” answer. By redefining what it means to be a modern working woman, and offering content that inspires, supports, and empowers, Women Who Work will establish a new ideal, changing the conversation around women and work to one that’s more positive, accurate, and inclusive.
Sorry, what does that mean? Does it mean anything? Even if you disagreed, the message of Lean In was quite clear. My high school English teacher would have informed Ivanka that “women who work” was a topic, not a thesis statement, and graded her accordingly. Seems like she decided it was time to write a book and hey, everybody loves to be told “you go, girl!”
Working women don’t need yet another book of advice from a wealthy person. Maybe work is a luxury avenue for personal fulfillment for Ivanka Trump, but most women aren’t working purely for the love of the game, to “make her dreams a reality,” but rather because they’ve got to pay rent and put food on the table. They need and deserve strong legal protections against discrimination and sexual harassment, paid family leave, and childcare that doesn’t cost more than a college education.
And of course, this woman’s whole schtick becomes even harder to take seriously when you remember that she is actively campaigning for her father, who is lately running around congratulating himself for breaking the glass ceiling in the construction business. And that’s in the wake of a rediscovered 1994 interview, via ABC News, in which he blamed the disintegration of his marriage to Ivanka’s mother on the fact he gave Ivana a management position at the Trump Castle Casino: “There was a great softness to Ivana, and she still has that softness, but during this period of time, she became an executive not a wife.”
Ivanka has told CNN that she thinks her father would be “incredible for women in this country.” Which makes it doubly hard to take anything she has to say about helping working women with a straight face.