Women Who Work is not the type of book I would normally read. I don’t like self-help books and I fucking hate the Trumps. Even now, only 3 days into the project, I often find myself wondering why on earth I got myself into this. I think it might have been because I really enjoyed reading the negative reviews of the book. I should know better by now. I was lured into trying to read Fifty Shades of Grey because I really enjoyed the chapter reviews and parodies of them by Anna Roberts (Check them out here). To hear other people talk about these books, you almost get the impression that they’re funny or worth reading. Then I picked up the source material. Oh god. The source material.
Before I fully knew what I was getting into, I decided to make a project of writing a parody of Women Who Work. Sometimes I’m glad that I started this. It has been a humorous catharsis to the absolute terror that has become our daily lives under this administration. Other times, I’m reading the fucking book.
We begin with the preface. The preface is about 3 pages of a whole lot of nothing. Ivanka opens by explaining that this book went to print around inauguration time and was written during her father’s campaign. She introduces herself as somebody who has always wanted to be a “developer and entrepreneur” and wants to “inspire and empower” women to… I don’t know. Inspire them and empower them. At first I thought she might have been talking about all women. Turns out, no. Should’ve known. She clarifies this at the end of the preface by explaining that she wants to “level the playing field for female entrepreneurs and job creators” whom you’ll recognize as the only type of people Republicans think are people.
Then we come to the introduction. Emboldened by the short preface, I guess I assumed the introduction would be brief as well. How wrong I was. About 3 or 4 pages into the introduction, I flipped ahead to see how much more of it there was. It’s a 15 page introduction. 15 is a whole lot of pages when you’re reading the words of Ivanka Trump. And, in case you’re wondering, no it doesn’t say anything meaningful either.
It begins with her enjoying a view on a hike in Patagonia. This hike isn’t particularly well described because Ivanka is a bad writer, so we don’t get any of the things from this scene that we might get from somebody with a marginal degree of competence. We get no description of the flora or fauna she encountered, what brought her there to begin with, who she was with, what types of hills she climbed, whether she was camping, or fucking anything that you’d expect to see from somebody describing a hike in Patagonia. What we get is this: She’s 3 miles into a 5 mile hike and she’s stopped to enjoy the view and think about her next career move. That’s it. That’s literally fucking it. Was it winter or summer? Was she sweaty? Had the hike been easy or difficult? Who knows! Patagonia is wasted on Ivanka Trump.
Here, at this er, stopping point on her hike, she asks herself “questions prompted by the unknown” which describes the promptings of literally all questions ever so we know this is about to get real deep. She’s wondering if going to work at the family business will go well or poorly. She thinks maybe she’ll do well but the chemistry will be wrong. Or maybe she won’t do well. Real philosopher, this one.
While reflecting on this, she gives us her first anecdote from her life and here’s where it starts to get weird. She describes her mother as an involved developer at the Plaza Hotel. As evidence, she cites her mother’s outfit. Ivana, you see, would always wear full makeup and four inch heels to go tour the construction sites and “inspect every detail” while Ivanka ran around playing. In a construction site. I try to imagine this. How worried must the construction workers have been that Ivana, in four inch heels was walking around a construction site inspecting all the details of development? How did they make that safe or at all practical? And on top of that, what the fuck were they supposed to do with a kid running around in all this? Construction workers are generally required to wear steel-toed boots with good tread to avoid, oh I don’t know, getting pierced through the foot with a fallen nail or having something fall and crush their toes into powder, but by god Ivana was going to wear her four inch fucking heels. Ivanka mentions a hard hat. Oh good! They were safe! She gives us this anecdote to underscore her fascination with and commitment to being unapologetically feminine. This comes up again and again, so get used to it. Being feminine is super important to Ivanka.
Here, she casually mentions that she worked “from the ground up” to be executive vp at her family business which tells us she has no idea where the ground actually is. She says she was given privileges but couldn’t have done it all with just her name, except that literally everyone in that family with that name has done exactly that and even her stupidest brother hasn’t been denied a high level executive position.
Now we come to the point where Ivanka mentions the disadvantages that women have in the workplace. Being Ivanka Trump, I didn’t really expect her to understand things like how impossible it is to pay for daycare and rent on a salary that isn’t enough to cover either one, but I did expect to see that she’d mention unfair scrutiny or pervasive misogyny or glass ceilings. None of these things come up. Maybe we’ll get there later in the book, I don’t know yet, but for now, Ivanka makes clear that her biggest concern about women in the workplace is that they don’t fully embrace their entire selves like how they have husbands and children and hobbies. Also fashion. Mostly fashion, actually. Ivanka apparently grew up being highly concerned about how “masculine” workplace fashion had become for women. To be empowered, she says, fashion must be feminine and therefore reflect the entire woman. Her brand, she says, is all about empowering women by giving them more expressive, feminine options. I’m not really sure how tacky-ass suits are meant to empower women but okay!
She also started a jewelry line to empower women. With jewelry! Apparently empowerment is all on sale at Nordstrom (or I guess TJ Maxx now that Nordstrom got sick of her). Women now buy jewelry for themselves, she says. They no longer wait for men to buy them jewelry. I’m sort of getting the feeling that I’m watching Downton Abbey and all this “modern woman” talk is taking place in 1917 instead of 2017, a year in which at least American women for whom this book is ostensibly written are not actually familiar with the concept of waiting for men to buy them clothes and jewelry. After describing how empowering her clothes and jewelry are, she makes sure to remind us that they’re on sale everywhere and at great prices, too. You know, in case you forgot that she’s just a walking talking QVC golem made of glossy, smiling ads, and President’s day weekend sales.
Being overworked is apparently another value of Ivanka’s and she’d like us to know that. Everyone is overworked, she says, even people who don’t have kids! Imagine that. And being overworked has “fostered authenticity” somehow. She doesn’t describe how this works, but I imagine that not having a life outside of the grand capitalist machine has forced people to bring their personalities to work with them sometimes or else risk not having one at all. She might try a little harder at that.
She then uses “architect” as a verb about 20 times somehow because she is Not A Good Writer and goes into a section where she describes what each chapter is going to be like. I skipped that part because I’m already going to have to read the fucking things, I don’t want to have to read about them, too.