Ivanka Trump’s latest book, “Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,” set to be released next week, is the First Daughter’s latest business endeavor that is a direct result of her brand profiting from her father’s presidency. The book touts feminist-sounding ideals for all working women, such as “learn how to cook and how to code.” However, such advice tends to fall flat when it comes from the daughter of a man whose documented treatment and comments about women are habitually sexist, misogynistic, crude and demeaning.
Long before she became the First Daughter, Ivanka branded herself as an empowered, successful young woman who worked hard for her achievements, regardless of the immeasurable advantages that come with being born into enormous wealth. Her #WomenWhoWork platform, which aims to empower women in the workplace, has now been twisted to fit into her personal brand, and she stands to profit from it greatly.
Her father’s presidency is an opportunity to expand her brand by creating a platform self-styled to advise the working woman on achieving success, all while capitalizing on it.
If Ivanka Trump genuinely cared about working women, she would do better to distance herself from her father and his damaging policies to working men and women alike. And yet, she has done quite the opposite. Ms. Trump has commodified the feminist movement and the struggles of American women into a product to sell. And now she can do all that from the comfort of her very own desk in her very own office in the West Wing.
Her Twitter and Instagram accounts are meticulously crafted to fit her brand: feminine yet strong, sophisticated yet relatable, glamorous yet humble. She fits the New York socialite aesthetic well, which seems to work well for her when she isn’t trying to give advice that doesn’t apply to women making less than six figures.
The price of a pair of Ivanka Trump-brand earrings can range anywhere from $420 to $39,500. Her jewelry collection can be purchased not only in the U.S. but also in Canada, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Virtually all of her merchandise is made outside the U.S.
The Washington Post reported this week that the Chinese factory workers who make clothing for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, as well as several other brands, work nearly 60 hours a week, for which they earn only $62. Ivanka continuously touts her father’s “buy American, hire American” agenda, but fails miserably to lead by example.
The First Daughter was greeted with boos and hisses by a German audience at the Women20 Summit in Berlin this week after attempting to claim her father was, like her, a champion of women. She responded to “the criticism” by blaming the media for perpetuating her father’s documented behavior.
The fact that she sat on that stage with a microphone in her hands, peddling lies about her own agenda in the White House and her father’s as president, is hypocritical and an insult to all women. The theme for the W20 Summit this year was women’s economic empowerment and financial and digital inclusion. Yet Ivanka’s biggest employee base is a group of overworked and underpaid Chinese women hunched over in a factory far, far away.
It isn’t news that the eldest Trump offspring is directly profiting from her father’s political prominence. She is in the spotlight, and she can use that to her advantage however she pleases – apparently even when anti-nepotism laws exist stating otherwise. However, her entire brand is an extravagant façade designed to make a profit, a profit from which American women stand to lose.
After her speech at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, she tweeted, “Shop Ivanka’s look from her #RNC speech,” followed with a hyperlink to Macy’s. A similar ad emerged on her jewelry website after a November 13 appearance on 60 Minutes, showing off her “favorite bangle” from the Metropolis Collection. The bracelet costs up to $10,800.
You can be successful like me, her brand purports, if you just have the right handbag. Confidence in the workplace starts with a great outfit, it claims. This message is exclusionary and demonstrates a telling lack of applicability to the real world.
A similar theme is found within Ivanka’s latest book. If women follow her advice, they really can have it all. I imagine anyone who was born into immense wealth giving advice on how to achieve one's dreams will create the same effect as you or I would have in telling a person suffering from depression to “just stop being depressed.”
According to the description on Amazon, Ivanka wrote “Women Who Work” because she “realized the need for more female leaders to speak out publicly in order to change the way society thinks and talks about ‘women who work.’”
I suggest she start with her father.
President Trump’s demeaning comments toward women may be easy for some to ignore, but the world will feel the damaging effects of his policies soon enough. Barely in office, Trump reinstated the Global Gag Rule that restricts U.S. funding to global health organizations if they perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other countries. However, a study in sub-Saharan Africa found that enacting this law is actually associated with an increase in abortions. It not only fails to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but it also perpetuates the cycle of poverty, particularly in developing countries, and places the burden on us to provide relief when we helped worsen this issue in the first place.
The same phenomenon has been seen in the United States when access to abortion has been restricted, and unsurprisingly, it is poor and low-income women who are affected the most. The criminalization of abortion does not prevent it or decrease its frequency, but rather drives women to seek illegal methods and risk their lives in the process, and economists have long since established a correlation between a lack of access to adequate family planning services in low-income areas and significantly decreased social mobility. These are not just third-world problems, especially not under a presidential administration that has frequently affirmed its commitment to a staunchly pro-life agenda.
I am eager to learn just how Ivanka plans on changing the way society “thinks and talks about women” when her father’s agenda is set to reverse any such progress. I am also curious to see how or even if she attempts to address the socio-economic, ethnic and racial discrimination factors that come into play when it comes to success in the workplace, none of which stood as hurdles to overcome in her own life.
Ivanka Trump reminds me of a modern-day Marie Antoinette, except the Austrian-turned-French queen closed her eyes to the plight of her people while Ivanka sees her power as a marketing opportunity. Antoinette loved to overspend on shoes and jewelry while Ivanka wants to sell these things to us. Both are and were dangerously out of touch with the common citizen. For now, Ivanka has moved into the palace, anti-nepotism laws aside, with security clearance and all.
Whether her intentions are good or not, there is no question that Ivanka Trump is exploiting her “signature issue” of women’s empowerment in the workplace as a product to sell.