Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Saturday, May 6th, 2017.

The Meaning of the Word Work

Trump Maladministration

Ivanka Trump has published a book titled Women Who Work. It sounds perfectly vapid, but at least it’s inspired some gloriously snarky reviews. So it’s not a total loss.

Reviewer Jennifer Senior called the book a “strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes.”

Self-actualization is the all-consuming preoccupation of “Women Who Work.” In this way, the book is not really offensive so much as witlessly derivative, endlessly recapitulating the wisdom of other, canonical self-help and business books — by Stephen Covey, Simon Sinek, Shawn Achor, Adam Grant. (Profiting handsomely off the hard work of others appears to be a signature Trumpian trait.) For a while, it reads like the best valedictorian speech ever. Pursue your passion! Make sure you, and not others, define success! Architect a life you love in order to fully realize your multidimensional self! …

…The book is manifestly the descendant of many TED talks and lifestyle websites. (“Women Who Work” was, in fact, the name of an initiative Trump started on her website, providing advice to working-girl millennials, before it became the title of this book.) It’s perfect for a generation weaned on Pinterest and — you can easily imagine its many pink-tinted pages appearing on Shoshanna’s manifestation board in “Girls.” In a crowded marketplace of freelance thought leaders and spiritualists, Trump, with her social-media following of millions, is carving her own niche as a glambition guru, with an explicit aim to “inspire and empower women to create the lives they want to live.”

This may come as a shock, but apparently this book is not flying off the shelves (/sarcasm).

Here’s a mashup of quotes from the reviews. My favorites:

“Trump’s book… is a grab-bag of generic work-life advice for upper-middle-class white women who need to ‘architect’ (a verb that pops up a lot) their lives. But underneath that, and perhaps more remarkable, is Trump’s inability to truly recognize how her own privileged upbringing was key to her success.”

“None of this is to say Ivanka hasn’t struggled over the last year and a half. ‘During extremely high-capacity times, like during the campaign, I went into survival mode: I worked and I was with my family; I didn’t do much else,” she writes. “Honestly, I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care.'”

“I am happy to report that with this book, Trump has helped to level at least one playing field: Here is proof that a female CEO can write a business book that is just as bad — just as padded with bromides and widely-known examples and self-promotion and unexamined privilege and jargon — as one written by an overconfident male CEO.”

And here’s more, from NPR:

So it is for obvious reasons that the criticism leveled at Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In — that it was written for rich white women only — applies to this book as well. Invisible hands — nannies, drivers, security, and other paid help — make Trump’s lifestyle possible, but barely get a mention. In one of the rare references to her household staff, she writes, “Some of my best photos of the kids were taken by my nanny during the day (I’m sure in ten years I’ll convince myself I took them!).” …

… 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 …”

So if anyone was hoping Ivanka might have a moderating or humanizing influence on her father … um, no.

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