Books

The 5 Sickest Burns by Critics on Ivanka Trump’s ‘Simpering Milkshake’ of a Book

ivanka trump

Ivanka Trump’s book is out this week (read our list of alternatives here), and the critics are using its debut on shelves as an opportunity to whip out their funniest, most acerbic one-liners and zingers. The biggest targets are the writer’s (or ghostwriters, as the case may be) obliviousness to her own immense privilege, as well as the use of quotes from people like Toni Morrison on slavery to illustrate mundane issues like… answering too many emails.

But enough from us, here are the lines we chuckled at from a list of (all female) book critics:

Michelle Goldberg at Slate:

“[Sheryl] Sandberg has often been criticized for her privilege and for not paying sufficient heed to the structural forces that hold women back, particularly if they’re not rich, white, and heterosexual…Ivanka makes Sandberg look like Rosa Luxemburg.”

Jennifer Senior at The New York Times

“It’s a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes. Lee Iacocca appears two pages before Socrates. Toni Morrison appears one page after Estée Lauder. A quote from Nelson Mandela introduces the section that encourages women to ask for flextime: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

It is amazing how many times “Women Who Work” talks about the importance of Your Team. There are more teams in this book than there are in the N.F.L. In the case of maternity leave, she advises “to be present with your little one, and not wondering whether or not your team is floundering without you.” She adds that you should ‘Find someone trustworthy and capable on your team to act as a gatekeeper once you go on leave.’”

Annalisa Quinn at NPR:

“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.

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 …'”

Jia Tolentino at The New Yorker:

“When Ivanka published her first book, “The Trump Card,” she was twenty-eight, and her air of oblivious diligence was a reasonable fit for her position as a hardworking heiress, the favored child of a celebrity tycoon. Now that her father is the President and she has assumed a post in the White House, it feels downright perverse to watch her devote breathless attention to the self-actualization processes at work in the lives of wealthy women while studiously ignoring the political forces that shape even those lives…

What’s more striking is that the book fails even to get its own story straight: Which came first, Ivanka’s women’s-empowerment initiative or her desire to sell more shoes?”

Sady Doyle at Elle:

“This is typical of Ivanka’s feminism, which has always been less about providing specific, workable solutions than it is about presenting marketable, aspirational images of Ivanka herself. She’s meant to be the Exceptional Woman, the one woman with all the skills necessary to survive and thrive within patriarchy; we’re meant to believe that emulating her will serve us better than engaging with the underlying structures that disadvantage women in the first place.

In reality, women dealing with workplace discrimination need practical solutions more than they need social-media #inspo. But Ivanka’s only concrete advice for women struggling to find work-life balance, is to—well, be Ivanka.”

Of course, as much as we’re tempted to laugh, Bryce Covert at ThinkProgress reminds us that, “It’s easy to laugh off some of these out-of-touch stories,” but “The book would be a mostly harmless self-help manual for the 1 percent if it weren’t for the fact that through it, and through her official White House role, Trump is purporting to lead the charge in changing women’s place in society.”

But maybe this is the review that made me laugh the most, on Amazon: “Well, reading this was an hour of my life I will never get back.”

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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