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In her new book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, Ivanka Trump makes some valid points, like the fact that meetings are often a waste of time and that men don’t always have the best ideas when it comes to marketing products to women. She also shares some semi-juicy anecdotes: She turned down a post-college job at Vogue that Anna Wintour had offered her, personally and unsolicited, in favor of pursuing her “true passion” for real estate.
But on the whole, Trump’s Women Who Work is a now-familiar dance between promoting herself as a businesswoman — and consequently plugging her namesake clothing and accessories brand — and distancing herself from her company and the Trump Organization as she takes on a greater role in the White House.
Right out of the gate, Trump tries to mitigate the conflict of interest accusations that readers might lob at her. The book begins with a preface, written after the election, clarifying that she wrote the manuscript during her father’s campaign, before the results had rolled in, and that when President Trump took office, she would be stepping down from her brand and the Trump Organization. With this, perhaps readers could proceed with the view that Women Who Work is something of a time capsule: advice dispensed from a fixed point in the past.
It doesn’t feel that way, though. Trump describes the development of her fashion brand’s #WomenWhoWork campaign (deemed not sexy enough by the aforementioned marketing men), and says that “It informs and inspires every decision our company makes. It’s our guiding light.”
Perhaps Penguin Random House decided it was too much work to change the text from present to past tense, but this language fuels a feeling that Trump’s business and her role in government are still too close for comfort, or for ethical standards. Or maybe it’s just honest. While Trump did leave her day-to-day role at her company, she’s still an owner and therefore makes money from it. It is “our” company.
Beyond that, there’s a lot of murkiness in the fact that #WomenWhoWork was once the property of Ivanka Trump, the brand, and is now being peddled by Ivanka Trump, the person who wishes to detach herself from that brand. The clothing line has taken to using the hashtag #WearITToWork instead. “IT” as in “Ivanka Trump,” in case that wasn't immediately clear.
But Trump is making a concerted effort to separate herself from the book, too. In a profile of Trump published this morning, the New York Times noted that she will not be promoting it for ethics reasons. She is, but in a quiet way that reads more as damage control than anything else. In an Instagram post today, she highlighted women who have benefited from the National Urban League, noting, toward the end of her caption, that a portion of proceeds from her book will be going to the organization. The Women Who Work website notes, in bold font, that Trump is donating the unpaid portion of her advance and all future royalties to the Ivanka M. Trump Charitable Fund, which “will make grants to organizations that empower and educate women and children.”
Given all of that, you might wonder why this book even had to be published in the first place, or why Trump thought it was a good idea to compare speaking on her father’s behalf at the Republican National Convention with giving a presentation in the workplace. In some moments, it positively hands jokes to Trump’s critics, like a suggestion to keep professional goals on track by writing an “extended job title” for oneself, which calls to mind the steady extension of Trump’s title in her father’s administration.
Maybe Trump wanted to halt the book’s publication and it was too late. Maybe not. Either way, the impression it creates is a shady mix of personal promotion, business interests, and the tricky PR footwork required to gloss over the two.