Today, The New York Times has a sprawling piece about father’s best, Ivanka, and her storied journey from daughter of a real estate mogul to the daughter of an old man who watches TV all day and is also president of the United States. Much of the piece covers what we already know about Ivanka—that she is struggling to find her place as First Daughter, that she is playing the “centrist advocate” in the White House but not actually moderating any of her father’s policies. (Apparently, Ivanka suggested to Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, that the organization should split in two—one part abortion services, another part women’s health—which is the kind of off-hand comment that could only be delivered by someone who understands the organization as a problem of her own contradictory brand.)
But one of the most interesting anecdotes that the Times uncovered was about Ivanka’s attempt to create her own Lean In:
But penetrating the mass market presented a challenge: Ms. Trump’s gilded life felt distant to women who shopped at Macy’s. So, late in 2013, she and her husband gathered with a few employees in front of a whiteboard in their Upper East Side apartment. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In had just topped the best-seller charts, and Ms. Trump’s team wanted its own catchy yet accessible slogan.
The brainstorming solidified into a new motto: “Women Who Work.”
Even Ivanka was able to see Sheryl Sandberg’s famed “feminist” opus for exactly what it is: a marketing campaign. The lines between Ivanka’s branded feminism—she reportedly was reluctant to even grant her own employees maternity leave, and doesn’t pay her interns—and the corporate feminism embodied by Sandberg’s Lean In are very fine indeed.
In a great dig, the Times states that Ivanka’s “interest in gender issues grew out of a ‘Women Who Work’ hashtag and marketing campaign she devised a few years ago to help sell $99 pumps and $150 dresses.” This is not too far off from Sandberg, who has used Lean In to market her own brand, while refusing to sit down with hotel housekeepers. If Ivanka is a faux feminist, what is Sheryl Sandberg?