real life

Dear Ivanka Trump, this is what an actual Woman Who Works looks like.

Last Thursday morning at 7:45am, I was shrieking like a banshee at my husband and children about various things while dealing with an unfortunate blender accident (self-inflicted) that looked like this:

When you're making a smoothie and you forget to put the lid on the blender.

A photo posted by Mia Freedman (@miafreedman) on

It was the first day back at school after the holidays and I was already struggling.

Terms One and Four are the hardest, I find. Term One because everyone’s out of practice after so long and Term Four because everyone’s exhausted and over it.

Just as I was thinking to myself, ‘I actually cannot deal with this level of stress every day until the end of the year,’ I received a text from my friend Alissa. She has four children under six.

There were no words, just this screenshot.

It took every shred of self-control I had not to throw my phone into the blender and turn it back on.

While Ivanka Trump’s father continues fervantly to abuse women phsycially in person and verbally at his rallies and on social media, his ‘campaign wife’ Ivanka shared this on photo on Instagram as part of the #womenwhowork campaign she runs through her website ivankatrump.com.

You see, for some time now, Ivanka has been building a lifestyle brand based on the idea of empowering women. I’m going to put aside her father and her outspoken support of him momentarily because otherwise I will write this entire post about how much I hate him and forget what I was actually trying to say – ooops! PS: HE IS A VILE, DISGUSTING HUMAN.

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But Ivanka. Yes. So she has this “women who work” brand that she’s building alongside her own personal brand as a glamourous working mother. In a smart and carefully conceived marketing move, she is  effectively trying to position herself as the all-American love child of Lean In‘s Sheryl Sandberg and Gwyneth’s Goop.

So, Gloop.

Ivanka is a working mother. That bit is true. She has three children and a career as a business woman employed by her father’s company. She also has licensing deals with apparel companies who manufacture dresses and shoes and jewellery and handbags in third world countries and sell them under her name. She wears them to all the appearances she makes on the campaign trail for that garbage fire her father and in the achingly over-curated images of her glossy self and her glossy family that she posts to her social media accounts and her website.

By all accounts, Ivanka is a smart, driven, nice person. Chelsea Clinton has been – and remains – a friend of Ivanka’s according to both women. Whatever. This is not about Ivanka personally.

My beef here is the image of working women being portrayed by Ivanka Trump. In the #womenwhowork section of her website, there is a video which is part hilarious, part insulting..

It depicts four #WomenWhoWork who look like this:

Because in the course of my day as A Woman Who Works myself, I too spend several hours having my hair and make-up professionally done before being carefully dressed by my stylist in classic seperates so I can gaze wistfully into the middle distance thinking pensively about serenity and being a woman and also work because I work.

Then I like to be shot through a flattering lens with Vaseline smeared over it so I look like a shampoo commercial.

The video is actually something else. I can't even find the words so you'll have to watch it to grasp the full effect.

Hold me. There is so much to unpack about that. The white furniture. The adorably styled children (are they stunt kids?). The ethereal tone. They way all the #WomenWhoWork appear to be heavily medicated. The patronising presence of their husbands giving them friendly, encouraging words while pretty much ruffling their perfect hair in the same way you would a cute toddler who just told you what they did at kindy that day.

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Please pass me a bucket and an #I'mWithHer badge.

I'm a Woman Who Works and this is how I look most days:

Also like this:

The photoshopped imagery in this whole cynical branding exercise for Ivanka Trump is so Stepford Wife as to be grossly insulting to every woman who actually does work. I'm not suggesting the women featured in this absurd campaign don't work. Including Ivanka. I'm sure they do and I'm sure they work hard.

But I guarantee they don't look like that when they're doing it.

And that's my point.

I'm pushing back hard against the idea that when you're a Woman Who Works, you must look like a Miss Universe contestant meets Martha Stewart meets bullshit. I'm pushing back at the way Ivanka is choosing to airbrush HER LIFE and by branding it with the #WomenWhoWork trying to airbrush the lives of all working women by association.

Because this is NOT what the lives of Women Who Work look like. Ever. Like, EVER.

You know what they look like?

When I sat down to write this post, my phone rang. It was 3:50pm and my daughter's school was calling to say I'd forgotten to pick her up. School finished at 3pm. Shit.

I'd meant to text someone who was going to pick her up but I'd been focussed on trying not to forget my son's lunch order which I had to do online and the site kept crashing and I was running late for work and then the day got away from me and... well, you know how it goes. At least if you're a woman who works you do.

It's worth noting that Ivanka's campaign is very inclusive of mothers who aren't in paid employment. It's about the work of women rather than career-focussed specifically. Fair enough. Childcare is work too. Also, this is smart business because it includes more women and doubles the potential number of consumers for her products and her soon-to-be released Women Who Work book.

Basically, if you have a vagina (grabbed by her father or not), the Ivanka Trump brand is for you.

I don't care about her brand but I care about the imagery she uses to market it and it's important to call something out when it's destructive. Pictures are powerful. Especially pictures of successful women because it calibrates what other women should aspire to in the same way that the way women are portrayed by magazines and in advertising establishes what it means to be an attractive, desirable woman.

When I saw that photo of Ivanka Trump 'working' with her youngest child perched on her perfect lap as she daintily writes an important business note on her work lady notepad in her very professional yet unthreatening work office where she's working on her work, it felt to me like a hostile act.

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A f**k-you to every woman who works.

Because our lives are not airbrushed, they're messy. They're real. They're difficult and challenging and crazy and rewarding and imperfect and chaotic and stressful and wonderful and terrible and everything in between, often in the space of a single hour.

So Ivanka? On behalf of a number of women who work, we would like to respond to your ridiculous images with a few of our own:

Mamamia's Lifestyle Editor Jackie Lunn cooks dinner (I know, she actually cooked. Amazing.) in her husband's t-shirt and a pair of QANTAS pyjama pants. #realwomenwhowork Image: supplied.
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Yes, that's a vegetable. But, can you find the wine. #realwomenwhowork Image: supplied.
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#realwomenwhowork are worth celebrating. We'd love it if you could share your #realwomenwhowork selfie with us. Take a snap of your real life, share it on Instagram  (#realwomenwhowork @mamamiaaus) or post it in the comments on our Facebook page.

Postscript: It's difficult to take Ivanka Trump's efforts to celebrate women at work seriously in the face in the face of reports that former staff at Ivanka Trump's clothing company had to fight tooth and nail for as little as eight weeks maternity leave. Marissa Velez Kraxberger, former Chief Marketing Officer for Ivanka Trump wrote in a facebook note, "when I asked about maternity leave she said she would have to think about it, that at Trump they don’t offer maternity leave and that she went back to work just a week after having her first child." 

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