Ivanka Trump

Women Who Work: Moving Beyond Ivanka Trump, Sheryl Sandberg, and Corporate Feminism

Ivanka Trump has been capitalizing on the feminist movement to sell overpriced purses since she launched her “Women Who Work” website in 2013. The site sets out to profile the “modern working woman” and features well-dressed executives of boutique tech and beauty companies.

Conspicuously absent: the domestic workers who clean Ivanka’s home, dress her kids, and make her carefully curated Instagram image of a high-flying working mom possible.

Most low-wage workers in America are women. You won’t see their faces on Ivanka Trump’s #WomenWhoWork campaign, but millions of working American women live in or near poverty, pulling long hours at draining jobs with few benefits, all to make rents that won’t stop rising for wages that haven’t budged since the 1970s. Women are the working class, and they need more than shallow, depoliticized, hashtag brand feminism.

That’s why Feministing is launching our own version of #WomenWhoWork: a new series examining the political choices that trap women workers in vicious cycles of economic instability — and the progressive policy some states are trying to fix it.

We’ll be writing about the workers who can’t take a day off when their kids get sick, or to get an order of protection when their partners abuse them. The retail workers who get their shift schedule less than 24 hours in advance, making it impossible to go to night school or plan childcare. The women whose wages are stagnant, while the economy grows and the gains go overwhelmingly to the top 0.1 percent.

Working(-class) women aren’t just conveniently left out of Ivanka Trump’s lifestyle brand; they’re left behind by her politics. Trump bills herself as an advocate for women and families and has even proposed her own version of an affordable childcare plan. Her plan is perversely stacked in favor of the rich: 70% of the benefits would go to families making $100,000 or more.

How did feminism get to a place where Ivanka Trump can claim the movement’s mantle? Corporate “feminists” have long been promoting a twisted, exclusionary version of feminism. Take Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, whose book urging women to #LeanIn received glowing plaudits from elite reviewers. Sandberg earned her feminist street cred by calling on women to start “Lean In circles” to share tips for career success – but when she spoke at Harvard’s commencement in 2014, she refused to meet with domestic workers who were fighting Harvard to form a union. Or take Miki Agrawal, CEO of Thinx, the period panties with the provocative, sex-positive subway ads. Turns out that while Agrawal was raking in money on her feminist #brand, she was being sued for sexually harassing her employees. Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso wrote self-help book titled #Girlboss… not long before her company was sued for pregnancy discrimination.

Turns out that our Fempowerment CEOs aren’t all that empowering for the women who work for them. These women are corporate icons, not feminist ones. As we’ve written on the site before, when we conflate the two, we’re left with an impoverished politics that prioritizes helping a few lucky (wealthy, predominantly white) women run a twisted system, rather than overturning the structures that keep the vast majority of us down.

Follow our series with the #WomenWhoWork.

Image Credit: Bloomberg.

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools, where she has led several state and federal campaigns for student survivors' civil rights. In the past, Sejal led LGBT rights campaigns for the Center for American Progress. Today, she is a student at Harvard Law School and a frequent speaker on LGBTQ rights and civil rights in schools.

Sejal Singh is a law student and columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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