This month, Ivanka Trump authored a book called Women Who Work, which considers the age-old conundrum of how a woman can work while also having a family, resorting to tired platitudes and stale ideas. But what, of course, makes this book far worse than the all the other tired and stale patronising lady-empowering books is the fact that Ivanka Trump is the daughter of Donald, a man not known for his women-empowering policies. A man more known, in fact, for “grabbing women by the pussy” thereby encouraging them to stage large international protests. A man known for his riches and his nepotism and his creepy adoration of Ivanka. A man who has ensured that his photogenic daughter will never really know the pressures that beset the average woman who works. Thankfully, though, there are other women who work and these working women can direct their labour towards brilliantly crafted takedowns of Ivanka Trump’s Women Who Work. Were it not for Laurie Penny reviewing Women Who Work in The Baffler, I would not have encountered this beauty of an opening sentence: “Ivanka Trump has written a book about female empowerment, and it is about as feminist as a swastika-shaped bikini wax.” So thank you woman who (actually) works (hard) for skewering Women Who Work.
In this time of constant panic and political upset, I have actually found great solace in women who actually work. When I look at the news and want to cry, there are women waiting – on the internet or in the office or in the books I read or on my street – who can convince me that although things are tough, there are ways to make each day a little nicer, sunnier, more informed or just generally better than the one that went before. Women who work like:
The Nancy Silverton episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix is a must-watch for anyone who likes A) baked goods and B) seeing women triumph in a male-dominated industry. Silverton, who founded the La Brea Bakery and opened a string of restaurants in Los Angeles, is a fascinating subject. Passionate and ambitious, she negotiated a career in restaurants while bringing up children and divorcing from her business partner husband. And once you’ve finished with Chef’s Table, you may as well watch 24 minutes of Nancy Silverton baking a a crème fraîche custard brioche tart with Julia Child. To see two women at the top of their game make the most delicious-looking cake is enormously therapeutic, and turns strangely moving at 22 minutes, 50 seconds when Child becomes emotional. “It’s a dessert to cry over,” she says. “Thank you. That’s a triumph.” Quite.
At an event to celebrate The Pool’s second birthday this week, Harriet Harman recalled 34 years in politics. A Labour MP since 1982, she has tirelessly fought for and championed women’s rights, while encountering petty, and sometimes outright, misogyny. There were groans from the audience when she talked about being placed on the G20 wives' table, despite being the number two in government at the time. But what seemed most striking about Harman was her ability to work hard – and get on. She’s living in the same Britain as the rest of us: she knows that the party to which she has dedicated her working life is in turmoil, she’s aware that a Brexit – which she campaigned against – is imminent. But she’s facing it all with a practical tenacity.
At the weekend, Nicki Minaj – who works so hard that she is the only woman to have ever featured on the Forbes Hip Hop Cash Kings list – gave away some of her well-earned cash
Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman
There’s a scene in Big Little Lies – the show that Witherspoon and Kidman executive-produced as well as acted in – that devastates. I watched it lying on my sofa, silent tears wetting my face. There are also scenes that horrify, entertain, amuse and enlighten. It’s basically one of the most astute and well acted TV shows to appear in recent years. It has been a catharsis for women all over the world – and in so many ways, that is down to the talent and determination of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.
You know that sign that went viral last year, the one that read “I can’t believe I still have to protest this fucking shit.” That’s what I think of when I look at Ailbhe Smyth. For 40 years, Smyth has been fighting for the reproductive rights of Irish women, since before the eighth amendment – the piece of legislation that effectively outlaws abortion – was even added to the Irish constitution. She’s a constant voice of encouragement, and a familiar face to anyone who has ever taken part in a pro-choice march in Dublin. The Irish people are close to a referendum on abortion – we can feel it – and we have campaigners like Smyth to thank for that.
At the weekend, Nicki Minaj – who works so hard that she is the only woman to have ever featured on the Forbes Hip Hop Cash Kings list – gave away some of her well-earned cash. On Twitter, the rapper bestowed gifts on young fans who were struggling with student debt – “dm me ur bank info babe” she told one, making it clear that she was keen to reward those who were working hard to achieve high marks, in particular. Because Nicki Minaj knows something Ivanka pretends not to: sometimes women don’t need platitudes, they need money.