March 8th, 2014

planet

I am not joining the "Lean In" hate bandwagon, ladies.

Is it just me or is it really cool all the sudden to hate on "Lean In"? Anyone else reading these articles about how Sheryl Sandberg is just one more example of a pushy feminist telling women they've got to "have it all"? Oh we've never heard that criticism of feminism before have we!

The problem I see is that Lean In LITERALLY has a chapter about how "having it all" is 1) economically unfeasible and 2) a trap set up for women. The second an 18-year-old talks about having a career someday, she gets told to watch out, don't try to "have it all!" If a guy the same age admits he wants to be a father someday, we ASSUME he'll still have a career, and he's never worried about balance... that whole "oh so you're going to have it ALL huh??" smirk is reserved just for the ladies.

I've heard it. I've been on the leadership committee for my women's group at work for like six years now, and I can't tell you how many times I've heard girls fresh out of college asking us to address work-life balance topics at the presentations we set up. They're not workaholics, they've got friends and hobbies, but they're totally sure that the balance they've got now will mean nothing when they become parents someday, something magic will change and they will just start fucking everything up.

Dear haters: Please actually read "Lean In" before you assume it's just going to tell you to be a crazy workaholic. That is not what it says. It just says to not be afraid of accidentally turning into a workaholic. You're smart. You can handle it. Sandberg herself has some great examples of completely turning off during maternity leave, and getting out of the office by 5:30. She does not come off as a crazy workaholic.

The other complaint about Lean In is basically the "well yeah it's easy for that rich white woman" complaint. And hey, I went into the book almost pre-disposed to that opinion... she's worth $400M, how could she know what the hell I'm going through?

But here's something I've learned about being a privileged feminist: we need to get our priorities in line, yes. We need to be open to criticism. We need to check our blind spots.

But the woman-haters on other side can, have, and WILL use white guilt to shut us up.

Is "corporate feminism" the end-all-be-all of feminism? No. But Lean In isn't pretending it is! The message is just a few more talking points for the feminist arsenal... and as an engineer, they're the kind I need.

My money goes to help women in more dire situations, yes. But my conversations in my daily life with fellow women engineers need to have some things to say about us. Our salaries are higher but that doesn't mean we don't need each other, a little bit. Corporate feminism may sound frivolous but if it gets someone in the door, I will take it.

I struggled with this idea when I started really becoming a feminist around 17 or 18... I wanted the movement to throw me a bone, I hated the divide between the women's studies arts majors and the practical science major engineers. We were ships in the night.

The issue I see with that isn't "woe to the white collar worker" here... what I'm saying is that without that entry-level, relatable feminism, I can't recruit my office-mates to the cause. We relate to Lean In. Just let us have it. When it comes to feminism, I think we can talk about work in our offices and then use it as a gateway to see that we need to talk about all women... hey look, having it all.