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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.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2014 03:38 pm (UTC)
It's not just you, and your response is very sensible. People do love their backlashes.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 8th, 2014 04:49 pm (UTC)
that is a facinating explanation that makes total sense to me - I haven't heard of bases of power but it totally makes sense. interesting.

it's like in a movement that's already all about fighting the existing power structures, it's a contradition for anyone to find power within it?
Mar. 8th, 2014 05:10 pm (UTC)
I read that book when it first came out wanting to love it or at least feel inspired by it. I ended up feeling very disappointed. I had expected a woman reaching a senior leadership position to be trying to change the work environment more to be more women and family friendly. I know she had the whole pregnant parking at google thing (which speaking from my own experience anyway is worthless). But beyond that, she just didn't convince me of any value for women in leaning in...unless you happen to be a woman motivated by power and achievement where your title and salary is what fulfills you. I found the lifestyle she lives in order to "lean in" horrifically unappealing. If male executives can make steak dinners and golf games part of doing business, why can't women make incorporating our family more a part of doing business? Marissa Meyer did, but sadly only for her.

For me, my career is about living a more satisfying personal life. To really work, the career has to make my real life better not become my life. While I know there are exceptions, I don't think I'm alone there. Working before and after the kids go to bed and staying connected to work while on vacation may feel fulfilling to Sheryl Sandberg, but to me it's a sign capitalism is a higher priority than my family and that's not what I want for my kids or me. I just can't relate to wanting to spend extra time making Facebook a better company when I could be with my kids or husband. Her life was so depressing to me.
Mar. 9th, 2014 02:38 pm (UTC)
huh... this makes me think. actually, so much that I kinda want to write a whole other entry about it, hope that's okay?
Mar. 9th, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
Go for it - it's definitely an interesting topic.
Mar. 9th, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
to me it's a sign capitalism is a higher priority than my family and that's not what I want for my kids or me

This is what I see as a major problem in our society as a whole. Both men and women need to back away from this "work all the time" cliff. We see it in academia, there have been tons of articles lately about why being a professor sucks, that the bar has been raised so high (I even called it "trickle down corporatism" recently).
Mar. 9th, 2014 07:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know much about the world of academia but I agree with what you're describing.

What's interesting (tragic even) is that with college educated women now outnumbering men, corporate America and the like need us more than we need it. But so far, anyway, I mostly see concepts like Sheryl Sandberg's that read a little like 'suck it up it will be worth it some day.' How and to whom? It's hard not to think we benefit less from following Sheryl Sandberg's advice which at the end of the day reads like women need to change to suit capitalism, not the other way around.

What we could have is a corporate (or academic) world that concedes that if women are more than happy to forgo leadership opportunities and even their entire careers in exchange for the experience of participating in our children's lives, they might need to rethink what would change our minds: things like longer, paid maternity leaves, company provided childcare (in the office) and more opportunities for reduced hours without lost benefits. Google seems to be getting this right. I don't know what's up with Marissa Meyer and Yahoo... I wouldn't want to work there.
Mar. 8th, 2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
It's really interesting to have your take on this. One of my friends wrote an article on 'Lean in' lambasting it so it was nice to have a differing view. I don't think corporate feminism is frivolous - surely it has allowed many of the gains in equality to take place.

I think a lot of people see it as "selling out" and that it doesn't apply to them because they see corporations as naturally sexist - but I also think that your point is valid which I think is "does all progress have to apply equally to all women or we throw it out?" It can't really, can it? So yeah, I think I'll take the gains where I can too. Maybe it's because I'm also from a science background and not an arts background but I think that one woman speaking out about equality is a gain in feminism already.

Mar. 9th, 2014 02:07 am (UTC)
I haven't read Lean In so I shouldn't comment on it. But I could see where it's hard to trust the perspective of people who are rich...

There must be some sexism in people disliking Sheryl Sandberg though, in the same way there seems to be this disproportionate dislike towards Hillary Clinton.
May. 22nd, 2014 01:55 pm (UTC)
In my definition of feminism, the core concept is personal choice. You do what works for you. Judging others is counterproductive. I'm all for snarky talking with your friends but making sweeping damning statements about huge groups of women… geez, what's the good in that?
May. 22nd, 2014 05:45 pm (UTC)
I thiiiink I agree with you?

Feminism is not about judging others, true!

But I do not think its core concept is personal choice either. No choice is made in a vacuum, and it's up to us to ask what about society is driving women to make certain choice... or even more important, point out the damned-if-you-do places where women are given no choice at all. The "post-feminists", who think feminism is no longer necessary, like to point out that everyone is free to make his/her own choices now so who needs feminism? If a woman wants to be a CEO, let her! But the numbers show that very few CEOs are women... is that a coincidence? Should we just say "well, that's our choice!" and stop the whole conversation right there? Or ask a few more questions about the broader causes? That's what Lean In is about... and what feminism is about. Keeping the conversation going.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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