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There's another article going around about why Lean In is too pushy - in this one, a woman spells out her reasons for walking away from $750,000 so she could garden and play clarinet duets with her son. A lovely sentiment but holy privilege batman... all I could think was MUST BE NICE. I mean people say Sandberg's book was a rich white woman telling people what to do, but its overall message is that the media is doing some serious anti-woman fear mongering, and that's something I think women of all classes need to hear. They do NOT need stories about how making 3/4 of a million dollars is just so darn inconvenient it messes up your whole music lesson schedule! If you doubt me, try telling the single mom working three jobs at minimum wage that she just needs to "lean out" and see what happens.

So that's my take. I already wrote about the Lean In Hate Bandwagon once... I said I was going to stick with Sandberg. As always, that will get me labeled as a "pushy feminist" who doesn't respect stay-at-home-moms... it was bound to happen. It always happens. Any time a woman says anything, I think the anti-feminists go searching for other women to disagree with her so they can say we're catfighting. Or that we have "mommy wars".

It's this HUGE FEMINIST DIVIDE, they'll say. Women just can't agree on anything!

Ladies, can't you just smile politely?

No, I say. Here's why.

First, I think women and feminists definitely deserve the right to disagree with one another. Men do it all the time. We don't compare the lives of male CEOs to stay-at-home-dads and call it "daddy wars" - it's not even an issue. Men disagree in business, in politics, in sports, and it's okay.

Second, I do not think feminism is about supporting every woman's choice. A lot of choices we make really do not matter... this is something Jessica Valenti made me realize. Do I feel like wearing mascara today? Is that a STATEMENT? Did society pressure me to do it? Or did I make my own empowering choice? Or wait... do we all have better more important things to think about?

Third, some women's choices really should be questioned. Nobody makes decisions in a vacuum - is there something sexist about the way we're raised that conditions us to do certain things? If so, should we try sometimes to look for other options, or defeat that stereotype?

And here's where I'm going to tell a story about the bake sale.

My sophomore year of college I was elected president of our Society of Women Engineers section. Women engineers, as I've written before, are frequently un-feminist: my evolving theory has now gotten to me thinking it's a defense mechanism, they act "gender-blind" to fit in.

Our section had held giant bake sales twice a year in the tech center. We weren't raising money for anything terribly specific... there were conference expenses, but I realized we could get department money for that, ask local businesses, there was a keychain project from a few years back, etc. So I talked to the board and said I strongly believed that as women engineers we should not be having bake sales. It played into a stereotype - I was weirded out. Yes it was lucrative but shit ladies, why not just set up a laundry booth to iron guys' pants for them? I couldn't totally put into words what was wrong with the bake sales, but even the guys I talked to thought it was sort of ironic... that said something!

Was I disrespecting femininity? I don't think so. I wasn't going to hold some kind of anti-bake sale or make a huge deal about it. I know lots of people like to bake. I bring cookies into work these days myself... although I spent my first few years as an engineer shunning the social committee junk to ensure I'd be taken seriously.

Basically, I thought that the feminist thing to do was NOT to go with the easy first choice.

This was American college students, too. If we can't make a stereotype-busting choice sometimes, how are we asking girls in distant countries to risk their safety walking miles to school?

Feminism isn't about being "supportive", it's about asking questions. It's about talking, getting conversations going, and not letting anyone tell us to accept that things have to stay the way they always have been.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
browngirl
May. 27th, 2014 03:32 pm (UTC)
*cheers in agreement*
smittenbyu
May. 27th, 2014 03:36 pm (UTC)
I don't understand how Lean In is being too pushy. I am obviously not the example setting what she says but agree a lot with what she has to offer!

At the end, economics decides so many things.

It baffles me too how we can't even discuss various topics without being accused of something else.
naath
May. 27th, 2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
Personally I feel like Sandberg is saying "to succeed you need to act like a man! go on then, act like a man! Stop caring about work/life balance" and yeah, sure, that's one sort of equality (where women feel equally free to work 80 hour weeks and have no life, just like men do!) and perhaps it's better than inequality.

But I would much rather have the sort of equality where everyone (men and women) get to work 35 hour weeks and have enough free time to do *things other than their job* and also enough money to have a decent quality of life.
smittenbyu
May. 27th, 2014 04:56 pm (UTC)
But I would much rather have the sort of equality where everyone (men and women) get to work 35 hour weeks and have enough free time to do *things other than their job* and also enough money to have a decent quality of life.

oh this is us. This is what we (hubby & I) like. But I know people who just can't do that. They love work and feel fulfilled with it so, if you want that for your life, then put in your all, who am I to judge?

What I got out of her book is the labeling of traits that are "manly" and "womanly". For example, being more assertive with what you want in life, to take more risks to get what you want, to be unapologetic, and to jump over the confidence gap are often seen as something typical for men. We seem to put up so many barriers from young age for girls/women who have these traits. I see Sandberg's point that it's become that these traits are completely acceptable for a man but not for a woman and often stops many women who do want "to have it all" to have it all!
naath
May. 27th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think it is bad to tell women that they *mustn't* go "all in" for their work; especially whilst we tell men that they *must*. Dreadful double standard.

Sometimes though I think that the people who "love their job" and "put in their all" are just making the rest of us look bad.
starcat_jewel
May. 28th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
Have you ever noticed that society never tells men that they can't "have it all"? And yet it's equally true -- but the assumption is that an ambitious man will have a wife picking up the load for him.
spacefem
May. 27th, 2014 07:15 pm (UTC)
The thing is, Sandberg goes to great lengths to describe how she is not a workaholic, and how she makes it home at 5:30 to eat dinner with her family, took 12 weeks of maternity leave (I only took 6!), brought her daughter on trips.

To me, her book is telling women that "hey, this stereotype about how you have to work 100 hours a week to have a successful career? that's a lie - and it's a popular lie, so popular that it's making women afraid to be even a tiny bit ambitious, they think it will cost them their sanity."
naath
May. 27th, 2014 07:44 pm (UTC)
I think the press is distorting her message then. I admit to not having read the book, due to not really being ambition at all (I'm just Lazy) only heard reports about it.

I think it's cool to talk about being ambitious without being a workaholic.
smittenbyu
May. 28th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
"and it's a popular lie, so popular that it's making women afraid to be even a tiny bit ambitious, they think it will cost them their sanity."

ha! so very true, for me as an example. I think she and hubby have helped me to at least give working a try. He has a flexible work schedule. Our big issue has been visa stuff and also N's sudden work travels that come up and he is gone for 3 weeks. Finding ad-hoc childcare is so difficult. But now we have some good contacts and makes me more comfortable.
tabloidscully
May. 28th, 2014 09:13 pm (UTC)
I think it's worth mentioning workaholism isn't always because people WANT to work that hard. It's great that Sandberg has that option. Not everybody does, however, especially when somebody else is monitoring the time clock that an employee is punching. A lot of people are working well beyond the hours they want to, especially when they are stuck in hourly wage occupations and don't have the ability to take their children on trips. And so on, I don't need to itemize the ways in which Sandberg is privileged.

I do understand the criticisms, having recently started reading "Lean In" even as I think people on both sides of that divide tend to ignore the real meat of what the other side is saying as the where the problems and strength exist. That being said, I don't think the privilege immediately render her points moot. The only harm which comes with privilege is when it goes unacknowledged, because then messages can be rendered pretty tone deaf. I'm not getting the impression that Sandberg is that blind, but who knows? I haven't finished the book yet. It's easy to get defensive about privilege, but that's also what makes it more necessary to be willing to own it when you see it.

Also, I do think Feminism has to be inclusive of women supporting women. Not solely about that, but it's an essential component.
spacefem
May. 27th, 2014 07:10 pm (UTC)
When I hear this opinion, it's usually from people who read the title of the book and nothing else.

They think the message is "Lean in to your job, be a workaholic, climb the ladder"

What the message really is: "Society tells women that having a career means your life will be a frantic mess - you'll be the woman with the crying baby screaming into her blackberry burning dinner. I am here to say that's a media stereotype built to make us afraid. Don't be afraid to lean in."
koremelanaigis
May. 27th, 2014 04:53 pm (UTC)
I didn't feel hate for "lean in" in that article, it's just that she's making a different choice, a choice that several men I know have also made, to dial back their careers so that they will have more time and energy for more valuable to society but less well paid things.

I think it would have been better if she had not mentioned Sandberg because she is not arguing against women being serious about the careers they want, in fact she is serious about the career she wants it just turns out that the career she wants is largely unpaid.

Anyway, thank you to linking me to that article because although the idea of leaning out is not new to me the "More From Alice Dreger" at the bottom led me to some other stuff that was well worth reading.
jackiechloe
May. 28th, 2014 12:51 am (UTC)
"Get [you] labeled 'pushy feminist' who doesn't respect stay at home moms"? Nope! You're married to a SAHD and show lots of respect for the work he does, so I reckon you respect the work I do too. :)
sandokai
May. 28th, 2014 01:24 am (UTC)
Wow, so many good points here...
koremelanaigis
May. 28th, 2014 03:04 am (UTC)
I'm glad you got rid the bake sale.

There's a girls group I know people from whose main annual fundraiser is a fashion show.

Edited at 2014-05-28 03:12 am (UTC)
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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