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Backlash against Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In"
March 27, 2013 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's new book Lean In aims at women to address what is holding them back from leadership positions. But it has been the subject of a feminist backlash calling it "Facebook's attempt to hi-jack feminism", distracting from more important issues of institutional change, part of the "war on moms" and irrelevant to all but the 1%. Is the backlash an unfair reaction to unapologetic feminism and an unfair dismissal of an inspiring woman?
posted by melissam (101 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, are we already into the backlash-to-the-backlash phase?
Is the backlash an unfair reaction to unapologetic feminism and an unfair dismissal of an inspiring woman?
No? Lean In seems to me a lot like Jack Welch's book "Winning" in that the advice is irrelevant to most people and it's basically a vanity "pitching-my-legacy" project wrapped up as advice.

Beware a book with a giant photo of the author staring straight at you from the front cover.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 10:39 AM on March 27, 2013 [39 favorites]


Beware a book with a giant photo of the author staring straight at you from the front cover.

Particularly if the eyes move.
posted by theodolite at 10:40 AM on March 27, 2013 [40 favorites]


advice is irrelevant to most people

I don't get this criticism. It's a book about how to achieve leadership positions for women. If you aren't a woman attempting to achieve a leadership position then it is indeed unlikely to be relevant.
posted by jaduncan at 10:41 AM on March 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


Indeed, Leahey makes exactly that point:
"Ironically, her critics lean on her to be their all-purpose feminist solution -- and the anger directed toward her for not solving women's social, economic, and workplace problems in less than 200 pages polarizes an already confused movement."
posted by jaduncan at 10:45 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like we were just here. Wasn't there a post about this just recently?
posted by boo_radley at 10:47 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Backlash, and backlash-to-the-backlash, an ourobouros!

National Journal: The Washington Women Who Leaned In When Sheryl Sandberg Didn't - "They may not get the publicity, but these women have been ahead of Sandberg in leaning in against the most chauvinistic industry in America: Wall Street."

NJ: Two Cheers for Sheryl Sandberg, Who Helped Give Us the Financial Crisis - "She made a billion; wrote Lean In, a good book on feminism; and helped deregulate the financial sector."

The New Republic: Sheryl Sandberg and the folly of Davos-style feminism

Forbes: Leaning In Doesn't Fix What's Broken For Working Women

City Journal: The Plight Of The Alpha Female
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:49 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


As long as everyone got lots of eyeballs for their opeds, eh?
posted by jaduncan at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh so THAT is why people have been using this phrase "lean in" lately.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:54 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you aren't a woman attempting to achieve a leadership position then it is indeed unlikely to be relevant.

Large sections of our media culture try to depict CEOs as the pinnacle of achievement, the Kings (and these days Queens, too) of American society and exemplars for our behavior. It makes sense, as they have the money to pay people to write fulsome books and articles about them, but that doesn't make it true or right. We know this book is going to be pitched to more people than just women seeking leadership positions.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:54 AM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


advice is irrelevant to most people
I don't get this criticism
I admittedly have not read the whole book - but from the excerpts I've read the advice seems tailored for women who already have white-collar jobs, looking to move from junior to senior positions. Winning is pretty similar - it touts itself as a "business-how-to", so it's basically for east coast finance school grads.

That's not to say that the advice is bad, but Sheryl Sandberg and her publishing house have positioned the book as a solution to women's problems in the workplace. That critics have addressed it in that sense isn't entirely the critics' fault.

OTOH, it probably does get at what's screwed up in our society and our long history of denying women equal treatment that Lean In is getting this level of analysis instead of being dismissed as an executive vanity project.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I haven't read all of these, but I just got done with the Dissent article, which is written by a former Facebook speechwriter. It's one of the best articles I've read online in a long time for, among other things, the ways that it connects a pointed feminist critique of Sandberg's notion of "leaning in" with an exploration of the larger effects of tech-y neoliberalism/capitalism on everyone, not just "women attempting to achieve a leadership position" (the part about the Facebook's use of the term/concept "revolution" is particularly great/horrifying). Here's one of the most powerful parts:

"If resistance to working harder is the problem, then it follows that work, in Sandberg’s book, is a solution. Work will save us; but, the reader may be asking, from what? By taking note of the forms of human activity that do not appear in Lean In, we see that what work will save us from is not-work: pleasure and other nonproductive pastimes. “Framing the issue as work-life balance—as if the two were diametrically opposed—almost ensures that work will lose out,” Sandberg writes. In response to the threat of work losing out, she goes on to outline how one transforms one’s life entirely into work. There is no not-work, or pleasure, in Lean In. Aside from the possibility of having better sex with one’s husband after he has assisted with household chores (work makes everything better, including sex!), Sandberg does not mention pleasure. Sandberg assumes instead that the feminist question is simply, how can I be a more successful worker?"
posted by raisindebt at 10:58 AM on March 27, 2013 [35 favorites]


Who cares if it only applies to the 1%? One of the problems with the 1% that OWS and others have identified is that they control the levers of power and have used that power to shape society for the worse.
Having more women join this elite group, which this book aims to do, can go a long way to reducing the harm they do and can only make the system less patriarchal.
posted by rocket88 at 11:00 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we call the backlash Lean back?
Because I was looking for a reason to start singing that song again.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:01 AM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


This just in: Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book, but rape still exists! QED feminism has failed. Film at 11!

Intersectionality is a thing. It's not proclaiming that feminism is a failure to note that the success of one white, 1%er woman might not have a lot to do with the majority of women.

Which has been a problem for feminism, and progressive politics in general, for a long time. Lots of talk of reproductive rights, much less on economic justice. Now, this is bit much to ask for for a vanity "pitching-my-legacy" project as mentioned above, but it's still an issue.

It also takes systematic issues, and tries to solve them in the guise of personal responsibility, which happens alot. We try to acknowledge our own privileges in order to fight systematic racism, we recycle in order to help the environment. But as the president once said, I'm not going to save the environment by changing my fucking light bulbs. Asking women to lean in, we place a lot of the responsibility on their shoulders.
posted by zabuni at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am so fucking over this story. Quite frankly, if Mark Zuckerberg had shit to say about anything, and I was forced to listen to it, I guarantee you blood would start spurting out of my ears and eyelids. Ideologically, I am against everything Facebook stands for. If Sandberg's top position at that company is supposed to be a lead-in for me finding her likable and giving a scintilla of a shit about anything she has to say, then sorry, it's not going to click for me. Ever.

And if I am supposed to worship her because she is a titan of industry, well fuck that shit as well.
posted by phaedon at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2013 [35 favorites]


Who cares if it only applies to the 1%? One of the problems with the 1% that OWS and others have identified is that they control the levers of power and have used that power to shape society for the worse.
Having more women join this elite group, which this book aims to do, can go a long way to reducing the harm they do and can only make the system less patriarchal.


Except we've seen that the benefits these superwomen enjoy haven't flowed downstream. With one hand Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is building a private nursery next to her office, and with the other she's banned working from home, which especially benefitted working parents.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:05 AM on March 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


Who cares if it only applies to the 1%?
We're gonna change the system from the inside.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 11:05 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sandberg assumes instead that the feminist question is simply, how can I be a more successful worker

That's because feminism's traditional complaint has been: why can't women attain the positions of power and privilege in business that have been traditionally reserved for men? Sandberg responds: they can, it just takes great commitment and some strategy.

And now some people respond that that involves too much work, and that the real question is actually: how can society be restructured so that women get those positions of power and privilege without having to have the all-consuming commitment that those positions require? That isn't nearly as sympathetic a query.
posted by shivohum at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


The problem is never the system. The problem is always that the peasant doesn't work hard enough. Whether it's Ragged Dick, or Poverty Patti, it's always their own fault, and easily cured by buying my self-help book!
posted by tyllwin at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


There are plenty of books by prominent women on how to succeed as a woman in politics, journalism, academia, and the various sectors allied to them but comparatively few written by top-flight women working in the private sector.

That's despite the fact that the vast majority of American women work in private sector businesses, despite the fact that many more 22 year old American women who just graduated college want to run a billion dollar company than have a regular column in the NYT.

A lot of the criticism is coming from women who are hostile to the idea of large corporations for political reasons and don't think that wanting to run one is something that anyone (male or female) should aspire to.

If I was a young woman who did want to be a respected chief executive at a large company, whose advice would I take? Maureen Dowd, Jodi Kantor? Excellent journalists, sure, and if I wanted advice on how to be a journalist I might ask them. Joanne Bamberger was at least a lawyer, although law firms aren't really typical of the private sector. None of these women has any experience in being a woman rising up the executive ranks nor have they given any indication that they would have wanted to be.

Frankly, a lot of the criticism comes down to journalists wondering why anyone would want to be anything other than a journalist.

Sure, this kind of book is only relevant to someone who shares her ambitions and is in the top 20% or so of the population qua income, but so what? That's still a lot of people.
posted by atrazine at 11:08 AM on March 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Having more women join this elite group, which this book aims to do, can go a long way to reducing the harm they do and can only make the system less patriarchal.

Maybe, if the women under discussion are somehow essentially different than the men comprising the elite group.

Or it might mean that people (including women) who get there will absorb the values that got them there or that they find present when the arrive.

We're to understand that Sandberg is an example of the former, right?
posted by weston at 11:09 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live in a huge casino where very few of its gamblers ever win over the long term; in fact, the survival of the casino depends on that.

Advice/stories from one of those winners, male or female, is not very meaningful.
posted by anarch at 11:10 AM on March 27, 2013 [32 favorites]


I skimmed it, and it reminded me of the materials a certain high-falutin' business school gives out to its alumni forum members. In fact, I'd be shocked if they didn't consult on it. In many ways, I think the feminism angle, as predictable as it is, is completely missing the point. What Sandberg is doing is taking the resources and tools given to her in the (literal) halls of power and trying to mass market it to women. Will it work? I doubt it -- the tools alone without the actual cohort of driven, powerful (mostly) men advocating for you have limited utility.

My biggest critique is that the role of mentors is undersold. It's not surprising that a bright protoge of Larry Summers is going to go far.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I was a young woman who did want to be a respected chief executive at a large company, whose advice would I take?

Why, you should do it just like Sandberg. Have highly educated, well-off parents, and go to Harvard. Give Candidate A Sandberg's advantages, and Candidate B Sandberg's advice, and see who gets further. With respect to Ms Sandberg's achievements, what does she know about how to get to home plate without starting on second base?
posted by tyllwin at 11:14 AM on March 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


That's because feminism's traditional complaint has been: why can't women attain the positions of power and privilege in business that have been traditionally reserved for men?

Feminism is a lot bigger than complaints about the glass ceiling in corporate America.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:25 AM on March 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


In response to the threat of work losing out, she goes on to outline how one transforms one’s life entirely into work.

Which sounds like every executive, ever. Certainly in tech. They don't have separate home lives, they work 24/7/365. You can be a regular tech worker, even a well paid one, and work 40-60 hours a week. But you can't be in leadership of a major company and do that, whether you're a man or a woman.

Her book is not about changing the system so that you can be an executive without making it your whole life, probably because neither she nor any other exec knows how to do that. All they can tell you is what they did to get there, if it's something you're interested in.
posted by wildcrdj at 11:26 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Advice/stories from one of those winners, male or female, is not very meaningful.

Buy the new book on succeeding in a challenging world: Survivorship Bias by Titan O. Industry.
posted by GuyZero at 11:26 AM on March 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Facebook: I feel like we were just here. Wasn't there a post about this just recently?
posted by Fizz at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why, you should do it just like Sandberg. Have highly educated, well-off parents, and go to Harvard. Give Candidate A Sandberg's advantages, and Candidate B Sandberg's advice, and see who gets further. With respect to Ms Sandberg's achievements, what does she know about how to get to home plate without starting on second base?

So what? Most women born on second or third base will never make it to home despite the fact that they might try very hard to do so. The fact that it's even harder (pretty much impossible) for someone without those advantages doesn't invalidate the value of the advice for someone who does.

The advice I'd give a young man just starting out as a fresh graduate at a consulting firm or investment bank wouldn't be at all applicable to the vast majority of the population. That wouldn't affect the value of the advice.
posted by atrazine at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


With respect to Ms Sandberg's achievements, what does she know about how to get to home plate without starting on second base?

A run scored is a run scored. It is better to read the story of how to score a run from one person who's crossed home plate than to listen to all the others who struck out looking and blame only the umpire's unfair strike zone.
posted by three blind mice at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


While backlash is to be expected after putting out glossy-cover books and staring from the cover of Time Magazine, Sheryl Sandberg does deserve some respect.

She got where she is through her own hard work - she grew up in Florida, hardly an establishment center, and is the daughter of an opthamologist, who himself studied hard to achieve success.

Sandberg had the good fortune to work hard and present well, helping her career in Washington, and she used talent and hard work to help make Google and Facebook profitable.

Of course, she undermines her reputation by attempting to become a media personality, but at least it shows she's human.

Don't like it, don't buy or talk about the book.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:29 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe, if the women under discussion are somehow essentially different than the men comprising the elite group.

I actually don't think it matters what the womens' views are if the fact that they are there broadens the mens' view of what leadership looks like.

I used to work in fancy consulting. When I graduated from college, all the female partners were either single or childless. All the men had stay at home wives (and it's been claimed that men whose wives don't work have more sexist attitudes in the workplace). It was a huge part of my decision to leave that career.

Now I'm seeing more partners with stay at home husbands, and an increase in sabbaticals/flex time. If that was around ten years ago, I might still be there.

I realize that this isn't relevant to most women. But you know what? Becoming CEO or COO isn't relevant to most people. I certainly didn't want to make the sacrifices it entails, but but I'm glad that there are women like Sandberg who are inspiring bright, ambitious young women who do want that to aim higher.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:30 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


We're gonna change the system from the inside.

When we are all the 1%, only outlaws will be the 99%!

Of course, the women 1% will still only be making ~77 cents on the dollar, but, hey, they will all be executives!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:31 AM on March 27, 2013


I can't wait for the FPP about Amanda Knox's book.
posted by Renoroc at 11:34 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


The system will only be changed by those with the power to change it. Right now, that's the 1%. It sucks but you can either encourage more women to enter the 1% and change the patriacrchy from within, or despair/complain/plan the revolution.
The fortune 500 currently has 20 female CEOs. 20/500.
posted by rocket88 at 11:39 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


After hearing Sandburg being touted and interviewed on NPR and similar outlets for a month or so-- I felt like I couldn't avoid her at all-- I enjoyed reading the Dissent article behind the "backlash" link.

Most of it was what I was expecting, but I was especially amazed that Sandburg's advice is for single working women to go out and find a husband to procreate with so they CAN HAVE IT ALL! Or something. I don't know. This is what it says exactly:

For someone with fewer family demands than Sandberg, freedom is depicted not as a pleasure but a problem to be resolved by getting a family. The single woman goes out to a bar goes not to have fun or be with friends (the main reason most women I know attend a bar), but to find a husband with whom to procreate. “My coworkers should understand that I need to go to a party tonight…because going to a party is the only way I might meet someone and start a family!” Astonishingly for a book published in 2013, there are no self-identified lesbians, gay men, or even intentionally unmarried or child-free people in Lean In’s vision of the workplace. It’s not clear why Sandberg thinks that everyone should be in the business of getting a family, since the book argues that family gets in the way of work. But it seems that Sandberg can only imagine the dreaded “leaning back” as a product of family demands. Who would take a vacation voluntarily?

Seriously, that's fucked up.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:40 AM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


change the patriacrchy from within

Explain to me what Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina and Ginni Rometty changed exactly. It's great that they were successful women who lead huge companies but they seem to me to be pretty much the same as every other CEO out there. I'm not a huge fan fo Whitman, not because she's a woman, but mostly because she's an asshole. Well, let me be more reasonable - she holds a lot of shitty beliefs. And tries to push them on the public through political action. Fiorina seemed pretty quick to lay off plenty of low-wage workers, including lots of not-very-wealthy women.

So what exactly are these women changing?
posted by GuyZero at 11:43 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


How to Cook Truffles on a Budget
posted by phaedon at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2013


The fortune 500 currently has 20 female CEOs. 20/500.

And hey, if this is just a big zero-sum game of men vs women, that's OK. Just don't make out like it's a moral crusade.
posted by GuyZero at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Silicon Valley can be such bullshit. I have a friend who is very very high up at a big publicly-traded tech company. Due to a variety of factors, her husband (they don't have kids) is now stay-at-home. She gets constant shit for it, and so does he, when he's out with her at corporate events or whatever.

Never mind he's busy taking care of household stuff, running things she doesn't have time to do thanks to the demands of her job, etc. (In other words -- filling the "wife" role so many higher ups take for granted). He still gets shit about it.

The support system for women who want to kick ass and take names in business isn't there yet, no matter how far you "lean in." And it's not as if you can make a bunch of reverse sexists change their stripes either.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:46 AM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


The system will only be changed by those with the power to change it.

The system often makes it difficult to see how those who seem to be powerless actually have a great deal of power to change the system in their ability to withdraw their participation from the system. Of course, withdrawing participation usually exacts considerable costs, which is why it isn't a commonly exercised strategy. See Étienne de La Boétie's "Discourse on Voluntary Servitude" and the works of Gene Sharp on nonviolent direct action.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:49 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


So what exactly are these women changing?

Nothing, because there aren't enough of them yet. That was kind of my point.
posted by rocket88 at 11:49 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


So wait, sociopathic greed is gender-based? And we can rid ourselves of it by weakening the patriarchy?
posted by klarck at 11:50 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Employees should have families!

BOOOOOO

Very well, employees should not have families!

BOOOOOO

Hmm ... families for some employees, miniature American flags for others!

YAAAAAAAY
posted by brain_drain at 11:53 AM on March 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


Nothing, because there aren't enough of them yet. That was kind of my point.

If there were 500 copies of Whitman, Fiorina and Rometty, nothing would change.

I mean, what do you think these three women were trying to change but were somehow stopped from doing so?

How is it any different from political leaders? It's not like Bhutto or Thatcher ushered in some sort of new age of enlightenment while they governed. It's great that there are women leaders. I don't understand why you think they'll be so vastly different from male leaders.
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on March 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


Except we've seen that the benefits these superwomen enjoy haven't flowed downstream. With one hand Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is building a private nursery next to her office, and with the other she's banned working from home, which especially benefitted working parents.

Why doesn't this surprise me? I feel like the only way you get to one of these positions is through a "got mine, fuck yours" pull the ladder up after yourself attitude. Sandberg seems to be more of the same in that dept.

I can't decide if its that "the system" won't allow you in to the upper echelon unless you drink the kool aid, or if it just takes an empathy lacking or warped bizarre nearly sociopath attitude to make it to those levels of business... But gender doesn't seem to change much, it's just same shit different day.

Some people seem to be framing this is "oh, yea you don't want to listen to her because she's a woman!". No, I don't want to listen to another asshole in business going "look, it's as easy as having rich parents, going to Harvard, and not giving a shit about the serfs underneath you!". And to the people going "well, rich kids at Harvard are a pretty big group of people" why should we give a fuck? And I don't really think they need her help either.
posted by emptythought at 11:57 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


So wait, sociopathic greed is gender-based? And we can rid ourselves of it by weakening the patriarchy?

No, we can reduce some of the gender imbalances by encouraging more female CEOs. They'll still be greedy sociopaths, but I never said it would solve every problem at once.

I don't understand why you think they'll be so vastly different from male leaders.

They wouldn't be vastly different. They'd likely only be different in one regard: gender equality. Do you think a more gender-balanced fortune 500 would be no different in terms of pay equity and promotion opportunities for women in general?
posted by rocket88 at 12:00 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's no evidence at all that this would be the case. In fact the evidence tends to point the other way, that women CEOs have a neutral or negative impact on their women subordinates.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:03 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's because feminism's traditional complaint has been: why can't women attain the positions of power and privilege in business that have been traditionally reserved for men?

Feminism is a lot bigger than complaints about the glass ceiling in corporate America.


Yes.

Also, feminism's analysis of why women don't attain positions of power and privilege in business at the same rates as men has to do with obstructions that women face from social/cultural pressures like patriarchy, and posits that the solution is in collective action to change an inherently biased system. Individual advice on how to keep one's health and sanity while engaged in this struggle is one thing, but advice on how to get ahead in the biased system as an individual woman is inherently a-feminist, and often un- or anti-feminist as well (I haven't read this book, so can't comment on which it is).

Different strains of feminism have different things to say about whether different types of capitalism are themselves in fundamental opposition to feminism or not.
posted by eviemath at 12:05 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why doesn't this surprise me? I feel like the only way you get to one of these positions is through a "got mine, fuck yours" pull the ladder up after yourself attitude. Sandberg seems to be more of the same in that dept.

Well, duh. Hence the strain this is putting on the feminist movement. You're talking about establishing gender equity in what economically can only be described as the most colossally inequitable moment in American history? That is fucking laughable. What the fuck this woman actually did so successfully to be sitting on $1.45 billion is beyond me. Please fucking spare me the idolatry. You have half the country asking what the fuck are these people doing making so much money in the first place - as the service and industry sectors of this country have been gutted in the name of "optimization" - meanwhile, the other half saying we need more of them.

That's why Sandberg shouldn't be a lightning rod for anything. To say that she's done something for women's rights is like saying Romney did something for American healthcare by turning HCA upside-down and posting stunning profits and then pulling out.

Don't even get me started on the SF venture capital system that basically pour billions of dollars into "game-changers" that basically amount to fart apps..
posted by phaedon at 12:11 PM on March 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


In “Why Are There So Few Women Top Managers?,” Cristian L. Dezso of the University of Maryland and David Gaddis Ross and Jose Uribe of Columbia Business School look at the number of women in top management positions at Standard & Poor’s 1,500 firms over twenty years. They find that the presence of a woman in a top management position reduces, rather than increases, the probability that a woman will occupy another top position. This is particularly true when a woman is chief executive.

“Top positions” here are usually defined as the top three to seven positions reported in corporate filings. You may normally think that the first woman in a top position like this will encounter the highest barriers and then it will get easier for the next one, and even easier for the woman after that. However one woman at the top will reduce the probability of another at top management.

Why is this? The paper can’t directly observe these dynamics, although the authors think two explanations can help. The first is that women themselves may discourage other women at elite levels, whether because of cultural norms or lack of general solidarity. The second is that if firms only want a woman in a senior position to satisfy cultural norms, perhaps to deflect questions of gender bias, it might bring resistance beyond the initial senior hire. In addition, the majority — that is, men — will react more strongly once they see their status positions as being threatened.


from the WaPo Wonkblog
posted by jaguar at 12:14 PM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's no evidence at all that this would be the case. In fact the evidence tends to point the other way, that women CEOs have a neutral or negative impact on their women subordinates.

...

They find that the presence of a woman in a top management position reduces, rather than increases, the probability that a woman will occupy another top position. This is particularly true when a woman is chief executive.


So...we should be working to lower that 20/500 number and actively discouraging women from becoming CEOs?
Got it.
Sandburg must be trying the old reverse psychology, but we're on to her game.
posted by rocket88 at 12:18 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain the lean in metaphor? I mean, who's leaning, into what, and what is supposed to be achieved?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2013


"Leaning in" to your career (vs stepping back from it), according to this Slate article.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:43 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Lean in" refers to a proper golf club or baseball bat swing. Leaning in helps one transmit more power from the body to the tool in question.
posted by Renoroc at 12:53 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


See your kids and spouse are behind you, and your work is infront of you. So you lean away from your family and in towards your all consuming work.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:01 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


My take on advancing in the corporate world is that it's more like taking punches in a combat sport than hitting golf balls or baseballs. In which case all leaning in does is make your ass get ktfo that much easier.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:08 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having more women join this elite group, which this book aims to do, can go a long way to reducing the harm they do and can only make the system less patriarchal.

And so we use a sexist argument as a countermeasure against sexism! Woohoo!

There is nothing--nothing--exceptional about the female sex that renders them above personal ambition, greed, and/or general assholeness. To argue that the very presence of women will change anything is to argue that we are Other, and shall always remain thus.
posted by gsh at 1:10 PM on March 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


They find that the presence of a woman in a top management position reduces, rather than increases, the probability that a woman will occupy another top position.

I think I'm missing something; I'm very confused by this. So, if there's one woman in a top position, there's less likely to be another one in a top position. But if there are two or more women in top positions, didn't there, at some point have to be one woman in a top position?
posted by amarynth at 1:15 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


That Dissent article is great. It paints Sandberg as arguing that women should do what countless men have done in the past to the detriment of their communities and families.

And if that depiction is true, well... *facepalm*
posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:17 PM on March 27, 2013


Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed" had a great status update on Facebook on Monday:
Inspired by the success of Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In, on how women can get ahead in corporate America, I'm going to write a book on how to survive in the low-wage service and retail workforce. My book will be titled Bend Over.
posted by funkiwan at 1:17 PM on March 27, 2013 [30 favorites]


There is nothing--nothing--exceptional about the female sex that renders them above personal ambition, greed, and/or general assholeness. To argue that the very presence of women will change anything is to argue that we are Other, and shall always remain thus.

Yeah, I think this is based on sort of a false causation.

Powerful people have had the capacity to do the most evil. Men have historically been allowed to obtain power more frequently. Thus, men have done more evil. But it doesn't necessarily follow that women won't be as evil in positions of power.
posted by threeants at 1:17 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Personally I'm not going to make any estimates about what women will or won't do in power. I don't think they have a fantastic track record, but that's not the same thing as making predictions. Is 20/500 a great ratio? No. And there doesn't (for me) need to be any reason other than the belief of fundamental equality and that being treated fundamentally equally probably wouldn't result in a 20/500 ratio. But there doesn't need to be any false promise that things will somehow be "better" with more female CEOs. The equality of women is the end in itself, not the means to some other moral goal.

To be fair to Sandberg I think she's presenting a previously less-told line of feminist discourse. In the 70's women fought to work. In the 80's there was this weird "supermom" concept where women were somehow supposed to do it all. Sandberg moves past that and (to my reading) is just saying to women that they shouldn't even bother with attempting to balance work and life at all. Her strategy is just to put all your resources into work and to arrange the rest of your life to support that decision.

It's a real change on one hand and pretty blindingly obvious on the other. But to be fair to her it's not something women have been telling other women to do. Most successful women either say nothing or pay lip service to maintaining some sort of balance.
posted by GuyZero at 1:30 PM on March 27, 2013


(There's a whole slew of confounding factors, if you think about it. Since repressive institutions are more likely to do bad things and are also more likely to resist female leadership, it could definitely be reasonable to posit that a greater number of women leaders rise from within those progressive, perhaps less evil-doing institutions that allow them to flourish. But this is basically a selection effect, not a causation.)
posted by threeants at 1:32 PM on March 27, 2013


"VERK HAAARDAAHHH!!" -Rich People
posted by vibrotronica at 1:41 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


And so we use a sexist argument as a countermeasure against sexism! Woohoo!

There is nothing--nothing--exceptional about the female sex that renders them above personal ambition, greed, and/or general assholeness. To argue that the very presence of women will change anything is to argue that we are Other, and shall always remain thus.


FFS, read my comments again. I said nothing about it helping reduce the problems of personal ambition, greed, or general assholeness.

The system currently has a huge majority of men in top positions and functions in many ways as an "old boy's network" that discourages female participation. I believe that raising the ratio of women will serve to reduce this ONE and ONLY ONE negative aspect, leaving all others unchanged.

Is that a sexist argument?
posted by rocket88 at 1:45 PM on March 27, 2013


Has anyone read the book? Not just excerpts, not just skimmed it, actually read it? And noticed that in her forward, and throughout the book, she caveats it all that this does not address the plight of all working women, that she comes from a very privileged perspective, that she acknowledges institutional biases and systemic discrimination but is addressing the only thing we (women) can control, which is ourselves? You know, responding preemptively to the very criticism discussed in this FPP?

I'm a late 20s woman in tech with big ambitions and I liked her book a whole damn lot.
posted by olinerd at 1:49 PM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Alternative advice to high-flying women: Lean back

[T]hese days, a lot of smart, highly educated thirtysomething women are having an entirely different conversation. They’re not talking about leaning in. They’re talking about leaning back.

Many of these women regard themselves as feminists. They’re politically progressive, with advanced degrees. They always thought they’d work, that they’d find partners who would share the housework and the child-rearing more or less equally. They married supportive men. And now they have small children, and what they really want to do is stay at home.

posted by Dasein at 1:54 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anyone read the book? Not just excerpts, not just skimmed it, actually read it? And noticed that in her forward, and throughout the book, she caveats it all that this does not address the plight of all working women, that she comes from a very privileged perspective, that she acknowledges institutional biases and systemic discrimination but is addressing the only thing we (women) can control, which is ourselves? You know, responding preemptively to the very criticism discussed in this FPP?

I'm a late 20s woman in tech with big ambitions and I liked her book a whole damn lot.


I'm curious to read the book and discuss it with other women in tech. The dissent article was from another woman in tech, who had also worked at Facebook, but I haven't seen anything yet from women who work in tech who have been or are technicians themselves.
posted by melissam at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2013


melissam, we should consider a MeFi Lean In Circle!
posted by olinerd at 2:06 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"For someone with fewer family demands than Sandberg, freedom is depicted not as a pleasure but a problem to be resolved by getting a family. The single woman goes out to a bar goes not to have fun or be with friends (the main reason most women I know attend a bar), but to find a husband with whom to procreate. “My coworkers should understand that I need to go to a party tonight…because going to a party is the only way I might meet someone and start a family!” Astonishingly for a book published in 2013, there are no self-identified lesbians, gay men, or even intentionally unmarried or child-free people in Lean In’s vision of the workplace. It’s not clear why Sandberg thinks that everyone should be in the business of getting a family, since the book argues that family gets in the way of work. But it seems that Sandberg can only imagine the dreaded “leaning back” as a product of family demands. Who would take a vacation voluntarily?"

Seriously, that's fucked up.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:40 PM on March 27 [7 favorites +] [!]


So again, I have actually read the book, and there is missing context. The "single woman going out to a bar" story was in the context of many people with families being perceived as "good" when they make a firm statement that they're going to leave at 5 PM to go have dinner with their families, whereas the single and/or childfree people are considered slackers to say that are firmly leaving at 5 PM. One employee in particular, when she talked with colleagues about this, made a comment about "Yeah, well, I'll never have a chance to start a family it's okay for me to leave work at 5 PM for if I can't ever go to a party to meet people!" This isn't some uber-breeder EVERYBODY GET KNOCKED UP manifesto, it's a point saying that people without families need to have the same freedom to balance their lives -- whether it's to take care of their cats or go to the bar with their friends or go to the bar to pick up people of their preferred sex or just go home and read.

She does make a point to mention that not all work/life balance questions are about spouses and kids. She does it more than once, in fact.

Look, I'm worried like I'm sounding like a shill for her or something but seriously, I'm not, I'm just a annoyed at hell at the scrutiny on her to solve 100% of feminism's problems, criticising her when she doesn't, and wilfully ignoring or being ignorant of the times she does explicitly address the very issues people are worried about. Let's not frantically tear down someone who's been brave enough to stand up, ok?
posted by olinerd at 2:13 PM on March 27, 2013 [16 favorites]


I haven't read the book, olinerd, and I'm unlikely to, so I'm glad to hear your perspective on it. Several of my friends have been wanting to talk about it, so I've been reading critiques, as I'm not persuaded that it's in my interests to invest in reading the book when I'm not in any way the audience its intended for.

I'd say that my perspective comes down to: there's a place for advice like Sandberg's, and I can see where it has the potential to be valuable for certain women in certain circumstances. I think the book is getting attention way out of proportion to its value, personally (but then, as noted, I'm not the intended audience), but that's a common problem with media narratives about women: one prominent (white, generally) woman speaking out is presumed to speak for many, if not all, women.

It's also a problem I have with treating "feminism" as a monolith in discussions around this book: there are many different strains of feminism, and Sandberg's perspective fits more comfortably within some of them than others. But I see a tendency to paint the critiques coming from other feminist perspectives as catty infighting, rather than philosophical differences grounded in different paths of critique, which demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding and devaluing of the history of feminist thought, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:14 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm reading her book right now. It's not bad. I find it interesting to read about successful women. It's a nice change of pace and I think some of her advice and experiences are pretty enlightening. The only part where I am completely taken out of the narrative is when she references the great advice that she gets from time to time from Mark Zuckerberg. Because, apparently, I have a pretty entrenched feeling about Zuckerberg which isn't compatible with taking career advice from him. I mean, really. What's Zuckerberg got on Sandberg? Anyway. Backlash, smackflash. This is just the way it goes.


Barbara Ehrenreich is a national treasure. There's a woman who has seen a backlash and she just keeps on fighting. I'm ready to join her army.
posted by amanda at 2:23 PM on March 27, 2013


I haven't read the book, am probably not the intended audience for it (too male, too old, and too cynical), and definitely not a fan of people mistaking their base hits for home runs. This discussion does make me want to read it to know if Sandberg is that off kilter about her own success story though.

However the Dissent critique everybody is referencing seemed less of an attack on Sandberg's feminist ideology and more of a critique of Lean In as marketing in feminist clothing:

It is well-known that Facebook clones small apps and rolls them out to Facebook’s broad user base when an outside app becomes threatening to Facebook’s business model. Given that strategy, it’s not hard to see how Facebook may want to incubate its own feminist movement in order to prevent a more activist and transformative feminism from affecting Facebook’s business.

I'm surprised that this hasn't been picked up in the thread yet and discussed more fully, especially when combined with the context of Zuckberg's intentions:

I worked at Facebook from 2005 to 2010 in a series of roles culminating in a position as Zuckerberg’s speechwriter, and had an opportunity to observe the development of Facebook both as a social media platform and as what it increasingly aims to become: a global leader on par with nations. “Companies over countries,” Zuckerberg often said in meetings. “If you want to change the world, the best thing to do is start a company.” Thinking about it, I could see how this could work out: companies have potentially more money and fewer structuring rules than countries, while countries remain a respected model of social organization to which citizens feel loyalty. This latter connotation accounts for why Facebook often describes itself in national terms with phrasing like “Facebook nation” and user figures announced in relation to countries’ populations.

The critique makes a powerful argument that the hiring of Sandberg, Lean In, and the accompanying roadshow are just astroturfing specifically targeted at women like olinerd and meslissam.
posted by herda05 at 3:00 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


The main issue for technical women in tech, as opposed to people who have always been on the management track, is when or whether to "lean in" to the management track, which is more complicated for us. Because while our technical skills might help us be good managers, it doesn't always work that way and we have to weigh the fact that getting on the management track often precludes moving up as a technician, which sucks because some of us like programming or server virtualization or whatever tech thing we do. Waffling between the two tracks, being OK at both of them but not really moving up, is what has held me back personally and I feel it is a fairly common problem. Plus there is the fact I like my job, but I like a lot of things, and I even love some things and I'm not sure how willing to am to sacrifice these to commit to just the career aspect of my life. I just don't know if I'm Sandberg's audience at this point, or if I will be.
posted by melissam at 3:02 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Spleen In
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:04 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


and irrelevant to all but the 1%.

In other news: Silicon Valley Poverty Is Often Ignored By The Tech Hub's Elite
posted by homunculus at 3:10 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


So again, I have actually read the book, and there is missing context. The "single woman going out to a bar" story was in the context of many people with families being perceived as "good" when they make a firm statement that they're going to leave at 5 PM to go have dinner with their families, whereas the single and/or childfree people are considered slackers to say that are firmly leaving at 5 PM. One employee in particular, when she talked with colleagues about this, made a comment about "Yeah, well, I'll never have a chance to start a family it's okay for me to leave work at 5 PM for if I can't ever go to a party to meet people!" This isn't some uber-breeder EVERYBODY GET KNOCKED UP manifesto, it's a point saying that people without families need to have the same freedom to balance their lives -- whether it's to take care of their cats or go to the bar with their friends or go to the bar to pick up people of their preferred sex or just go home and read.

Ugh, I feel this so hard. As a single person, I do feel like when I draw a firm line about when I leave it's generally respected, but I think that's just because I've been in my industry (web development/digital advertising) for a while now. When I was younger I saw a lot of this "they have to leave early, they have a FAMILY"
posted by sweetkid at 3:14 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd say that my perspective comes down to: there's a place for advice like Sandberg's, and I can see where it has the potential to be valuable for certain women in certain circumstances. I think the book is getting attention way out of proportion to its value, personally

This isn't just intended for you (because there are a number of instances in this thread of people that do the same thing) but how can you possibly determine the value or limit thereof if you haven't or won't actually read the work?

It's not just this story, but it's a disturbing trend I've noticed a variety of places of people replacing reading the work with reading reviews of the work and believing it gives them a suitable point for evaluating it. I'm only 60 pages in and I can't possibly review the thing, but what I can say is a lot of the evaluation of this work in this thread is absolutely based on excerpts or op-ed commentary and that's intensely problematic.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:23 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I was younger I saw a lot of this "they have to leave early, they have a FAMILY"

I am torn between assuming I'm a Pollyanna or assuming that you all work at the shittiest jobs possibly imaginable.

Who the fuck discusses when your co-workers come and go? If you get your shit done and you're not leaving at 3 PM every day, who cares? You're all whispering behind each others' backs about when everyone comes and goes? It's soul crushing just to image it.
posted by GuyZero at 3:28 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're all whispering behind each others' backs about when everyone comes and goes? It's soul crushing just to image it.

No that's not it at all. I'm talking about being explicitly asked and expected to stay late and give up weekends to cover for people with families. And also asked to do so when people with families are not.
posted by sweetkid at 3:43 PM on March 27, 2013


I'm talking about being explicitly asked and expected to stay late and give up weekends to cover for people with families. And also asked to do so when people with families are not.

So I assume we're in agreement when I say that that's also soul-crushingly terrible in addition to being unfair and stupid.
posted by GuyZero at 3:45 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Having more women join this elite group, which this book aims to do, can go a long way to reducing the harm they do and can only make the system less patriarchal.
That's really an untested hypothesis. The problem is that for some properties "X" women might on average be "more X" then men, but the women who get these top leaderships positions may not be. For a more obvious example, look at height: the average American woman is 5'4", the average man 5'10". But the average WNBA player is 6'0".

Women may be less risk averse then men, on average, but the women who get to the top at a place like Goldman Sachs may be just as bad. The trader who lost billions for JP Morgan with risky derivatives bets was a woman, for example.

Or, take a look at Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, getting rid of work from home which is going to make it harder for women who have to take care of kids. That may be the right decision for the bottom line, but not for working moms.

Is Sheryl Sandburg going through the payroll data at FB looking to see which women are making less then men for the same jobs and give them raises, or is she going to keep that money and blame them for not "leaning in"?
posted by delmoi at 3:47 PM on March 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


It isn't like women executives are sleeper agents. The board votes, they sign their contract and suddenly cackle with glee and shout "Fuck corporate America!!". Nobody works their whole lives to become a CEO unless they believe the fundamental concepts of corporate America. What right do we have to expect people to want to disrupt the status quo just because they are women.

Women are also outnumbered in large corporations. In the past 10 years I've worked for two female CTOs. You ever been to a meeting with 1 woman CTO, 5 male VPs and a smattering of guys like me who are mere subject experts? As soon as the woman leaves the room it's jokes about her ass from the VPs who want to assert themselves. Chances are they would talk shit about any exec over them, but they turn the entire organization into a boys club. There is no way one female executive can change this, there needs to be something close to parity. Why don't I do something? I do do something, I keep myself from getting laid off and hire women programmers, which to me is better than going out in an ego stroking blaze of glory while all the male VPs back each other up.

We also hold women to unrealistic expectations. Why do we expect Meyer to let Yahoo go down the tubes because she has a kid and some of the workers that now have to come into the office have kids. Her responsibility is the the shareholders and *all* the employees, not just the ones with kids.Would a male CEO take such flack for it? doubt it.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:48 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Luckily, I was always explicitly asked and expected to stay late and give up weekends even though I had a family.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:48 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't read the book yet. I will say that I liked the article in Dissent quite a bit because I do think there's an aspect of feminist astroturfing, as herda05 mentioned above. But I am a huge fan of the general message that Sandberg sends of not taking yourself out of the game in anticipation for what might happen. I know firsthand how tempting it is to make choices as a young woman, straight out of college even, to go for "safer" jobs or bigger companies, to take less risk because hey you never know when you'll want to start a family and you'll want maternity leave and all those nice perks! And you do limit yourself doing that. I did it to myself for years, and only recently (ironically, right before starting a family) starting taking big career risks because I realized that I would never really get anywhere muddling along in safe places. I would be a trophy hire, the presentable charming technical woman that you trot out at recruiting events to get more junior female hires for diversity initiatives (not that these are bad), but not actually getting the kind of platform and influence that is possible only by taking on some risk in your career and your life.

I'm born on base, a fortunate white lady with a comfortable (if not rich and well-connected) upbringing. In that way, I'm basically like everyone I went to college with, and most successful people in the tech industry, and in business in general. Except that I am a woman, and there are few of us. I'd like to see more, I'd like to see young women at least not take themselves out of the game for fear of "what if I want to start a family" when they're 22 and unmarried.

If we can get more women to think about their careers and not assume that their careers are secondary to their husbands, to their children, to their family, but assume they have the same potential that their husbands have, I do think that will be a step in the right direction for all of us. Say what you will about the tech industry but companies like Google are pushing paternity leave to great lengths, and that is a key element of equality. Not just putting the burden of work-life balance (aka working and taking care of the family) onto women, but sharing it between the sexes.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:08 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


how can you possibly determine the value or limit thereof if you haven't or won't actually read the work?

I don't think I was, so much as observing that endeavors have both value and limits. I'm not opining what those are in this case as I haven't read the book for myself. I do feel that I've a) read enough about it to decide that it's not in line with my own interests, and b) observed enough cultural fads to be skeptical about the hype around this one until or unless it demonstrates it's more than the hot topic of the moment. I don't take issue with the book itself so much as the frenzy around it.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:20 PM on March 27, 2013


Lean In seems to me a lot like Jack Welch's book "Winning" in that the advice is irrelevant to most people and it's basically a vanity "pitching-my-legacy" project wrapped up as advice.

I agree that books like these are less about their content and more about the author. But, there's a reason why she chose to market this book as a "sort of" feminist manifesto. I don't think she just wants to rake in $50k for hour long motivational speeches and to be a talking head on MSNBC/CNN/Fox News, etc. Maybe she's thinking of working with a presidential campaign/administration or running for governor.
posted by FJT at 5:02 PM on March 27, 2013


That's because feminism's traditional complaint has been: why can't women attain the positions of power and privilege in business that have been traditionally reserved for men? Sandberg responds: they can, it just takes great commitment and some strategy.

That has been the question posed by liberal feminism, only one of many different feminist schools of thought. There are plenty of feminists who do not think feminism's central goal should be for women to attain the opportunity to fit into a shitty system that oppresses most men already, even as it oppresses most women more.

And now some people respond that that involves too much work, and that the real question is actually: how can society be restructured so that women get those positions of power and privilege without having to have the all-consuming commitment that those positions require? That isn't nearly as sympathetic a query.

Or: the real question is, how can society be restructured so that power and privilege aren't reserved for only the very few? How can we restructure society so no one (man or woman) has to make work their all-consuming commitment if they don't want to?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:51 PM on March 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


All I can say about Sandberg?

Her media blitz is really starting to get on my tits.
posted by Samizdata at 9:16 AM on March 28, 2013


When I was young I didn't think feminism was for me. I was a poor student and part of why I was a poor student was that had some mild learning disabilities but part of why I was a poor student was that I was an abstract thinker and disagreed with the entire game I was supposed to be playing in the school system to begin with.

I think back to that time, growing up, I wanted to be a polymath and I wanted to use the synthesis of studies including logic, science, current events, history, polity, and human health, and human nature, to solve complex societal problems and essential provide to those in need.

The business model never serves the needy who don't have money.

This made it almost useless in the way I was thinking about how to serve human beings and make a healthy society. And then you have feminism that I essentially kept hearing (to my interpretation) say "You need to be at the top of this shitty evil nasty system in order to bea worthwhile human! Women can shit on people around them and climb to the top without caring about anyone else as well as men can! Women need to do this more because it sucks they're wo awful and unaccomplished and girly and lovey and like hugging people and caring about feelings because these things are useless and awful and women who are like that are awful. But they CAN be like men, so women need to start picking up the slack and start being like men so they aren't so awful!"

That's how I heard it. Now I know this is what all feminists were trying to say but some of them did in fact say things like this. I didn't pull this interpretation totally out of my ass. It WAS a prominent message around me. And then you have all the punk rock and social activism I got into was entirely male driven (yeah yeah we had xray spex and patti smith, and cocteau twins and souxie and the banshees but seriously the majority of the good music of all the progressive genres was male), and that the classical thinkers and philosophers who have been prominent and accessible to read were almost ALL male when I look back. I mean I read Ann Rice but that was vampire/sexy fiction. Woman. That's what women can do. MEN can solve world problems and uncover the meaning of life and try to ascertain the meaning of things. And they can do it well, with heart and compassion and depth.

This was a way of thinking that was, I think, ascribed to in school but yet not really permitted because it called into question the nature of the school system and societal beliefs upholding it themselves and free thinking about things that upset the status quo (as apposed to abstract meaning of life philosophies) upset the balance. 'Shut up, we're running a school and you're grades are down. We're better than you and your perspective is irrelevant. In twenty years you'll be serving all of us coffee while we go to our fancy doctor, engineering, tech and therapeutic jobs whose services you won't even be able to afford. GET IN LINE. OBEY SERVANT CLASS BITCH."

It took a lot of reading and awareness on my part to realize that feminism could be disconnected from classism and ablism and applied to value women who are just, people, and are not magnificent at business or science. Women who just want to love their kids and hug them and hang out with them and help them get the tools, education, food, healthcare and fun activities to grow into healthy people. I think as classism, ablism, inequality, and issues of reproductive justice begin to get more attention, feminism might be used in a very different way than how it has been applied. Feminists with degrees in feminism have some of these same ideals but the feminism as accessible to the general public is watered down and often another tool for people in power to pretend they care when they are participating in other forms of exploitation that are just as awful.



Also saying that childbearing and nursing are obstacles just because we don't have childcare is missing the point. Most women I know don't want to put their 6 week old in 40 hours of day care per week even if they want/need their job. There are some women who find this option awesome and I'm glad it's there, but we need more time off for women to be with recently produced children through the first few years when women are nursing and children often need a lot more holding, love, attention, and connection than a day care can provide to a room full of infants and toddlers. What's more, kids continue to need parenting through middle and highschool. There are too many single and dual parent homes where there is no one around to supervise and guide middle and highschool kids after school. They get into more trouble, make worse choices, have a harder time with school, because no one is there. They eat less healthy food and have less connection with tired overworked parents.

Families with money can often offset this problem with paid solutions, but lower income families would probably be better served by having a parent who can be off in the afternoons and summers to, you know, parent. Instead all the pressure on low income families and single parent homes is to ensure the parents are working 40-60 hours a week because more work means stronger character!
posted by xarnop at 9:53 AM on March 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


A few years ago I read an article in Bitch Magazine (an excellent American feminist publication) that purported to be a primer on the major feminist theories. I was shocked that it did not include socialist feminism, a theory that deals heavily with class issues. I wondered if it was because it's an American magazine and the term socialist is so taboo still for many Americans.

Feminist groups here in Canada are very outspoken about class issues (as well as race issues, ablism, ageism etc.), and socialist feminism is definitely considered one of the major theories, so it was surprising for me to read an otherwise intelligent and well-written article about different types of feminist thought that didn't include a discussion of class--it's such a major component of feminist activism in my experience.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:45 AM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking of outspoken canadian women's rights activists, Renee of Womanist Musings probably did more to allow me to get more comfortable with women's rights activism than a lot of feminist readings (such as Bitch magazine type stuff) I had read. Ironic because Renee does not claim to be a feminist at all, and is, as the title suggests a womanist- meaning she advocates women's rights within the context of race, class, financial and differently abled issues. Her discussions of disabled mothers rights and reproductive justice issues for minority women- women of color, poor, and differently abled women are powerful, heart rendering, and beautiful.

It was through her I learned the term reproductive justice which instead of just expanding CHOICE to women (within the context of abysmal and terrible circumstances where women are essentially "getting" the freedom to choose between a rock and hard place), includes expanded access to needed resources and services to empower women and give them the tools they need to live healthy lives and have healthy families.
posted by xarnop at 11:07 AM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


My take on advancing in the corporate world is that it's more like taking punches in a combat sport than hitting golf balls or baseballs. In which case all leaning in does is make your ass get ktfo that much easier.

I'm reasonably sure that Sandberg got where she is because of political savvy (ie, emotional intelligence), hard work, and intelligence, rather than beating the shit out of opponents in the board room. A little luck helps out, but a combination of the three attributes above allows you to make your own luck.

A stellar resume probably helped her get her foot in the door at Google, which, at the time she joined was a startup, and her resume at Google got her into Facebook.

Also, no one mentions her husband is the CEO of SurveyMonkey. Once you're in the club...
posted by KokuRyu at 12:27 PM on March 28, 2013


gsh: There is nothing--nothing--exceptional about the female sex that renders them above personal ambition, greed, and/or general assholeness. To argue that the very presence of women will change anything is to argue that we are Other, and shall always remain thus.
So, likewise it's racist to hope for more American CEOs of color, and only someone who hates the handicapped would hope that more physically handicapped people are able to rise to top management?

No. It's pretty simple. More gender parity is better. More female police; more female judges; more female sanitation workers; more male child care professionals; more female CEOs; hell, even more white prisoners (at least as a fraction of the total population) would all be improvements on our current society.

But we can't have anything simple, so continue arguing about how some single person's advocacy of a particular step towards a more equal society is The Worst Thing Ever.

Remember kids: the actual enemy is not the Antichrist; it's those god-awful members of that splinter group that chooses to do things a tiny bit differently.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:32 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"it's those god-awful members of that splinter group that chooses to do things a tiny bit differently."

When a little bit differently includes devaluing and stomping on women on the bottom to prove the women in STEM careers and who run companies deserve all the resources and money and women who want resources and money need to master this stupid system to deserve a decent quality of life- it's a problem.

It's not always a "Hey if we do good for some women, that's basically good for all women!"

It can actually make things worse for women at the bottom who just get more shame and blame for their poverty. SEE you SHOULD be like that successful hard working woman if you want enough money to take care of your children well and have a safe neighborhood and medical care! THAT'S how women should be! If you want a better life- do more like that woman did!

Holding up the exceptions who have made it to the top to bring those at the bottom further to shame for their difficulty and strife is a side effect of this type of advocacy.
posted by xarnop at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


melissam: The main issue for technical women people in tech, as opposed to people who have always been on the management track, is when or whether to "lean in" to the management track, which is more complicated for us....Waffling between the two tracks, being OK at both of them but not really moving up, is what has held me back personally and I feel it is a fairly common problem.

FTFY. I think your comment is spot on (I have precisely the same thoughts/experience), but that phenomenon has nothing to do with sex.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:04 PM on March 28, 2013


My understanding is that tokenism is never effective except as a first step towards a more diverse body, for all the reasons people have mentioned above. A single person is in no position to rock the boat and may in fact have to be regressive. This shouldn't be shocking. Social science knows this. I remember reading that it takes a certain plurality (33% is what comes to mind though I may be remembering wrong) before we can expect to see real consequences from diversification. I am unwilling to personally blame Mayers and Sandberg for not being able to do what 30% can do. Neither is their failure to do so an argument against the benefits of diversification, which we are not at all in a position to fully see yet alone measure, being on the very cusp. It's great that they are where they are because it's a positive sign towards getting to that plurality (and beyond).
posted by Salamandrous at 4:13 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Feminism Called. It Wants Its Movement Back
Kate Losse reviewed Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In unfavorably in Dissent. For this reason, her publicist tweeted that Losse is going to “a special place in hell,” reserved for women who don’t support other women.

First, I’m so tired of this kind of slapdash, hyperbolic nastiness.

Second, has it really come to this? Are we so confused about what feminism means, that a publicist could construe this review as not supporting women, and Sandberg’s book as the feminist gold standard?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:57 AM on March 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Has anyone posted this Catherine Rottenberg opinion piece from Al Jazeera yet?
posted by eviemath at 6:26 PM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Given these blatant class and race-biases, there is something profoundly illiberal - and fundamentally incongruous - in the re-envisioning of liberated womanhood as a reorientation of affect and as a better balancing act. US women do not need to change their attitude; they need, first, job security, good childcare, livable wages for the work they do, and physical security.

If Sheryl Sandberg is serious about sparking a conversation, then perhaps she should start by asking who the cleaning women at Facebook are and how much money they take home every month. Do they have a viable pension plan? Do they receive paid holidays? And what kind of childcare services does Facebook offer them?


I love it. Thanks, eviemath.
posted by jaguar at 6:01 AM on April 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


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