Post(s) tagged with "lean in"
Kate Losse, Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning in?
Life is a race, Sandberg is telling us, and the way to win is through the perpetual acceleration of one’s own labor: moving forward, faster. The real antagonist identified by Lean In then is not institutionalized discrimination against women, but women’s reluctance to accept accelerating career demands.
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, inLean 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?
Take Sandberg’s perspective on the family. A successful working mother on the Sandberg model awakes at 5:00 a.m. to answer emails before preparing kids for school, returns home for dinner with her kids (which, like her job, is a duty the mother has to be promptly on time for), and then gets back into her email. “Once he was down at night, I would jump back on my computer and continue my workday,” she writes, acknowledging the fact that, by Silicon Valley’s own hand, “technology has extended the weekday.”
At this point in the text, what could become a critique of the new economy’s round-the-clock work imperative becomes its opposite: resignation to work’s all-consuming nature. “Facebook is available 24/7 and for the most part, so am I. The days when I even think of unplugging for a weekend or a vacation are long gone.”
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?
Life, in Sandberg’s vision of work, has gone entirely missing, at the linguistic as well as the polemical level. Except, of course, when one is at work. “I fully believe in bringing our whole selves to work,” Sandberg writes. Since her vision of work involves working all the time, it follows that work must be the place where one can be one’s full self.
Leaninism will have its adherents, but I am not among them. I subscribe to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s gentle criticism of Lean In:
Sandberg’s approach, as important as it is, is at best half a loaf. Moreover, given her positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. For both the women who have made it and the men who work with them, it is cheaper and more comfortable to believe that what they need to do is simply urge younger women to be more like them, to think differently and negotiate more effectively, rather than make major changes in the way their companies work. Young women might be much more willing to lean in if they saw better models and possibilities of fitting work and life together: ways of slowing down for a while but still staying on a long-term promotion track; of getting work done on their own time rather than according to a fixed schedule; of being affirmed daily in their roles both as parents and as professionals.
Sandberg may mean well, and she may be setting up a run for national office. But she doesn’t understand the difference between a social movement and a social network marketing campaign. Just because digital technology makes connecting possible doesn’t mean you’re actually reaching people.
People come to a social movement from the bottom up, not the top down. Sandberg has co-opted the vocabulary and romance of a social movement not to sell a cause, but herself.
She says she’s using marketing for the purpose of social idealism. But she’s actually using social idealism for the purpose of marketing.
Maureen Dowd, in Pompom Girl for Feminism, pushes back on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.
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