by Ashley Weeks Cart
Admittedly, I have not read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. When I first saw excerpts from the book dashed across social media or in the news, I was drawn to the message because FUCK YEAH FEMINISM BEING CHAMPIONED IN MAINSTREAM MEDIA!
But, dig beneath the surface of Sandberg’s message, and well, it sure isn’t the kind of feminism that does anything but maintain the status quo of wealthy, white male patriarchy, one that carves out room for (privileged, white, straight) women to sit at the table, but ignoring the very intersectionality of race, class, and sexuality that is at the heart of feminist thought. (Can you tell I spent my weekend with the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies department celebrating their 30th anniversary as a program at Williams? I was reminded of why this lens, this kind of learning, is so crucial, and how it is one of the fields in academia where the personal becomes the intellectual and vice versa. It makes a difference in the real, lived experiences of others).
Some thoughts from one of my favorite thinkers:
Even though many advocates of feminist politics are angered by Sandberg’s message, the truth is that alone, individually she was no threat to feminist movement. Had the conservative white male dominated world of mass media and advertising not chosen to hype her image, this influential woman would not be known to most folks. It is this patriarchal male dominated re-framing of feminism, which uses the body and personal success of Sheryl Sandberg, that is most disturbing and yes threatening to the future of visionary feminist movement. The model Sandberg represents is all about how women can participate and “run the world.” But of course the kind of world we would be running is never defined. It sounds at times like benevolent patriarchal imperialism. This is the reason it seemed essential for feminist thinkers to respond critically, not just to Sandberg and her work, but to the conservative white male patriarchy that is using her to let the world know what kind of woman partner is acceptable among elites, both in the home and in the workplace.
bell hooks, bringing it home. More knowledge dropping from her here.