Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, the latest voice in the feminist movement and currently one of the hottest debates going, has been on shelves for a short period of time but is already receiving massive amounts of both kudos and backlash. I pre-ordered, then counted the days until my book (digitally) arrived. Once it did, I devoured its contents, desperately searching for someone with whom to discuss each chapter.
But before I was able to read the book I was reading all the Internet fodder, and a few things stuck out to me. The first was a writer saying, “You can’t start a movement from the top down,” which really made me stop and think. I tried my best to hold out any and all judgement of Sandberg and her “movement” until I’d read the book, but a lot of the Internet reviews and discussions were negative, so I admittedly had low expectations. Thankfully I have a feminist husband who read the book as well- finished before me, actually- and we talked exhaustively about what we thought it meant to us, and to each generation of women (and men) globally.
When I finally was able to start page one, all my concerns melted away. She wrote like a real person. She wasn’t preaching to me. She was saying things that RESONATED so hard I often had to set the book (iPad) down and think about what I’d just read. I can’t remember the last time something moved me to my quiet think-y space like this did. I highlighted so many passages the book looks like it’s written on purple and yellow pages.
I think a lot of women felt Sandberg was trying to tell them THEY needed to change to make a positive impact for women in the workplace. It’s true, a lot of her message is about looking inside yourself and examining the way you approach your own path, but when you stop and think about it, what’s wrong with that? If all our protests have fallen flat in the past, maybe by changing our own mentalities we can finally start to lessen the gap between genders in the office. Not to mention, there are so many points she brought up that absolutely resonated with me- and all those points were things I NEED to change about myself to become the best version of me I can be.
My final stance on the movement being started from “too high” to be successful goes something like this: Sheryl Sandberg worked very hard for many years to get where she is today. She saw some injustices along the way, and still sees them in the modern workplace. She can’t pretend she is a struggling single mother starting out on the bottom rung of the career ladder (if you’ve read the book you know it’s actually a “jungle gym” not a ladder). She is grateful for her husband who shares her at-home workload, and grateful that she’s able to afford help. She has advice, anecdotes, stats and statistics, but the underlying message is to believe in yourself. Believe in your strengths. Believe you deserve the best, and don’t be shy about striving for it.
She’s doing something not a lot of other people are doing- she’s speaking out. She’s doing SOMETHING. She’s putting herself out there for other women to get the conversation started. Rather than sitting around telling anyone who will listen why this book isn’t going to work and how it’s all wrong, we could jump in. Lean in, even. Join the discussion and do whatever we can to be a part of forward progress.
If nothing else, she brought a conversation that has been quietly discussed and, although some of the playing fields have moved slightly more to the center, it’s been at a snail’s pace, she plunked the topics right in the middle of the dinner table. And the boardroom. And the coffee shop. In a matter of months she’s taken something that was barely more than a whisper around the water cooler about and created a veritable feminist monster. And that monster is beautiful.