In the closing chapters of her best seller, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg makes the following observation about her generation’s attitude toward feminists.
In our defense, my friends and I truly, if naively, believed that the world did not need feminists anymore. We mistakenly thought that there was nothing left to fight for. (Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, Random House, Inc. 2013, pg. 142.)
As an old feminist, I smiled. “Welcome aboard,” I muttered quietly. Reading the first half of Sandberg’s book is like reading Betty Friedan’s 1963, The Feminine Mystique all over again. The list of challenges are so similar, I might almost despair that the movement accomplished anything. Of course, employment pages no longer list “jobs for women” and “jobs for men” and we do have an increased number of women in Congress and on the Supreme Court. The list of female astronauts has grown, too. Even so, Sandberg admits that in pursuing a career, “while gender is not openly acknowledged, it was still lurking below the surface. (Ibid pg. 143)
While I honor the author’s intent to offer women survival skills for the workplace, her book calls for no significant change and lacks Friedan’s probing questions about a woman’s role. Nor does she challenge the underlying premise that women should continue to play by a man’s rules. Instead, her advice is practical: how to succeed in the status quo. How to pursue a career without being labeled “a bitch.”
I admit, visionaries are few, but they do exist. Leymah Gbowee, for example, used non-violent means to marshal thousands of women to pursue peace in Liberia. Ann San Su Ki, without competition or bloodshed, led a quiet revolution in Myanmar. Neither women attempted to find a niche in a man’s world. Both insisted upon changing the world in which they lived. Their strategy was to remind followers of the best that was in them, heedless of gender.
We women are nurturers, and our wisdom is older than written history. I wait to honor the one who can remind us of that secret knowledge. I wait for the leader who teaches us not to lean in but to opt out. We must do it for the good of the planet.
(Courtesy of barnes&noble.com)