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Lean In


“The promise of equality is not the same as true equality.”


So I finished reading Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg a little over a month ago but it was a recent email from BlogHer announcing the author as a keynote speaker at the BlogHer’13 conference held in Chicago later this week, that reminded me I had planned on discussing it here but hadn’t yet. In her book she asks women What could we accomplish if we weren’t afraid?

Anyway, while I did enjoy most of the book, I sort of wished it were better, and was left feeling, meh about it. I guess I had higher expectations from and for it, and while it did make me question a few of my own biased stereotypes I didn’t even know existed, the amount of personal information in the book made it a little boring for me. Granted, it is her book and while I am really trying to keep a positive perspective, I couldn’t tell if I honestly just didn’t care about certain aspects of her life, OR if I lost interest in the areas in which she spoke at length about work/life balance and childcare while trying to build a career, and those areas just didn’t apply to me because I don’t have children? I wonder if any of you with children felt the same as I did or found those chapters supremely relevant? It was just that she didn’t seem to be offering any tips in helping women to figure out how to balance it all, she was just saying how difficult it was for her and how she and her husband didn’t manage it properly.

What I also considered while reading her ideas and perspective on the matter, is that the author is older than I am, not by much, but even five years can change ideals. She was at the end of a generation of women who had to work much harder, in my opinion, to prove that they were “just like men” and “could do anything a man could do” and were struggling “in a man’s world” to get ahead. Or I should say, at the beginning of a generation that was in the process of changing their ideals. And whereas I watched my mom struggle with this as a working woman in the 1980’s, I feel that my generation accepts women as equals more than, let’s just say, their fathers and grandfathers did. But maybe that’s just been my experience? Because even though women still earn less than men on average today, the people afraid to change the rules and who are writing the paychecks may still be from those generations past. And as each generation passes, more acceptance and equality should follow… or at least one would hope.

I think the one thing I took from the book most is that the word “feminist”, which has such a negative connotation and stereotype attached to it, is defined as: Someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

I mean, in this century, who doesn’t? Why do I have to be labeled with a negative word said with a sneer, when I do believe that we should ALL be treated equally? And why does that word have such negative connotations? My guess is that men were trying to suppress everything it stood for when it originated, and that they did such a fantastic job of ingraining it into our heads, that even women who do stand for such things, don’t want to be labeled for it.

“We have to acknowledge how stereotypes and biases cloud our beliefs and perpetuate the status quo. Instead of ignoring our differences, we need to accept and transcend them.”


But since I’ve read the book, this topic has been openly floating around more and I’m not sure if it’s just on my radar now, or if the book itself has put everybody on alert. And if so, then bravo.

A few nights ago I watched a documentary called Why We Laugh: Funny Women about female comedians and what is required of them to be successful in the male dominated stand-up comedy business. And while I wondered why there weren’t more female comedians represented in the documentary, nearly all of them said that the movie Bridesmaids {2011} literally broke ground for them as comedians as far as what men AND women would accept and translate as “funny”. Really? 2011!?

I hadn’t really thought about it but it’s similar to what I’ve felt for so many years about women being placed in a box and even perpetuating this myth that we all have to act a certain way and dress a certain way and be lady-like and proper and even un-funny when men don’t have to play by the same rules. When I chatted about the documentary with my husband the next morning, one of the first things he said was Well, women just aren’t funny… immediately followed by his statement that Amy Schumer is the funniest stand-up comedian right now. Clearly, while he didn’t believe what he had said to be the truth, he couldn’t seem to let go of this heavily ingrained stereotype. Though he followed with because she is honest and relatable I still think he wasn’t grasping the fact that it hasn’t been until recent decades that women were “allowed” to be that kind of funny and accepted and applauded for it.

In all my life I have been in sort of solo careers, like one-man operations {no pun intended}, with no one else competing for my job. My husband refers to me as a rogue agent. Even at the art gallery I worked at for over ten years, each employee had their own job. I’ve never been in a position where I felt like I had to climb the ladder or pay my dues or feel jealousy over a competitive female or male force.

Until I became a blogger.

But in this very new career I am in, which didn’t exist as it does now even ten years ago, the rules are changing for women. As a blogger and writer for larger platforms like Babble and Blogher, I work with only women. Women own and run these companies, I report to women on all levels of my jobs, my agents are women, and when working with brands and PR companies, it’s women I get to work with.

So maybe the early feminists had it wrong, not that they didn’t set the groundwork for all of us today, but maybe the goal isn’t to try to do what a man does and to do it better, maybe the goal is to create a new working world in which women are starting new businesses and running them with their girlfriends and doing things men could never do. Maybe it’s already being done and maybe we just need more women to ask themselves What WOULD I do if I wasn’t afraid?

Have you read the book?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.

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LA native & lifestyle blogger Maegan Tintari writes daily at ...love Maegan.com sharing beauty & style secrets, including fashion DIYs, how-to nail art manicures, hair tutorials, recipes & home decorating ideas, as well as a look into her personal life, her journey & battle with infertility & recent relocation to the mountains by a lake in search of a better life with her adorable French Bulldog brothers, Trevor and Randy.

11 Comments

  • Emily Jo

    July 24, 2013 |

    I totally agree with you. Feminism is not about proving we are equal to or better than men, it is that women are AMAZING and we excel in ways that men cannot. Women are unique, beautiful and capable. I think that if more women adopted this view of feminism we would start to see a lot of change and a lot of respect for the work that feminist’s do.

  • PEACHES

    July 24, 2013 |

    Agreed on all counts!
    It is a shame that so many women understand the term “feminist” to be something aggressive/unattractive/unfeminine/whatever….all it really means is that women deserve an equal shot as men (and visa-versa, just to be PC of course, there are plenty of arenas where men feel at a disadvantage). Whenever I have mentioned something like this on my blog or in person, I get comments about “natural gender roles” blah blah. Drives me nuts. We all deserve a shot at the life we want, and it’s not cool for anyone to tell me I deserve something different because I am female.
    I think Sandberg did a great job explaining the complexity of this problem, and, how important it is for women to look out for other women. She also did a good job of explaining WHY so many employers are hesitant to promote/increase-pay on female employees. I used to get so angry when I thought about my male coworkers earning more for doing the same job…and I still do, but when you think about salary #’s as not only pay, but as an employer’s long term *investment* in that employees ability to bring in revenue, I get it. Still makes me mad, but I get it. I don’t agree with all of Sandberg’s stuff, but I’m glad she wrote the book. And I’m glad you reviewed it – Well done!

  • Mana

    July 24, 2013 |

    I think you’re right about Feminism. It should be more about finding our place, instead of trying to push out men to show we’re better. Which is what most of it boils down to the old “Anything you can do, I can do better” argument.

    Mana
    Fashion and Happy Things

  • Emma Finlayson

    July 24, 2013 |

    I am interested in reading this book. Since my son was born, I have felt somewhat marginalized in the workplace as have many of my friends. This has made me afraid… I need to not be afraid. I work on it every day.

    xo Emma
    http://strollingthecityinheels.com
    **Stella & Dot Giveaway in the blog**

  • Jane Droll

    July 24, 2013 |

    i haven’t read the book. i saw the author in a couple of interviews, and i wasn’t really all that impressed with what she had to say. perhaps that isn’t fair, but that is how i felt.

    i can’t stand when women aren’t taken seriously, or aren’t seen as being as funny as or as talented as their male counterparts. it drives me crazy.

    that being said, i was the idiot that used to say i didn’t like any female bands. HELLO!?!?!? how can one not like ANY of one category?!?!? not cool. not fair. and pretty much idiotic.

  • ma

    July 24, 2013 |

    I also agree about the term “feminism” which was started as a way for women to prove themselves in a male dominated world. Personally, I do not care to ever compete with a man, they are different and always will be, no matter what…”Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” has always been a favorite line of mine.

    and there are quite a few funny ladies in this world, they choose to be a bit more classy than the run of the mill pervert man..LOL!

  • Angela Wiebe

    July 25, 2013 |

    I really enjoyed your post. Especially where the goal isn’t to try to do what a man does and do it better but to create a new working world in which women set the standard. It would be very interesting working with all women. I work a bank and it is a very man filled environment for certain types of roles and it’s interesting seeing things change.

  • Serene McEntyre

    July 25, 2013 |

    I’m absolutely for equal pay for equal work…equal opportunity. For EVERYONE regardless of gender or race. I find my feminism to be of the objectification of women flavor. For example, for all of the work women did 30 years ago to try to make women be seen as more than sexual objects, I find that women will play the sex card today, more than ever. How did Miley Cyrus, Brittany Spears, Christina Aguillera and more show that they are “grown up”? By overtly and strongly sexualizing themselves. I saw a great quote by Janelle Monet that said something along the lines of “No one asks Jay Z to take his shirt off to rap. So why should I?” And she’s spot on! THAT, to me, is what feminism is.

    Regarding male/female roles. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit old fashioned. I like creating a home and it comes naturally to me. Is it because I’m female? I think so, but others may disagree. I also work and always have. But I mostly have worked around my family and so haven’t built a career (I have 4 kids, 3 of which are now in their 20s). I could’ve done things differently and built a career for myself, but at this point in my life, I know that if I had chosen that path, I would really have missed that time with my children. I’m not saying everyone should do it the way I did, I’m just saying that’s the choice I made and, most days, am really happy with it.

    I believe women (and everyone for that matter) can have it all….whatever “all” is. The catch is, you probably can’t have it all at the same time. Something’s gotta give. I think, in our culture, too much emphasis is placed on defining success with the accumulation of possessions and “followers”.

    Whatever happened to contentment with a happy, love filled, simple life?

  • TastynChic

    July 25, 2013 |

    After reading the book I was underwhelmed by the ending (felt a bit rushed) BUT i thought she made some great points. Also, she was trying to encourage all woman to “lean in” and go for it. To ask questions (such as pregnancy parking), and to not be afraid to question and perhaps even overtake men in most industries that are so male-dominated. She wasn’t saying that woman are better than men but that there needs to be a more equality of men to woman. For instance, why is it so hard for society to accept paternity-leave when it’s just a given with maternity-leave. Also, I really liked how she said we woman don’t have to “do it all”, accept help from men in our world (whether its loading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, making dinner, etc.), yes, it may not initially be perfect but if we are constantly micro-managing men in the household then we are stereotyping ourselves (as housewives) already and not allowing men to use their potential in the home life.

    As a working woman (no children but married) in her 30’s, in a corporate world it is extremely male-dominated and there still is a very “old-boys club” mentality.

    Like Sheryl said, why didn’t the CEO of a company she went to a boardmeeting at not even know where the woman’s washroom was? Was it because the previous woman in board meetings with him were afraid to ask him or did he genuinely not know and why didn’t he?

    I think the book was very well written and I have to admire Sheryl for all she has accomplished. Not alot of woman can say they have done the things she has and perhaps this is because we (as women) need to “LEAN IN” more…..

  • Heather

    July 30, 2013 |

    Wonderful post, Maegan.
    I agree with what TastynChic said. I enjoyed the book and found what Sheryl had to say very enlightening. I’m in my mid20s getting my professional degree and about to embark in a career that is very male dominated, with many ancient hierarchies and ‘ceilings’ to be broken. Her urge to have women ‘lean in’ and EMBRACE being ambitious and seeking higher positions is something I found very relevant to me. While I may not have originally planned on ‘leaning in’, she has certainly made me reconsider. I appreciated a lot of her insight on why it’s been so difficult for women to excel in terms of gaining leadership positions and promotions (this is very relevant to the field I am entering), and was interested in her challenge to the term ‘life-and-work balance’.

  • Anonymous

    August 7, 2013 |

    I think you’re exactly right about the word “feminist”. We should all be feminists, and by the definition, we are. Yet it’s been given a bad name — if you ask me — by those who are trying to oppress.