[adrotate banner=”1″]Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will to Lead has been optioned for a film, in a move that becomes less surprising when you realize Nell Scovell has been set to write the script, as she co-wrote the book with Sheryl Sandberg. Scovell has vast industry connections, being a veteran television writer and director, so its a natural that she would know enough people with money to get a film done, despite the fact the book doesn’t really have a story narrative. But I really don’t have a problem with the insider connections or lack of existing narrative aspect of this deal.
What I do have a problem with is Lean In. Lean In is painted as a pro-feminist book to help women in the workplace achieve all sorts of goals, that’s become a “movement” based on selling the Lean In brand. But it’s not quite what it claims to be. As articulated by others with much better feminism credentials than I, Lean In is basically a co-opting of feminism in a packaged and controlled form. A sort of faux feminism, that ultimately doesn’t really do much of anything except draw attention away from actually recognizing and solving issues.
My problems with Lean In aren’t that Sandberg is rich or white or cis or likes business stuff or that she wrote her story without consulting every academic feminist with letters after their name. None of that is ultimately important when it comes to what feminism is: Everyone being equal regardless of gender. But Sandberg’s book isn’t the vehicle for that change.
The biggest problems swooped in when Lean In switched from a book to a foundation. The book spends much of its time telling women to do more for work so they can get more at work, in addition to all family responsibilities. Much of the suggestions are unrealistic for all but those that are wealthy enough to afford the free time to put in more time. The book strives to be apolitical, not really addressing how things in society can be changed to help women, putting everything on the women to succeed themselves (or as part of their “Lean In” groups!)
Gender issues are political. Every day politicians make decisions that affect women. Gender issues have affected many major elections, for example Republicans who can’t shut up about rape:
Todd Akin and “legitimate rape”, Richard Mourdock saying pregnancy from rape was a “gift from God”, Wisconsin State Assembly member Roger Rivard saying “Some girls rape easy”, congressional candidate John Koster talking about “the rape thing”, Rep. Steve King saying he’s never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest, Rep. Joe Walsh ignorance in medical advances: “There’s no such exception as life of the mother,” Walsh told reporters following the debate. “And as far as health of the mother – same thing. Advances in science and technology. Health of the mother has been, has become a tool for abortions any time and for any reason.” All of those politicians lost except Rep. Steve King, and Mitt Romney and the Republican leadership had to condemn and condemn their own people, who refused to step aside. Black women were the deciding voice in the Virginia governor’s and attorney general’s races. Wendy Davis became a folk hero due to her filibuster against abortion restrictions and has moved on to running for governor. Sandra Fluke’s testimony on birth control became a lightning rod of ignorant comments and hateful statements from professional pukes. This isn’t an issue that can be separated from politics like a spaghetti strainer.
So of course Lean In honors a Republican Congresswoman with a voting record that’s historically anti-woman. Because Lean In isn’t about feminism, it is not about empowerment. It’s about a brand. A brand that doesn’t pay female interns (until outcry forces the matter!). A brand they can control, and tell women that empowerment is just working harder, not social issues. A brand that makes you feel good, but ultimately does nothing. A brand that can disrupt real advancement for women because that might interrupt the Boy’s Club in charge of much of Silicon Valley.
They even have competition from Makers, a brand that wants to reset the agenda for women in the workplace in the 21st century.” yet can’t be bothered to invite any labor union leaders to its fancy workplace meeting. Never fear, Sheryl Sandberg was invited, because there’s nothing more incestuous than the boards of Silicon Valley companies.
So, yeah, I think the movie will suck.