The Absurd Backlash Against Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’: Columnists are mercilessly attacking Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In. Michelle Goldberg says they might be surprised to find that her ideas are reasonable, thoughtful—and necessary….
“My hope is that my message will be judged on its merits,” she writes. She may have been hoping for too much…. [A] strange, sour backlash has already begun, aimed… at who Sandberg is. Joanne Bamberger, who either didn’t read Lean In or didn’t comprehend it, lumps Sandberg in with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, accusing both of launching “the latest salvo in the war on moms.”… [S]upercilious Maureen Dowd evince[s] a sudden concern for feminist authenticity…. Melissa Gira Grant, writing in The Washington Post, carps that “this is simply the elite leading the slightly-less-elite, for the sake of Sandberg’s bottom line,” which makes sense if you believe that a woman worth hundreds of millions of dollars would go into feminist publishing for the money. (Skirting feminist self-parody, Grant proceeds to complain that Sandberg fails to grapple with the struggles of domestic workers, the unemployed, people whose caretaking duties extend beyond children to aging parents as well as “close friends and extended families,” women who can’t have children, and those who are lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.)… Deanna Zandt admits that she didn’t bother trying to get a review copy of Lean In, but nonetheless claims that Sandberg’s message is “buck up, little campers. It’s a tough world, and you’ve got to be tough.”… [Thus] there’s already a lot of public misunderstanding of her book’s message. One would think she was peddling a multilevel marketing scheme, not the most overtly feminist mainstream business book ever written….
Lumping Sandberg with Marissa Mayer is particularly unfair. Mayer has said that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist…. Sandberg constantly quotes Gloria Steinem and writes that she regrets her reluctance to embrace the feminist mantle earlier in life. Mayer abolished working from home at Yahoo. Sandberg calls for “[g]overnmental and company policies such as paid personal time off, affordable high-quality child care, and flexible work practices.” She has achieved nearly inconceivable levels of wealth and power, and she wants to use it to pull other women up as well…. In a formulation Sandberg uses again and again, she writes, “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world.”
We are, of course, quite far from such a world….
[W]hy aren’t more women reaching the top of their professions?… Outright discrimination… subtle structural barriers… fewer women at the top… makes it hard for women to imagine themselves as leaders, which saps their confidence and ambition.
Sandberg acknowledges that both sets of obstacles need to be taken on, but she’s chosen to focus on the internal obstacles because they are under women’s own control. “We can dismantle the hurdles in ourselves today,” she writes. Her book is largely about how to do that within the context of a sexist society…. Lean In isn’t perfect. Parts of Sandberg’s plan to create a movement around it based on small group “Lean In Circles” will be off-putting to anyone who dislikes corporate culture…. But this doesn’t explain the anger directed toward her—after all, she’s still doing more than most women in corporate American to advance the cause of gender equality. Instead, I think the reaction to Sandberg stems from something that she herself identifies. Women are conditioned to compare themselves with one another. When we’re not wholly at peace with our own choices—and who is?—those comparisons sting…. Sandberg writes… "Guilt and insecurity make us second-guess ourselves and, in turn, resent one another."
This seems like a pretty good explanation for some of the more unhinged reactions…