The TImes has a fascinating piece about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book—brace yourself for a publicity onslaught—and Sandberg’s attempt to start a national women’s movement, based on collective consciousness-raising, that Sandberg is calling “Lean-In.”
When her book is published on March 11, accompanied by a carefully orchestrated media campaign, she hopes to create her own version of the consciousness-raising groups of yore: “Lean In Circles,” as she calls them, in which women can share experiences and follow a Sandberg-crafted curriculum for career success. (First assignment: a video on how to command more authority at work by changing how they speak and even sit.)
But as the Times points out, Sandberg has some potential drawbacks as a feminist icon, in that she’s really never known hardship and she’s incredibly privileged and absurdly rich. She’s become a paper billionaire by working at jobs that, difficult though they may be, don’t require her to work longer hours than millions of American women who get paid minimum wage for their efforts and don’t have a 9, 000-square-foot house.
But Sandberg does not lack for confidence:
“I always thought I would run a social movement,” Ms. Sandberg, 43, said in an interview for “Makers,” a new documentary on feminist history.
All this sets off alarm bells to me. It is hard to imagine “a leader of a social movement,” whether male or female, whose life story has absolutely no relevance to the people he or she is supposed to be leading. Sandberg is surely enormously talented and ambitious—I’m told by someone who used to work closely with her that she was thinking about running for governor of California, but has decided to go straight for the presidency—and I wouldn’t underestimate her. But what gives her such confidence that she knows what is best for women? If it’s not based in empathy and shared struggle, isn’t it just…arrogance?
But advisors and colleagues say Sandberg has no such qualms.
“She is using all of her social capital on this,” said Rachel Sklar, founder of a networking list for women in technology, who is on the Lean In launch committee.
(Blogger: There is something so deeply appalling about this sentence—as if using “all your social capital” really indicates anything meaningful.)
Asked how Ms. Sandberg would balance her demanding job with the creation of a new movement, a member of the team offered a tentative answer: she plans to use her vacation days.
Sandberg has convinced a number of major corporations to sign on to the Lean In manifesto, which is weird, and convinced Jill Abramson, the editor of the New York Times, to write an essay in support of Lean In, which in my old school way of thinking is unprofessional of Abramson.
So all this will get some attention. Maybe some good will come out of the ensuing debate. Or maybe Sandberg will just succeed in convincing people to sign on to her agenda, which is, ultimately, the accumulation of her own power and wealth.