Lean In, Cosmo, and False Empowerment

As I write this, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is on MIT’s campus giving a talk about her book Lean In, which advocates for women in corporate positions of power and general feminist ideas. I knew about this talk and my UROP supervisor even sent out the info to all of the women in my lab asking if anyone wanted to go with her.

I found this article by bell hooks (through Tumblr, as always) at around 3pm today, and I’m really glad I did because it solidified my decision not to go to the talk. I’ve known about “Lean In” and Sandberg herself for a while now, but something about her perspective always seemed a little bit lacking and wrong, although I couldn’t clearly articulate what bothered me. bell hooks, as usual, knocks it out of the park. The article is a bit long but well worth the read, especially because this white “faux feminism” is a lot more widespread than Lean In.


Also, another interesting article recommendation: this gem from Cosmo. (I use gem very loosely) We’ve talked a fair amount about Cosmo and attaining liberation through the oppressive standards already in place, but this is a great 2013 example of the continuing focus on finding a man, even (and especially) for educated working women. I found this one through Facebook because MIT is listed as the top school to find your dream mate. Anyone who actually goes here will definitely call BS, but it  highlights what Cosmo still considers “good man qualities”: education and money.

  1. Thanks for the article on Lean In! I had also been unsure about going to the event. I appreciate being able to read bell hooks’ perspective.

    Also, the Cosmo article includes advice from a mother to find men to date: “walk to class (or work, gym, or wherever you go daily) using a different route every time” so that you can increase your chances of meeting new people. Does anyone else find this ridiculous? I would much rather be on-time to class and minimize the amount of time I spend in the cold, but maybe that’s just a sign that my priorities are different from the typical Cosmo reader.

  2. achang4 said:

    Interesting point about Cosmo – they probably also linked it to something related to the ratio of men to women? But totally agree that this is pretty ridiculous. Even if it is “just for fun” Cosmo should try to create articles/surveys/”lists” that are a little more intelligent and strive to empower women in a non gendered way more. But I guess Cosmo is aiming to just be a magazine that “writes for fun” for a specific audience…

    • Yep! The whole reason for the article was finding a man when the gender ratio is really skewed (liberal arts colleges, specific careers, etc.)

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