Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In movement is back in the forefront of the blogosphere with its new initiative Ban Bossy, a campaign to encourage young girls to become leaders. Some have taken the ban literally, saying they don't mind and even enjoy being called bossy while others have championed Sandberg's efforts in the name of empowerment, and still others question this sort of thing's impact on the men-folk of the world. It made me think of the piece 'Recline!' that was published almost a month ago where author Rose Brooks write about how she tried 'leaning-in' and realized that instead of busting ass to make it, "we need to fight for our right to lean back and put our feet up."
So do we choose to Lean In or Recline? For me, I choose neither. I think I'd prefer to sit up straight. First of all, when you sit up straight, your body feels better and more confident. Who doesn't like that? You can breathe more deeply and calmly than you can when leaning-in without dozing off like you might when you recline. Most importantly, you have a much broader view and perspective when sitting up straight. You can see the full picture, all the possibilities, instead of the narrow view that leaning-in and reclining might give.
Now I get that I'm being quite literal, but in my quasi-hippy brain, this translates. I strongly believe in the cause behind these initiatives- that women and men should be given the same opportunities and no one should be discriminated against because of gender (or any reason, really). I also believe that language can hurt, and it's true that the connotations of a word like 'bossy,' which is most often attributed to women, can almost subconsciously impact people's behavior.
But, I also think part of the problem is we live in a society when money and power are equated with success. In many of the articles on gender equality, 'lean-in,' etc., statistics are quoted that women make up a small percentage of CEOs, managers, and members of Congress. Is this what women have to measure how far they've come- how much money and how powerful they are? How about being able to contribute to society in ways that make them satisfied and happy?
I've never wanted to be in business- I chose a career in occupational therapy instead. A field where men are the rarity, and I've always had female supervisors or I was the supervisor (a role I didn't really like, to be honest). While it's a career that's been deeply satisfying, it also will never land me on any Fortune 500 list, nor would I really want it to. I'm cool with being the boss of me, which is really the only person we can truly be the boss of.
Does sentiment like Lean In and the culture it's been developed in create an environment where women (or any person for that matter) feel like failures if they don't make 'enough' money or aren't as high on some sort of ladder as maybe they could be if they put in 60 hours a week and neglected other aspects of their life?
By putting your head down and barreling through are you potentially not seeing other opportunities that could present themselves if you just sat up straight and took a look around? Does Lean In elicit a totally opposite response like 'recline' because after awhile it's just exhausting? My hope is that people are given the equal opportunities to create the lives that they want, not the lives that they think they should have. To me, that's success.
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Filed under: Random