What To Expect When You’re Expecting Revolution
Sheryl Sandberg at the World Economic Forum, 2011. Image via
From Bitch Media:
[Sheryl] Sandberg had covered for the firm as it, among other ethical offenses, employed a Republican opposition-research that used the time-honored anti-Semitic dog whistle “George Soros” as a way to undermine efforts to hold Facebook accountable. The breaking news led some to wonder: How could this be the same woman who wrote 2013’s corporate-feminist manifesto Lean In, who referred to herself as a “pom-pom girl for feminism” and saw herself as the leader of a “social movement” devoted to helping women assert their worth in a corporate culture that’s never made allowances for the realities of women’s lives?
But the connection between Sandberg the concealer and Sandberg the corporate feminist is no accident. There is a clear link between the bestseller that hectored women to demand more from and for themselves in the workplace and the Facebook executive who ignored warnings about disinformation campaigns infiltrating the network, put people’s information at risk, and then complained about being criticized. Indeed, Sandberg could even be said to embody a type: the gender traitor who works tirelessly on behalf of systems built to exclude, marginalize, and imperil other women. Though the term was coined in The Handmaid’s Tale as Gilead’s justification for the exile and punishment of queer women, the contemporary gender traitor is ultimately faithful not to her fellow women, but to her class status and her fellow corporate titans. At the pinnacle of America’s elite, Sandberg has thrived—but, make no mistake, she herself is a handmaiden.
Sandberg isn’t the only bestselling writer whose malfeasance has recently come to light and, in the process, underlined the connection between motivational advice and questionable real-world politics and professional behavior. The outpouring of news surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against him in September included revelations about Yale Law School professor Amy Chua, author of the controversial 2011 parenting tome Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua, along with her husband, allegedly advised female students interested in clerking for Kavanaugh to be as alluring as possible, and told potential male clerks that Kavanaugh preferred pretty female clerks.
What we need most, of course, is an understanding that individual success and transformative cultural, social, and economic change are not the same thing. I’m still waiting for that kind of self-help book—let’s call it What To Expect When You’re Expecting Revolution.