Alexa Petersen | Jeminist: A Jumbo Feminist
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 01:03
It’s the (midterms) week before Spring Break, the job hunt has launched me and my housemates into a world of paralyzing self−doubt and this column deadline is approaching quite quickly. What to write? I feel like how Richard Gere’s character in “Runaway Bride” (1999) must have felt when he was trying to think of something excellent to write but all he could do was scribble ideas on napkins and try to interview women who ride in limousines. Anyone? Great film.
Despite my various preoccupations, this is a big week for feminists. People have learned that 21st−century feminists aren’t all lesbian academics who wear organic cotton clothing. This is extremely exciting. As many of you know, Sheryl Sandberg, who is the current COO of Facebook, has just released a book called “Lean In,” which encourages women to be more ambitious in their professional careers. Some are really into it. Some are really not into it.
So I ask myself — and this is a vain question, but it is for purposes of thought, so bear with me — what would I do if I got to talk to Sheryl Sandberg? Great question. No clue. I would say, “Hi!” Excellent start. Career Services told me that when you meet someone and they introduce themselves, you should shake their hand, and then you should repeat their name before saying your name. I would try to do all of this with Sheryl, and I would mess up each and every task. Career Services has a way of making you rethink your social skills, causing you to fail at all of them because you’re so busy thinking about rethinking them. After this embarrassment is over and done with, what would I say next?
Let’s be real, the first thing I would ask after my awkward introduction is if she has any job openings. Then, I would chat about her book.
I would say she’s got a great point when she talks about young girls being called “bossy” when they really have leadership skills. She’s right to demonstrate that this is a kind of barrier that is specific to girls, and we should be talking about it.
I would say that I really love how her online portal, leanin.org, has created consciousness−raising circles for the 21st century. Consciousness−raising, where women come together to share their diverse stories and experiences with each other, was a hugely successful mechanism of the mid to late 20th−century feminist movement, and I love the idea of modernizing it.
I would tell her I am worried that the impetus she puts on women to take charge of their own success doesn’t rightly take into account all of the people and systems that bar them from that success.
I would say that, while she can only speak from her own voice, I’m concerned that her voice is so powerful that it speaks for others. And that it silences those who don’t have the same educational and professional opportunities that she has had. Women of color, gay women, immigrant women, women who are not attractive in a way our society has made to be acceptable, unmarried women, women who have children out of wedlock and women below the poverty line all have barriers to their success in addition to the barrier of being a woman.
Lastly, I would say to her that I have so much more to say. But I would leave her with this: With great power comes great responsibility. Extend the “lean in” ideal to outside the professional workplace, outside the suburban home, outside the confines of an Ivy League education. For some women, the barriers to success are too strong for them to lean in. They’ve got to break in — they’ve got to shatter in.