Even though many advocates of feminist politics are angered by Sandberg’s message, the truth is that alone, individually she was no threat to feminist movement. Had the conservative white male dominated world of mass media and advertising not chosen to hype her image, this influential woman would not be known to most folks. It is this patriarchal male dominated re-framing of feminism, which uses the body and personal success of Sheryl Sandberg, that is most disturbing and yes threatening to the future of visionary feminist movement. The model Sandberg represents is all about how women can participate and “run the world.” But of course the kind of world we would be running is never defined. It sounds at times like benevolent patriarchal imperialism. This is the reason it seemed essential for feminist thinkers to respond critically, not just to Sandberg and her work, but to the conservative white male patriarchy that is using her to let the world know what kind of woman partner is acceptable among elites, both in the home and in the workplace.
bell hooks talks about Lean In as the antithesis of revolutionary feminism. She argues Sheryl Sandberg has offered a masculine vision of success that is measured by material gain and fitting in with dominant White male corporate culture. hooks argues while Sandberg may have some semblance of feminist spirit guiding her philosophy, she is not an advocate of feminist politics. People want a “positive” story and individual exceptionalism; they don’t want to hear about the obstacles that minorities face in everyday life. They don’t want to hear that people like Sandberg get ahead by fitting in to their environment and bending to the existing structure, rather than fighting against it actively.
hooks argues that Lean In is aimed at a very small, White group of already successful women, rather than presenting a model for altering the system to allow diversity to flourish. Click below to listen.
Read bell hooks expand her argument on why “powerful White male-dominated mass media” gave Sheryl Sandberg so much attention.