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“Should All Women Heed Author’s Advice to ‘Lean In’?”

…asks Tania Lombrozo over at NPR Books in her review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.  I’m kind of sick of this conversation.  And this question just feeds that already tired feeling.  But as I found myself compiling a response that was well over 140 characters, I realized that perhaps I should address the foolishness here instead…and spare my Twitter followers who hang on my every word about Durham’s best eats.

The answer (although the question really is “can” instead of “should”) is a clear “no”.  “No” because it’s not just about women doing more, being more ambitious- not even for the women like Sandberg who “can” do more, because their privilege (to have a nanny, in possession of advanced degrees, a partner who also works outside the home, etc.) allows them to.  It’s not simply a matter of asking for more, pushing back and digging in her heels for the single mom working two part-time jobs because she still cannot find full-time work. She knows she’s easily replaceable among an overfull job pool of college graduates chomping at the bit for her retail job. She feels lucky to have that minimum wage check in the first place. She doesn’t want to have to choose between providing a roof over her kids head and having to go back to her abusive ex-partner. shutterstock_89875054She shouldn’t have to.  What she does need is the same thing that we all need: large scale social and governmental policy such as paid family leave, universal preschool, paid sick days, equal pay and family friendly initiatives in every workplace (clean, private spaces for breastfeeding moms to pump for example) in place BEFORE anyone advises any women to just work harder.  Most of us are working pretty hard as it is.

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