Much has been made of Sheryl Sandberg’s book and exhortation to “Lean In”.
Funny thing is, my husband and I, many times, have talked about Leaning In – a Buddhist teaching. You lean in to the sharp points – when things get rough, instead of running away or trying to cushion them, you face them head on. You face the difficult times. You don’t give up or hide, you see that sharp point coming at you and lean in to it, get through it faster.
“But Sheryl Sandberg/Marissa Meyer/fill in the blank has so much more money than I do! She has a nanny. She grew up in a privileged home.”
The ability to lean in, to fight for women’s rights – suffrage, the right to work in any job in any field – these have always been the realm of the privileged. Because the privileged have traditionally been the ones who can fight for equality because they’re not so busy trying to make sure their children have food that they don’t have time to do anything but work three jobs.
Sure, the privileged in the 1800s, when Susan B. Anthony was fighting for suffrage and the abolitionist movement, was a bit different than today. But Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s dad was a lawyer, Congressman and New York state Supreme Court Justice. The women who led the movement in the 1960s, most notably Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, while not wealthy, also were not impoverished.
But you know what? Anyone who wants to succeed needs to lean in. Success doesn’t come easy. Do women have more hurdles to leap than men? Much of the time, yes.
I wonder what the feminist greats of the last 200 years would think if they heard women complaining that they shouldn’t have to give up family or personal time or something else to have the same chance in the workplace as a man.
These women often sacrificed everything for their mission. They didn’t have children; they didn’t marry; they were sent to jail; they dedicated their lives to the struggle. We’ve come a long way, baby, but we ain’t there yet. Just because it’s easier today than it was 100 years ago doesn’t mean it’s easy yet.
Is it fair? Of course not.
No one said life was fair.
Still, it’s more fair for us than for
- women gang-raped and then ostracized in India.
- rape victims forced to marry their rapists in Morocco.
- women in Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to drive.
If it’s not fair, work to change it.
If it’s hard to work to change it, do it anyway.
When times get tough, lean in to those sharp points. Or, at least, don’t get mad at the women who do.
Photo by Kraemer Family Library via Flickr Creative Commons.