Photo Credit: Time Magazine
Really, Sheryl Sandberg? If I “lean in” a little more, I’ll get ahead? I’ll be able to make millions of dollars, like you? Work for my brother’s company and make my own hours and write a book and still get home for dinner every night to provide my perfect family their needs, like you? Drive a nice car, have a great wardrobe, have people clamoring to tell my story, like you? Really? You really think that?
Because I went to your little website today, and while I noticed that there are plenty of faces of color among your various “experts” on the work/life balance thing, I noticed none of them are middle class women. I don’t think that it’s easy to be a mother at any socio-economic level, I’m just saying that when your money can afford you the luxury of good, quality daycare, schools, au pairs, and other services, you probably breathe easier on your way to work, right? If I knew that I could send my sons to the highest quality daycare/schools that money could buy, hell yeah I’d be all about leaning in. But I don’t have a CEO’s salary, Sheryl. I live in the real world. Oh no, don’t get my wrong, my son is good enough to go to the most expensive preschools out there. As a matter of fact, I got 2 acceptance letters this weekend from two of the best preschools in my state. One costs $18,000 for half day preschool, the other, also half day, costs $17,000. I didn’t get financial aid, so I can’t afford to send my son to those schools. Do you know what that’s like, Sheryl? Do you know what it’s like to see the path to “absolute best of the best” for your children glittering in front of you, only to also have the heartbreaking truth slam you in the face: You can’t afford to send your son there. He deserves it, he’s accepted, but you can’t because there is no way you can make it work financially.
So I have to make other arrangements work, Sheryl. Arrangements that prevent me from “leaning in” more so that I can climb that ladder that you want me to.
By the way, Sheryl, I wasn’t born yesterday. And I wasn’t born into money. And I’m not an insta-billionaire thanks to Facebook. And all of the hard work that I did through college, graduate school and, eventually, an urban school are a million worlds away from whatever bullshit you think you are capable of selling. Because my goal wasn’t to be Ann Romney, my goal isn’t to be you or your sister-in-arms Mrs. Mayer, my goal was to serve and to create and to do right and then to give my children a great opportunity for achievement. Because, you see, Sheryl, not everyone is born a shark. Not everyone’s main goal is to make as much money as possible for self purpose. Some of us are born to think beyond themselves.
But you don’t know anything about that. Because when you look in the mirror, you see you. And maybe some of your mega rich friends and your seemingly crazy rich family.
I’m sorry. While you are peddling your bullshit to the world, that some of the more stupid women in the universe are going to buy into it (literally and figuratively), fattening your coffers and feeding your ego, I have diapers to change, and meals to prepare, and preschools (that I can’t afford) to apply to and pray that I get financial aid for, I have a house in a good school district that I need to beg, borrow, and steal in order to buy, I have real world things to do. Because the minds of my two precious sons are just too important to me.
Because holding off on my career to raise my children is not a function of my inferiority, my lack of feminist ideas, my laziness, inequality in my marriage, or anything else you choose to conjure in your head. As a matter of fact, not that you care, I’ve written quite a bit about why I put mothering above all. And don’t think that I’m one of those stay-at-home moms who thinks that all women should stay home. I don’t. I just understand that feminism, ultimately, is about the power of choice. I made a choice based on my desires and goals for my sons in a world that isn’t fair.
Raising my children is the best measure of devotion I can give to my children in order to ensure that they have a shot, through hard work and merit, to get what your children are going to get just because they’ll say “my mother is the COO of facebook.” Because we weren’t born into a world of privilege.
And you know what else, Sheryl, I just want to be clear: I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m privileged to sit here at my kitchen table in the middle of the day on my laptop, knowing that my two sons had a great and educational morning and are now taking a nap. I’m privileged in that I can know that they will have a good and fun-filled afternoon, that they will eat a well prepared and nutritious dinner, and that they will go to bed after having spent the entire day with their mother, who loves them. Not a nanny. Not some daycare. With me. Because I made choices that I decided would be best for them and their upbringing. Do you know how many women who look like me who don’t have such a privilege? Do you know any women who look like me, Sheryl? When you go through your days in your beautiful vacuum, do you take notice of any women of color? Working? Not working? Struggling? Not struggling? No no, Sheryl, I’m not calling you racist. That would be too kind. I’m calling you blind and privileged, a much more damning label. Racist is just stupid. Laughable. Dismissable. But privileged? That’s down to the bone, like a rot that festers and stinks.
I was brave enough to put my children before my ambitions, Sheryl.
Because when it comes to the two little Black boys sleeping in the nursery a room away, Sheryl, I choose to lean in: I lean in to good and safe communities. I lean in to good schools where I’ll be involved and helpful. I lean in to opportunities to enrich my boys. I lean in to feeding them well. I lean in to a stable and happy household. I lean in to being in-tuned with my boys. I lean in to showing them that being a woman is more than cookies and cleaning, but reading and debating and learning and being an intellectual as well. I lean in, Sheryl, to being more than my ego, more than your expectations, more than even my own expectations. I don’t have to be superhuman and privileged to be a good mother and worker, Sheryl, I just need to be my best self.
So Sheryl, I really think that you and your good friend Mama Mayer, should go off and do what you do best: Being trail blazers in the business world. You are quasi-good at what you do (I say quasi- because wasn’t Facebook stock supposed to be worth a lot and then it, like, wasn’t? And I also say quasi- because your friend Mama Mayer is peddling an inferior and outdated search engine. The stocks might have gone up, but the product is still shit). So go be good at the board room. Sit at your executive’s desk and be great at being executive. Just as I don’t want Republicans to dictate to me what to do with my vagina, Sheryl, I’d prefer that you and your insensitive CEO friends keep your dictations and directives out of my kitchen. Try to do that, yeah?
Thanks, Sheryl. This was a great talk.
And by the way, Sheryl, seeing as I don’t think you’ve done any true feminist reading or research: Pushing women into the boardroom isn’t “feminism.” You aren’t rebooting anything. You are playing into the same old game. Feminism is about so much more than money. It’s about choice. It’s about thought. It’s about knowledge, and why some knowledge is valued and some knowledge isn’t. I’m questioning the value of your knowledge, and I’m questioning why your “knowledge” of womanhood, motherhood, and workinghood is given so much credence at this moment. Feminism is not about dictating to other women about where they should be and what they should be doing. Feminism is about respecting the ability of every woman to make her own choices and seize the destiny that she so chooses (and to empower and embolden those women who have not). If you want to be a true feminist, a woman who is helpful, get out of your vacuum, off of your soap box, find some compassion and muster something beyond a book and a website. Go do something with yourself, Sheryl. Go be something constructive.