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Editors’ Note: Though some of the fanfare surrounding Sheryl Sandberg (of Facebook and Lean In fame) has died down, Sandberg is back with her neoliberal feminism, or what bell hooks describes below as “faux feminism.” After weeks of traveling the nation hawking books (and thousands upon thousands sold), amid endless celebration, debate, and criticism, Sandberg and her corporate feminism seek to cover even more territory.
From this perspective, the structures of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy need not be challenged.
We were far more likely to hear that we are living in a post-feminist society than to hear voices clamoring to learn more about feminism.
This seems to have changed with Sandberg’s book Lean In, holding steady on the Times bestseller list for more than sixteen weeks.
Those of us who have devoted lifetimes to teaching and writing theory, explaining to the world the ins and outs of feminist thinking and practice, have experienced that the primary audience for our work is an academic sub-culture.
In recent years, discussions of feminism have not evoked animated passion in audiences.
These thinkers insisted that everyone acknowledge and understand the myriad ways race, class, sexuality, and many other aspects of identity and difference made explicit that there was never and is no simple homogenous gendered identity that we could call “women” struggling to be equal with men.
In fact, the reality was and is that privileged white women often experience a greater sense of solidarity with men of their same class than with poor white women or women of color.
Ironically, Sandberg’s work would not have captured the attention of progressives, particularly men, if she had not packaged the message of “lets go forward and work as equals within white male corporate elites” in the wrapping paper of feminism.
In the “one hundred most influential people in the world” issue of Time Magazine, the forty-three-year old Facebook COO was dubbed by the doyen of women’s liberation movement Gloria Steinem in her short commentary with the heading “feminism’s new boss.” That same magazine carried a full page ad for the book Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead that carried the heading “Inspire the graduate in your Life” with a graduating picture of two white females and one white male.
All over mass media, her book Lean In has been lauded as a necessary new feminist manifesto.
Yet Sandberg confesses to readers that she has not been a strong advocate of feminist movement; that like many women of her generation, she hesitated when it came to aligning herself with feminist concerns.
In our defense, my friends and I truly, if naively, believed that the world did not need feminists anymore.