Sheryl Sandberg’s admonition to women to “lean in” to their careers has ignited quite the debate in the media, especially amongst all the rich white ladies to whom she is speaking. As expected, she gets lots of sneering contempt for being a rich white lady, mostly from other rich white ladies, who are just not quite as rich as Sandberg. The not-quite-as-rich white ladies resent Sandberg’s implication that they need to work a bit harder.
Kudos to Sandberg for at least admitting that the real problem with lack of women at the top of the corporate world is that they simply don’t make the kind of effort and sacrifice required to be there. She’s absolutely correct with that analysis.
Where she goes off the rails is by suggesting that women deliberately, purposefully and strategically COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY IGNORE the needs of anyone they care about, and focus solely on themselves. Don’t feel bad about abandoning your infants to the care of poor women, she says. Focus on your career and put those little buggers in daycare for MORE time. Consider it an investment in yourself.
Well, isn’t that precious? How delightful for the children.
Most women see instantly that Sandberg is full of shit and more and more of them are choosing their children and husbands over a corner office, which is a heartening trend. Susan Faludi, who wrote a very famous book called Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, takes Sandberg to task on her views about the importance of mothering, but she spins it in a very interesting, and quite frankly, alarming direction.
In a piece at CNN called Sandberg Left Single Mothers Behind, Faludi lays out a vision of the future that is both depressing and infuriating at the same time.
Our economic framework is founded on women’s subjugation.
The power structure that Sandberg wants to feminize was built to cement the power of (some) men, and on the backs of (most) women, who would not only stay out of the power suites but would make all the power plays possible by assuming every backstage duty, from minding the kids to handling the least glamorous and lowest-paid work. It’s in capitalism’s DNA, and no cosmetic paste-ons at the top are going to change the dynamic without significant change on the bottom.
Faludi goes on to quote Charlotte Bunch, who claims that “class distinctions are an outgrowth of male domination”. Faludi doesn’t appear to have any problem with that statement.
It’s such a clever little semantic trick isn’t it? On the one hand, Faludi and her furious friends acknowledge that power is concentrated in the hands of some men (mostly rich, mostly white) and then they use that as evidence that most women are shut out of the power structure while completely ignoring the fact that SO ARE MOST MEN, and then in a nice big giant spin of the hamster wheel, they declare our entire society to be male-dominated.
IN AN ARTICLE ABOUT A RICH POWERFUL WHITE LADY.
In order to advance the theory of patriarchy, you need to do two things: ignore the fact that most men are just as powerless as most women, and ignore the fact that some women are just as powerful as some men. It’s unusual to see that played out so blatantly, though. How in the hell can you look at an argument like that and not see the flaws? It boggles the mind.
Ah well. So it is.
Let’s look at the rest of Faludi’s article. After declaring that male-dominated society perpetuates class as a means of maintaining their domination, Faludi turns her attention to a large class of subjugated women: single mothers. She has a little moan about the fact that single mothers are held responsible for their own choices, and has a little weep over the fact that in the US, taxpayers are ever reluctant to hand over their cash to pay these women for making terrible decisions.
The U.S. provides the worst support structure for single parents of any economically comparable nation, a recent major study by Legal Momentum found.
And it’s only getting worse, as politicians aim to slash welfare programs, enforcement of child support, child tax credits and anything else they can think to deny single mothers, as they blame them for all that’s wrong with society.
Oh, boo hoo. That’s so mean. Why can’t I have a baby with no means to pay for it? Why can’t you pay for it? What, you’re paying for your own children? Well too bad. Pay for mine, too!
Now Faludi gets to the heart of her vision for the future: why, she asks, can’t women like Sandberg CHAMPION single mothers? Promote them as the ideal vision of what our society should be? Single mothers, you see, are the key to women’s independence.
She is an adult woman with responsibilities who is not supported by a man. Symbolically, she stands for the possibility of women to truly remake the patriarchal structure. That would require a movement built not around corporate bromides, but a collective grassroots effort to demand the fundamental social change necessary to grant independent mothers a genuine independence
Let’s look at this very carefully, shall we?
She is an adult woman with responsibilities who is not supported by a man.
Except for the 47% who receive child support payments. From a man (potentially the biological father of the child, but not necessarily).
And except for the 35% who receive government benefits, which, astonishingly, do not grow on money trees in the fairy garden. Most of that money comes from MEN, who carry more of the tax burden than women, because they tend to make more money than women.
In the UK, for example, men pay over 70% of the taxes collected. So anyone receiving state benefits is most certainly dependent on a man. On all working men, in fact.
Symbolically, she stands for the possibility of women to truly remake the patriarchal structure.
Leaving aside for the moment that the power structure is an aristocracy in which both rich men and women exploit the poor who, are also both men and women, what is this power structure going to be transformed INTO?
Faludi answers her own question:
Consider instead the benefits of a campaign that bore down on the causes behind the negative endings that mar so many single mothers’ lives. It would not only be confronting a problem that affects huge numbers of women, it would be mounting a significant challenge to a system that will otherwise continue to stand between women and full emancipation.
Emancipated from what, pray tell? And now we have the entire point of the theory of patriarchy, don’t we? Women are to be emancipated from the domination of men. Men will contribute two things: sperm and cash. Give me babies and give me money. And then kindly go fuck yourself.
I can’t quite figure out why men object to this. It’s not like we’re going to DOMINATE you, lads. We’re just going to make the most of what you have to offer. Money and babies, money and babies, la la la la la.
That would require a movement built not around corporate bromides, but a collective grassroots effort to demand the fundamental social change necessary to grant independent mothers a genuine independence
Know how to grant single mothers genuine independence? Let them pay for themselves. Let them lie in the beds they have made. You want to have a child without a man’s support? Then accept that you will NOT HAVE A MAN’S SUPPORT.
Why the hell should MEN pay for a social system that is designed to reduce them to strict utilities, unless some woman graciously consents to allow them to be fathers and husbands and yet retains the right to reduce them to functionality at any given moment?
The whole point of the early women’s movement was to ensure that WOMEN were not treated as mere cattle to bear offspring, although that was never the case to begin with. While women were considered the “property” of men, men had the corollary obligation to pay for the upkeep of their “property”. Obviously, that is distasteful and the declaration that women are not property was both necessary and just.
How is it possible that Faludi cannot see that she is arguing for a cultural change that would define MEN as property? The collective property of all women. And how on earth can she imagine, for one second, that men won’t fight back?
You wanna talk Backlash, Susan?
Lots of love,