Studies in feminist theory at Indiana University make a specific effort to discuss issues relevant to people around the world. The larger critique, which is incredibly appropriate, is that mainstream feminist and gender studies in the United States focuses only on the plight of American women—many of whom live with much more privilege than the majority of the world. To balance this, IU's Department of Gender Studies requires majors and minors to take at least one course with non-Western emphasis.
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and in 2013 she published Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Her book was met with both profound praise and critique—from women. She is, after all, a woman in leadership with significant power. As such, it seems that women should be excited to hear about her tips for success so that we can be just like her. However, her book is more of a self-help book than the feminist manifesto Sandberg herself touted it to be (Sandberg 2013; Taylor 2017). More importantly, it should not be considered the cornerstone of the new feminist wave. This essay will argue that Lean In is a net loss for feminism. I will first discuss the positive impact that Sandberg and Lean In deserve credit for. After, however, I will argue for the negative impact of her book with a discussion of Risman’s (1998) idea of the three levels of gender and the capitalistic incentives behind the marketing of Lean In. I will finish with some ideas on how Lean In could have been better, and how the new LeanIn.org community can perhaps correct some of the book’s mistakes.