I would have never read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book if it were not for YB Chong Eng. Honestly. Even though I am a big fan of books, I always have too much to read, too little time and too much planning.
As it is, I am always reading at least 3 books at any given time. A lot of people say they don’t have time to read. I say, you DON’T make time to read. Not having time is just a stupid excuse. And I hear this from educated people.
Can you stop watching so much of TV? (Anyway these days Astro keeps playing re-runs so I’d rather turn off the TV than watch another episode of some travel programme that’s spliced from previous programmes. Yes Astro, this is a hint. And stop bloody segmenting your channels. Soon, there’d be nothing left to watch. And that RM2 hike in subscription is magnificent. Simply magnificent. Since I have terminated my subscription to The Star and Flavours, perhaps one day Astro’s going to go too.)
I admit I wasn’t too impressed by Sandberg’s book – really, I judge books by its cover. OK, sue me.
Still, I never turn down an invite to contribute. When YB Chong Eng’s P.A emailed and asked if I’d like to join an exclusive by invitation only event for 30 Penang women at the E&O Hotel, I jumped at it. Part of our prep was to read Sandberg’s book which we had to collect from KOMTAR.
Her book was a quick read. I managed to read it in 4 days and at the end, it was a likeable, honest outpouring. She verbalized a lot of the fears and unspoken “truths” many women – young and old – always grapple with.
She doesn’t frame it in a way that “this is what you must do as a woman” which I think is fair. When I met Mariam, a friend who was also attending the Lean In Initiation (yes, that is what the event was called which made me think of cockerels, the village shaman, blood and swearing to be sisters for life thingy), she said it seemed more relevant for women in the corporate world.
Writing a book as the COO of Facebook and writing a book as simply just another woman in the corporate jungle gym (as opposed to the corporate ladder as Sheryl terms it) makes a heck of a difference. She has more clout as the COO of Facebook and people will sit up and listen. Facebook is the new, hot thing. The Facebook fame can and does rub off.
Still, she has opened up a new way of discussing a more empowering type of feminism – one which supports each other no matter if you choose to be a housewife or working wife. By the way, I use the word “housewife” because it is a positive label. A schoolmate on WhatsApp said she preferred being called a “homemaker”, not “housewife”. My mom was a housewife. Is there shame in being a housewife before the politically correct “homemaker” came along?
I like it that she says women shouldn’t leave until it is time to leave. Far too often, we all love planning ahead and worrying over things which may prevent us from seeing the real opportunities. In our Lean In Initiation workshop, we were put into groups to discuss the key topics from her book.
The imposter syndrome was another topic that most of us felt to be so “us”. We always feel that we would be found out and truly did not deserve our success because we were all just ‘faking’ it.
The other one I particularly liked was about owning your success, being proud of yourself and gracefully accepting compliments instead brushing it off, saying “It’s nothing”.
How many times have you done yourself that disservice? I know I have.
Lean In makes me think of how I act and re-act towards myself and other women. It raises the bud of consciousness – conscious of the ways we see the world, talk of ourselves, talk of others.
Lean In opens the Pandora box of unspoken “women” frustrations and accepted norms.
When a woman who is influential and powerful writes about her own fears and fear of inadequacies, she is allowing other women to finally speak up and share their stories.
For sure, the book isn’t anything revolutionary or new. It’s just one woman speaking from her own experience. But sometimes we don’t see the “truth” until someone points it out to us, using her own experiences. It also moves us to do something – to give girls and women an alternate map to realize more opportunities for themselves and making better decisions, without that overarching feeling of guilt.
I am not a mother but I know that my sister feels guilty about not spending enough time with her children. I know my best friend feels guilty about the same issue too. Do men face these guilt-ridden episodes? I think not. I think women tend to over expect of themselves.
I often say, women aren’t as liberated as we think we are. In the old days, a woman worked in the home. These days, women work in the home and work out of the home. Not only do we bring home the bacon, we’re expected to dish up bacon too!
We’re expected to be modest, play nice, act demure, say sweet things and by the way, don’t upset the apple cart. We’re not supposed to exemplify manly qualities. Women are either angels or bitches. We don’t have the middle of the road label.
During our workshop, my friends shared another in-your-face “truth”: they prefer dealing with men rather than women. Women whether as customers or bosses tend to be fussy, tougher and harder to please. Women put other women down. Women are not as supportive as we all think we are – that’s where the bitchiness creeps in.
Think about it. If a man is horrible, maybe he had a tough day at work (poor thing) or he’s feeling a bit under the weather. If a woman is nasty, she’s crazy, a bitch or undergoing PMS!
And perpetrators of this name-calling? Women mostly!
Sheryl Sandberg’s book may not the most earth-shattering revelation – you won’t find anything new that hasn’t been said by feminists before.
But reading her book will raise your own consciousness about how you live your daily life as a woman and how, if we really want to move forward, we truly need to “lean in” and be supportive our own dreams as we support the dreams of other women.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s not a bad idea at all.