Are you leaning in? Doing something with the New Feminism


yI’m a feminist. Never had a problem saying that, even in the 90s when it was all about Nuts and you said that at peril of being laughed out of court or ignored.

Go me!

But what does that mean in practice? You probably already have an idea of me as strident and opinionated and defensive just because I said that I was a feminist. But in reality, all feminism means is that you believe that men and women deserve to be treated equally – so if there are two people who are equally as intelligent, with the same responsibilities, achieving the same things they should be paid the same  for example. Seems fair right? If it was two men then we would be astonished if they were, unfortunately that situation usually relates to a man and a woman and if one is paid less it will invariably be the woman.

For a while now I think that society has been sitting back, happy with the progress that has been achieved for women, trying to move away from the strident aggressive view of feminism back towards a softer and more malleable view of women. And let’s be clear, woman have been just as guilty of that as men. Here’s a quote that I believe sums it up…

My classmates and I believed that the feminists of the 1960s and 1970s had done the hard work of achieving equal opportunity for women. Now all we had to do was seize those opportunities. Sheryl Sandberg

But the tide is changing, there is more discussion, more questioning, more “Hang on a minute, we thought we  were supposed to be in positions of power, earning equal money, something is going on….”

And there are women who actually are in positions of power saying “Hang on a minute, why was it so hard to get here and where are all the other women?” One such is Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook. Her contention is that one of the issues is that women habitually “lean out/away” instead of Leaning In or engaging with the difficult situations or challenging opportunities that the business world can throw at you. So she has written a book and started a community www.leanin.org. The idea is that women form small groups to support each other in the work environment to encourage each other to lean in. But more than that it is to understand the environment we are dealing with – innate prejudice from both women and men towards women, different work and negotiation styles, the expression of and the ability to take power and so much more.

I would urge you if you are woman to take a look but also if you are man. There is stuff here that is useful to us all. The New Feminism is about fairness as it always was but it’s about taking a deeper look at ourselves and understanding the more subtle issues underneath which are affecting the environment. And it’s inspirational. And fascinating.

GO you!

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2 thoughts on “Are you leaning in? Doing something with the New Feminism”

  1. Being a man, I have to tread carefully here…
    but could feminism be in the midst of an identity crisis?

    The reason some may feel that the movement needs to be re-labelled as ‘New Feminism’, may stem from the fact that society has changed.

    The pay gap between men and women is narrowing (although slowly – it has take 55 years to reach 13%) and standards of living overall are improving. This broadens access to education, which in turn, promotes the homogenisation of opportunities and the dismantling of traditional stereotypes.

    But this new global society is uneven. In rich countries the struggle seems to gravitate around pay equality and the breaking down of gender stereotypes, whereas in the developing world, women are fighting for far more basic rights notably; education, freedom speech and the right to self-determination to name but a few.

    This divide means that the movement may be torn between the desire to be more inclusive and moderate in the richer countries, whereas, in the poorer and often far more unequal societies, it must sometimes make a show of force and is some cases even, become a militant reformist…
    (Google Sampat Pal leader of the Gulabi gang, for a colourful example of the latter).

    1. I think that feminism is not so much in an identity crisis – it knows what it wants to do and be both in the west (re-visiting our actual status, challenging the way we have retreated from this issue in the last 15 – 20 yrs etc) and in less female friendly societies (a more fundamental challenge to the basic status of women as you point out) – as a period of waking up. In the West we are waking up to the fact that we have let the arguments slip, confident that we had achieved all that was needed. In more repressive societies women are waking up to the fact that there are different ways to be, inside their own traditions, and that they now have the power and the influence to do something about it, whether that is because they now have the money or because if they act the world will listen (via the internet etc).

      Essentially we are labelling the same thing in a different way.

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