Sheryl Sandberg a Feminist Icon? Give me a Break.

In Beastly & Beautiful, My Feminism by Louisa Leontiades

My ex-husband had a psychological block about giving me flowers and never did so. My boyfriend only two days ago, brought home a bunch of yellow roses unprompted.

But in today’s world of unstable and piecemeal sexual equality, flowers could be seen as an antiquated gesture; in the current economic climate they may be considered a frippery. And yet, my boyfriend brings them to me simply because he knows that I adore them (he sees no purpose in them whatsoever). Men and Women are equal, but no one said we were the same. Despite this long acknowledged fact, every day in the news I see business being compromised because so called ‘equality’ is being taken to extremes. We women are round pegs…and they try to fit us in square holes. Worse still, we agree to it…and then shame others who don’t. Sheryl Sandberg, come on down.

Sheryl.Sandberg-crop

A Woman Winning in a Man’s World, in a Man’s Way

The latest news in the social media world is that Sheryl Sandberg has been made a director of Facebook on a board that previously included only 7 men. No doubt Ms. Sandberg is well qualified for the role and I make no judgement on her suitability and ambition. I that the fact in itself that she was promoted is fabulous. She has made her views on gender imbalance plain and by doing so, inevitably created the opportunity that she has just been awarded (nice creation of your own destiny there by the way, Sheryl) . But this opportunity is the poisonous fruit borne of treading on her own sisterhood. She says –

  1. “Until women are as ambitious as men, they’re not going to achieve as much as men”
  2. “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry,”

Sheryl is labouring under common misconceptions…and I’m rather tired of them. Why is it that someone so intelligent should be so closed minded?

The corporate world was made by men, for men. It seems as if Sheryl Sandberg is one of the 15% that it suits and of the others, I wonder how many have made untold sacrifice of their family life to get there. I am a woman who is above all pro-choice and corporate life simply doesn’t leave room for it. And yet it seems that Sheryl blames women’s ‘failure’ to get to the board, at their feet for not being as ambitious as men… instead of the system. And she measures achievement in terms of professional and material success (I guess her parents measured her worth in those terms).

Personally I like to measure my success in this life by how content I am with my circumstances, how happy my children are and how much opportunity I create for me and those around me (and not only in professional terms). I am no saint, but I have realised that it is impossible for me to be happy at the expense of others. And it is impossible for me to be happy by working 12 hours a day in the corporate sphere. But I am not everyone, and cannot make that call for others (unlike Ms Sandberg who seems to speak on behalf on all women). Blame is an easy weapon to pick as it involves no further action to help another. It’s their fault; yes, let’s blame women for where they are today because 2000 years of masculine oppression has nothing to do with it. Encouraging empowerment and responsibility is one thing, blaming and putting women down, is actually the opposite.

And so onto the second point. Whilst I won’t take a stand on the patriarchal dinosaur of marriage itself in this forum (ok, I couldn’t resist), Sheryl’s sweeping generalisation means that she believes men have to take an equal share of the parenting. I’m sorry, but in many relationships it simply doesn’t work that way.

Relationships are as unique as people (with good reason). We have built our society on the bell curve – at 16 you are mature enough to have sex, at 18 you become an adult and apparently nowadays, the ideal state of a relationship is that both partners must take on an equal share of the parenting. But life is not like this.

We are all on journeys and take on responsibility at an individual rate through nature and nurture. And it’s down to the individual partnership how the parenting is divided (not to mention biological or societal factors). Sheryl and her husband have huge amounts of brainpower, money and opportunity; they are two stars twirling in the Forbes rich list firmament. Good for them. They are unique; they have unique circumstances and they have their own set of choices… like everyone else.