bell hooks on the “Faux Feminism” of Sheryl Sandberg

October 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

The great bell hooks just posted an awesome, fiery response to Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in” brand of feminism, i.e. Hey Ladies! If You Really Want to Achieve Gender Equality, You Better Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Patriarchy. Per hooks:

Sandberg’s definition of feminism begins and ends with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. From this perspective, the structures of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy need not be challenged. And she makes it seem that privileged white men will eagerly choose to extend the benefits of corporate capitalism to white women who have the courage to ‘lean in.’ It almost seems as if Sandberg sees women’s lack of perseverance as more the problem than systemic inequality. Sandberg effectively uses her race and class power and privilege to promote a narrow definition of feminism that obscures and undermines visionary feminist concerns.

This is a long but worthwhile read; particularly important is hooks’ emphasis on what Sandburg omits from her narrative — the issue of money (which coming from the half-billionaire COO of an enormous multinational corporation is…striking), the issue(s) of race and class, the issue of patriarchy (the elephant in every boardroom), or even the slightest whiff of institutionalized systems of oppression. Then again, that’s not terribly surprising, since Sandberg directly and explicitly benefits from those same institutional systems of oppression — largely because she refuses to denounce, or even to acknowledge, that they exist. Start making a ruckus about the “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchal corporate world,” as hooks states, and you’ll find you have far fewer conversations into which you have the option to lean.

In her conclusion, hooks states:

Even though many advocates of feminist politics ere angered by Sandberg’s message, the truth is that alone, individually she was no threat to feminist movement. Had the conservative white male dominated world of mass media and advertising not chosen to hype her image, this influential woman would not be known to most folks. It is this patriarchal male dominated re-framing of feminism, which uses the body and personal success of Sheryl Sandberg, that is most disturbing and yes threatening to the future of visionary feminist movement. The model Sandberg represents is all about how women can participate and “run the world.” But of course the kind of world we would be running is never defined. It sounds at times like benevolent patriarchal imperialism. This is the reason it seemed essential for feminist thinkers to respond critically, not just to Sandberg and her work, but to the conservative white male patriarchy that is using her to let the world know what kind of woman partner is acceptable among elites, both in the home and in the workplace.

Basically, bell hooks is great.


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