What does it mean to “lean in”?
According to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, “If you are leaning in…you’ll seize the opportunity to be promoted to the next level even if the chance comes when you have small children and you might have a tougher time juggling work and family in your new role.”
The phrase first appeared in Sandberg’s 2013 publication, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and has caused quite a stir ever since. The book attempts to guide women toward having a successful career while also enjoying a family life — and working overtime to make both things happen. Most people are of the opinion that this mindset denotes privilege that is only available to high-level, corporate white women.
One woman who feels the “lean in” mantra doesn’t apply to her or her own situation is former First Lady Michelle Obama.
“It’s not always enough to lean in because that sh-t doesn’t work all the time,” said Ms. Obama to a sold-out crowd at the Barclays’ Center in Brooklyn, New York.
I agree. 'Leaning in' was only for the privileged' Sheryl Sandberg saga shows it's time to lean out of corporate feminism | Arwa Mahdawi https://t.co/edoZwaZfHB
— Red Crane (@MissRedCrane) December 1, 2018
— Brittney Oliver (@Britt_S_O) December 3, 2018
“‘It's not always enough to lean in, 'cause that [expletive] doesn't work all the time,’she remarked, referencing the book and mantra created by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.”
My FLOTUS keeps it 💯 https://t.co/Enu6JfxWmy
— ℝ𝕒𝕤𝕙𝕠𝕟𝕒 (@Rashona) December 2, 2018
That Lean In shit doesn't work because it's rich, powerful women leaning in to a corporate culture stacked against all but the most powerful, ruthless women in it. And even those women struggle unless they are Sheryl Sandberg-level ruthless + amoral https://t.co/l4HO8tsJ8O
— Sara Flocks (@saraflocks) December 2, 2018
— Giselle J. Phelps (@GisellePhelps) December 2, 2018
The crowd lost it a bit, laughing and applauding. “I forgot where I was for a second!” said Michelle Obama.
— Deirdre Bardolf (@deirdrebardolf) December 2, 2018
michelle obama publicly dragging the concept of leaning in has given me the validation to get through this week pic.twitter.com/BOsKzVoQ6t
— eel notyep (@peyIRL) December 3, 2018
“It ain’t always about leaning in because that shit doesn’t work all the time either.”- Michelle Obama at the #IAmBecoming show in Brooklyn
— Jozen (say Joe-Zen) (@jozenc) December 2, 2018
As I have said over and over. You can’t always be “leaning”. There will be days and times that are less than perfect and not balanced. How do you get through? Figure out what you can do and find what you are passionate about. And breaks are ok too.https://t.co/A3xE7y9t9q
— Kara Goldin 🍓 (@karagoldin) December 3, 2018
People believe the premise of Lean In comes from a misguided place that puts too much pressure on women to act while not encouraging the workplace environment to change.
Please – I always said "LEAN IN?! You kidding me? every woman I know has been leaning in so far and so long they have the sciatica to prove it!" its a about a rich privileged woman feeling the need to preach to the rest of us. #nothankyou
— Paula Froelich 🤔 (@Pfro) December 2, 2018
— Minda (@MindaHarts) December 2, 2018
This conversation won’t end as long as women are expected to balance work and life while also navigating sexist workplaces, depending on the company in which they work. Corporate life is not a one-size-fits-all situation for women, which Sandberg’s book seems to ignore. If the former First Lady can grasp that concept, maybe the conversation will continue past Michelle Obama.