As the remembrances poured in for Margaret Thatcher, a trailblazing female politician who once called feminism "poison," in came the #LeanIn references from Silicon Valley to Fox News about the former British Prime Minister and "the fact that Thatcher embodied the 'Lean In' culture," even though she didn't. Since the publication of Sheryl Sandberg's "feminist manifesto" last month, the book's title has taken on a life of its own, no longer encapsulating what her movement is about so much as loosely translating to "women doing things." Yes, Lean In is now a full-blown meme, which is both good and bad for the Sandberg camp.
Along with Thatcher, the following women and/or things have "leaned in" of late: Barbie, traildogs, Anna Wintour, cats, Chelsea Clinton, and Peggy Olson, the fictional character on Mad Men. And that's just if you scan the headlines. The buzzwords have also transformed into a punch line for bad jokes. Here's AllThingsD writer Lauren Goode "leaning in" to aging on her birthday:
In the context of Sandberg's specific prescriptions, none of these uses of her term really make sense. Her book outlines very specific ways women should "lean in" to work life in order to enjoy home life as well — by negotiating for raises in a specific way, for example. Or just having the types of conversations that might benefit mothers in the workplace. It's a certain brand of feminism that puts the onus on women to change things not just for themselves but for other women. Thatcher wanted nothing to do with feminism, or a greater cause for women. (Though, neither does Marissa Mayer — and she has her own Lean In story page.) While Peggy is awesome at her high powered job, she doesn't understand other women nor does she care to, as Jen Doll explained in her Atlantic Wire "Mad Women" recap this week. Succeeding in a male dominated field does not a Sandberg feminist make.