Feminism is not a dirty word. In a nutshell, it is a movement that believes that women are equally human and deserving of the same rights and privileges their humanity calls for. It is not about male bashing or hating. Feminism calls for the naming and dismantling of all systems of oppression. Some have dubbed COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg as the new face of feminism. Sandberg’s book Lean In has captivated millions of women and she is taking her show on the road again. But black feminist scholar bell hooks is exposing her faux feminism in a recent article for the Feminist Wire. I must admit that I read Lean In a few months ago because a black female pastor asked me to help her unpack it (and fortunately or unfortunately that conversation never took place). Many career-minded women would naturally want to hear what the female COO of Facebook had to say; what nuggets of wisdom she might share that would help them navigate the corporate world with success. Although Sandberg offers some somewhat good practical advice, good depending on one's context, it is elitist and naive to believe that an oppressive patriarchal system will just give way to one’s gifts and talents because women,of any and every hue, ethnicity and class just "lean in". While one cannot underestimate the power of perseverance (I believe in perseverance), one cannot equally underestimate the power of evil and/or oppressive systems in which the power to hire, promote, and fire rests with misogynist, racist, classist, primarily white males and at institutions that fail or neglect to put in place any kind of systemic mechanisms against those and other isms.
bell hooks writes:
“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....
"Contrast her definition of feminism with the one I offered more than twenty years ago in Feminist Theory From Margin To Center and then again in Feminism Is For Everybody. Offering a broader definition of feminism, one that does not conjure up a battle between the sexes (i.e. women against men), I state: “Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” No matter their standpoint, anyone who advocates feminist politics needs to understand the work does not end with the fight for equality of opportunity within the existing patriarchal structure. We must understand that challenging and dismantling patriarchy is at the core of contemporary feminist struggle – this is essential and necessary if women and men are to be truly liberated from outmoded sexist thinking and actions.”
Read the rest of hooks’s article at http://thefeministwire.com/2013/10/17973/