Dear Sheryl Sandberg,
“It’s Black and Brown women who sweep the floors after white women break glass ceilings.” (tweet from @WintanaMN)
My workforce and your work force are different. The workforce between yourself and your help are different. There are greater risks to lean in within the boundaries and intersections I have than the boundaries you may have. Tell me, do you allow your interns, babysitter, driver, maid to lean in. Would you understand why they would not? I am not even systematically equal to you who has the privilege to lean in. Why must a woman with power, wealth be the standard of equality. Let us go beyond that, beyond equality. “The anti-feminist discrimination have diminished, but public life, and above all political life, continues to be dominated by competition between men, for which, while society tends towards a feminization of itself on account on the increasing presence of women, the women to aspire to participate in political life are asked to subordinate themselves or be overmasculanized.” -The Passion of Feminine Difference beyond Equality by Luisa Muraro. What Muraro points out is that women too often fall into being equal to the standard of men in order to be understood. Acknowledging the standard of men and trying to become it, rather than surpass it. Why must the standard of a wealthy C.O.O. be my standard, be others as well. What if that is not our definition of success.
You are lucky enough to be allowed into the Master’s House, to move up in the Master’s House in order to try to be equal to the master. But how can other women of color move up if we are not allowed in. Also, why do we assume we want to go in the master’s house and find success through that route? I hope you read The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, in order to understand the point. In your speech you mention for us women to own our success like how men do. That women attribute their success to others where men attribute their success to themselves. Again I say, why must we follow men why can’t men learn to give credit to their success by the help of others. What your brother could have done was attribute his success to you and your friend because you both helped him study. We must learn from each other not only try to become another. The solution is not to become man to be successful, it is not shaming our characteristics and becoming successful with them, not changing it to men’s characteristics.
The Male Gaze is what we women still fall into even when trying to find independence. We look at success through the lens of men rather than the lens of ours. Laura Mulvey’s The Male Gaze touches on how women shape beauty standards according to men. It directly correlates with the workforce. Women shape success and power through the standards of men’s success and power. Through this I hope it addresses the exclusion your talk created. The intersectionalities of women of color, disabled women, and trans women are not in the picture. And maybe yes, they can follow your three step plan however, we forget the stigma that carries within these three women. There are even differences between this group that overlap, that creates a bigger stigma. The three steps you created to succeed lies comfortably to those who have the privilege and do not need to be concern over the stigmas others associate themselves with.
I know your intentions are not to be threatening however I hope you are willing to recognize the differences in women and that many women are not able to follow your steps. We must create a conversation that is inclusive rather than exclusive and it starts by recognizing these dynamics.