Susan Faludi has a customarily trenchant piece in the current issue of The Baffler, “Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not,” that explores feminism’s path, from the organizing efforts of “mill girls” in 1834 in Lowell, Massachusetts, to today’s popular brand/seminar/book phenomenon, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, where empowerment can take many ill-defined forms, including breathless paeans to guru/leader/author Sheryl Sandberg on Facebook:
“THANK YOU FOR LEADING THE REVOLUTION!!!!☺”; “sheryl is inspirational! I missed zumba for this and happy I did!”
“The scene at the Menlo Park auditorium, and its conflation of “believe in yourself” faith and material rewards, will be familiar to anyone who’s ever spent a Sunday inside a prosperity-gospel megachurch or watched Reverend Ike’s vintage “You Deserve the Best!” sermon on YouTube. But why is that same message now ascendant among the American feminists of the new millennium?
Sandberg’s admirers would say that Lean In is using free-market beliefs to advance the cause of women’s equality. Her detractors would say (and have) that her organization is using the desire for women’s equality to advance the cause of the free market. And they would both be right. In embodying that contradiction, Sheryl Sandberg would not be alone and isn’t so new. For the last two centuries, feminism, like evangelicalism, has been in a dance with capitalism.
It’s a fabulous and important read. Check it out, then poke around The Baffler site for more eviscerating gems. You might also check out “The Object of the Object,” an adaptation of a chapter from Faludi’s book, Stiffed, exploring changing gender roles in the porn industry, which appeared here on LOUDCANARY as part of the extended online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt, an anthology which also features Lisa Jervis’s excellent related piece about “femininism” and the politics of female self-aggrandizement, “If Women Ruled the World, Nothing Would Be Different.”