The question has been the focus of much conversation lately, thanks to Facebook COO-turned gender equality advocate Sheryl Sandberg. It began with her 2010 TED talk, which ultimately became a book entitled Lean In, which ultimately became a movement. Sandberg’s message is clear: “A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”
I recently appeared on “Stossel” to discuss the Lean In mission but had little time to expound upon the ways in which Sandberg’s message is the wrong one for women. Or, I should say, for most women.
If you’re a modern twenty-something woman who has yet to settle down, or if you’re a divorced or even never-married woman, Sandberg’s message may resonate. It tends to appeal to women whose lives are career-focused. It’s for women who live like the stereotypical man — or like Sandberg — where work is their primary identity, their raison d’être.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing such a life. To each his, or her, own. If Sandberg’s mission were merely about helping women be more assertive at work, there’d be nothing to discuss. But it’s not. Lean In is an extension of second-wave feminism. Its mission is to radically transform America by selling the bogus notion that gender is a social construct.
Indeed, the leaders of Sandberg’s movement — namely, every high-profile feminist you can think of — are in a long-standing war with Mother Nature. According to this powerful group of left-wing women, women don’t really enjoy babies more than men. And men don’t major in engineering at ten times the rate of women because their brains are wired that way, any more than women talk for hours because their brains are wired that way. These are just examples of how we’ve all been inappropriately socialized. Sandberg & Co. believe that in a perfect world, men would want to care for babies around the clock, and women would want to play ice hockey and become CEOs en masse.
Society is simply holding them back.
Ms. Sandberg came to this conclusion after a number of years in the workforce. In Lean In, she explains that in the early years of her career there were scores of women in her midst. But as the years went on, something happened. “More and more often,” she writes, “I was the only woman in the room.”
Now I’m sure that’s a lonely place to be, but where Sandberg went wrong is that she made the personal political. It can’t be that she’s different from most women! It must be something else. Thus, Ms. Sandberg makes three assumptions about why women choose to leave the workforce or simply scale back their careers.
Her first argument is a typical feminist talking point: sexism. Women just can’t get ahead what with all that discrimination going on. That women have a recourse should they experience such an ordeal — the EEOC, or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — doesn’t, apparently, suffice. That most men are fair, decent folks who don’t discriminate on the basis of sex is another foolish claim. Everyone knows that’s the way men are!
Her second claim is that workplaces don’t offer decent childcare or parental leave. But the evidence doesn’t support this claim. According to Public Agenda, the nonpartisan polling agency that tracks Americans’ attitudes towards social issues, families are not clamoring for more or better childcare. On the contrary, they’re “satisfied with their current childcare arrangements.”
As for parental leave, I admit it’s a nice idea. But a few months or even a year off with one’s baby is actually counterproductive. The more time you spend with him, the more attached he’ll become, which makes the impending separation all the more difficult. You’d be better off removing the band-aid immediately.
The third assumption is the most egregious, for it places blame in the laps of husbands everywhere. Men, says Sandberg, don’t pull their weight at home. “Make your partner a real partner,” she tells women. Yet according to Pew Research Center, since 1965 fathers have tripled the amount of time they spend with their children and doubled the amount of time they spend on housework.
It’s all a smokescreen, this blame game. There’s a perfectly justifiable — and indeed, honorable — reason women exit the workforce: motherhood. Women are biologically driven to care for their offspring in a unique and primal way, and men are biologically driven to produce the means that allow women to do so. This is something to celebrate, not denigrate.
More importantly, this arrangement does not translate to inequality — nor does it mean women drop out of the workforce for good. It just means most women embrace the opportunity to not just have children but to actually raise them. This is a fact that greatly disturbs feminists like Sandberg, which makes it all the more obvious that the problem lies not with men, employers or the government — but with feminists.
Suzanne Venker is an author and Fox News contributor. She is also the founder of Women for Men (WFM), an organization committed to supporting the needs and rights of boys and men. Suzanne has written extensively about marriage and the family and its intersection with the culture. For more on Suzanne, visit www.suzannevenker.com.