In The New York Times, recent coverage by both Jodi Kantor and Maureen Dowd questioned whether Sandberg’s push—alongside publicizing her book—to form “Lean In Circles,” where women will internalize her precepts, would gain traction. Dowd, using her characteristic snark, homed in on the disconnect between Sandberg’s privileged position and that of most other women in the country and suggested that Lean In is the start of Sandberg the politician.
But both stories got sloppy while making their (reasonable) points, skewing Sandberg’s words or their context.
“I always thought I would run a social movement,” Kantor quoted Sandberg as saying in her interview on Makers, the PBS documentary on feminist history that debuted on February 26. Dowd repeated the quote in her column two days later. Both used it as a shorthand to call Sandberg’s Lean In campaign a long-term goal finally coming to fruition while making her sound a bit airheaded. (The quote was repeated yet again a couple days later in an op-ed in the Washington Post.) But Sandberg’s full sentence, later corrected in the Times, was, “I always thought I would run a social movement, which meant basically work at a nonprofit. I never thought I’d work in the corporate sector.” Kantor’s story also depicted a clash between Sandberg and Anne-Marie “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” Slaughter, describing an alleged fallout between the two women as “the most notable feminist row since Ms. Friedan refused to shake Gloria Steinem’s hand decades ago.” Slaughter has since publicly rejected that depiction.
AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher called out the Times for using Sandberg’s words out of context, and then went on to say that she sees the negative response to the not-yet-released book as a culture clash between old and new media in which “old media” are assuming prematurely that Sandberg’s call to women won’t succeed. “Here’s the thing,” Swisher writes. “[Y]ou can’t really fail before you start, but perhaps that’s just a Silicon Valley thing.”
Despite the issues with Sandberg’s arguments and subsequent back- and counter-backlash, Lean In remains worth a read. Sandberg comes across as intelligent, open-minded, and passionate. She puts her own advice to use in the book, positioning herself among all women and imparting her advice with appealing humor. And she speaks from deep experience about how things work within the halls of power, a valuable peek into a world whose corridors are still closed to most women.