Sunday Tribune - - GENDER - Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead CHRIS­TINE EMBA

“THAT whole ‘so you can have it all’. Nope, not at the same time. That’s a lie,” said Michelle Obama. “And it’s not al­ways enough to lean in, be­cause that s*** doesn’t work all the time.”

The crowd at her Satur­day night book-tour stop was al­ready hang­ing on ev­ery word, but this line set them alight.

A for­mer first lady say­ing the s-word will al­ways cause a stir, and Obama quickly apol­o­gised – “I for­got where I was for a mo­ment!”

But the ex­cite­ment was for some­thing else, too – a jolt of af­fir­ma­tion. The au­di­ence in Brook­lyn’s Bar­clays Cen­tre, and the younger fans who end­lessly shared and retweeted the mo­ment, felt the de­light of hav­ing their feel­ings seen and recog­nised and their dis­ap­point­ment val­i­dated.

Obama’s ref­er­ence to “lean­ing in” called out Sh­eryl Sand­berg’s 2013 book and the move­ment it sparked. On the heels of the Great Re­ces­sion, the Face­book chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer en­cour­aged young women to fol­low her ex­am­ple.

promised that work­ing harder would lead to in­di­vid­ual ad­vance­ment and to a more gen­der-eq­ui­table econ­omy as a whole.

Ex­cept it didn’t. The ea­ger young join­ers of the “Lean In” cir­cles watched as the num­ber of women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions ac­tu­ally fell af­ter the book’s pub­li­ca­tion, as the #Metoo move­ment ex­posed more in­tractable bar­ri­ers to suc­cess and as Sand­berg her­self came un­der fire for her be­hav­iour at Face­book. It was all de­flat­ing, but re­ally that de­fla­tion is just part of a larger trend.

A gen­er­a­tion of millennials feels let down by our el­ders, ex­perts, in­sti­tu­tions or some com­bi­na­tion of the three: those whom we were asked to look up to and trust in the most im­por­tant are­nas of life. Their sup­pos­edly sure­fire paths to suc­cess (or at least sta­bil­ity) now feel more like scams. We’re build­ing up to a back­lash.

Dis­ap­point­ment in the prom­ises of main­stream politi­cians, for ex­am­ple, man­i­fested in sup­port for Bernie San­ders in 2016 and in the rapid rise of New York Rep­re­sen­ta­tive-elect Alexan­dria Oca­sio Cortez, Demo­crat, in 2018. Her demo­cratic so­cial­ist pol­i­tics are a re­pu­di­a­tion of what es­tab­lish­ment would have us ac­cept. We’re hop­ing she, one of us, will up­end the sys­tem.


MAR­TIN Solveig and Olympique Ly­on­nais’s Ada Hegerberg with the Women’s Bal­lon d’or award. |

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