The F Word Discussion

Have you ever read a book for pleasure only to discover it had a homework kind of vibe to it? That is how I felt when reading Lean In.

Lean In

What kept me going was the fact tat it was only 175 pages. Since I’m not in grad school, I didn’t have to read the 50 pages of footnotes.

I agreed with most of what Sheryl Sandberg said, disagreed with some, and was frustrated by her ultimate message that women should sit at the table except when they shouldn’t. The exceptions to the rule seemed arbitrary to me.

Part of the reason I waited for my turn in the library queue for this book was my quest to feel strongly about women’s issues. It all started by being motivated by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Since then, I have tried to be inspired to volunteer for women’s issues. I even went to an American Association of University Women meeting. Only then did I discover that their priorities were not my own.

I have no idea where I stand on the “feminist” label. Do I think that 51% of the population should be discriminated against because of their gender? No. That’s pretty much as far as I go on the topic.

In thinking about it, though, I think the reason I was so drawn to The Feminine Mystique was its historical significance and how true much of it still sounded. I learned in Lean In that Betty Friedan refused to work with or even shake the hand of Gloria Steinem. Immediately my mind drew the parallel to the Civil Rights movement. There was only one meeting of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

Martin Luther King Malcolm X

Dr. King was afraid that the radical nature of the Nation of Islam would damage the equality cause as a whole. It was the same concern in the feminist movement.

What bothered me most about Lean In is that I don’t want to be in a job where I am still working on vacation. I don’t see myself as committing my life wholeheartedly to any job like that. For me it has nothing to do with the “feminist” label; it is a matter of not having any job hijack my entire life.

Despite the fact that I will not be taking the issue to the streets myself, I thought Independence Day was the perfect for being appreciative of the women who did fight the battle (and those that continue to fight to maintain the rights already won) that have given me the choices I have today. Without the right to vote, reproductive freedom, the legal right to equal pay for equal work (whatever your opinion on where that stands today), I wouldn’t be able to have the life I have, especially since I don’t handle blood well, and I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. I am grateful for the pioneers who fought, often silently, to expand the world of women beyond the scope of the household and reproduction for those that choose that path.

10 thoughts on “The F Word Discussion”

  1. Feminism means so many different things to so many different people. I will, too, say that I am grateful for the people who fought and fight for our equality.


    1. I agree that the feminist label has taken on so many different definitions, not all with a positive connotation. There were (and are) a lot of brave women and men out there who have made great strides for equality.


  2. Read the Friedan in college…I found it both intriguing and eye-roll inducing at the same time. It’s not that I don’t support women’s rights, but I definitely don’t think I fall into the category of card-carrying feminist. Like Heather said, there are many ways to interpret it. Perhaps it is different for each one of us – and so, yes, completely timely on a date like Independence day where we celebrate such principles.


    1. I think Friedan would have fallen upon deaf ears when I was in college. I wasn’t ready to hear that message, even though that is when I needed to hear it most.

      I wish the label feminist wasn’t so divisive! I keep trying to find a way that it would fit me, yet I can’t seem to make it work.


  3. What a thoughtful post. I haven’t read either book – although I’m familiar with both. I guess that, in itself, speaks to where I stand on the feminist box. Yes, yes, I should do more. I try to be a strong woman myself, and to have raised strong daughters. I think we start in our corner of the world and work out from there.


    1. I hate that feeling that I should do more. I have it, too. Yet, when I think about it, it really doesn’t float my boat. At least you have heard of the works and understand their message. One of my friends on Facebook recommended that I also read “The Beauty Myth,” which was written early 90s but is still very true today. I’ve got it in my library queue now. I feel a follow up post in the future.


  4. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of books that feel too much like homework either. I have to admit that I haven’t read either book although the Feminine Mystique is on my reading list for its historical importance.

    It’s always interesting to see what’s going on in the world of the feminist movement because I don’t get into it all that often. It makes sense that there would be opposing viewpoints on what it is.


    1. When Feminine Mystique makes it to the top of your list, I think you will be amazed at how much it still holds true today. You will also be able to see why it make such an impact that we are still talking about it 60 years later.


  5. I also hate reading books that end up feeling like homework, even though I do it fairly often.

    Lean In looks like a book that my husband would read, which is a great indicator that it will not appeal to me. Your line that confirmed this is here:

    “What bothered me most about Lean In is that I don’t want to be in a job where I am still working on vacation. I don’t see myself as committing my life wholeheartedly to any job like that. For me it has nothing to do with the “feminist” label; it is a matter of not having any job hijack my entire life.”

    So the book is about being a mother, then? 😉 Seriously, feminism has a terrible connotation these days; I feel like it’s not taken seriously by most of the world.

    I agree with Barbara. We each have a responsibility to live our lives with strength and purpose, and to encourage others to do the same. If there are roadblocks, we try and remove them. Others will thank us, and follow. We do enough when we do something.


    1. I am impressed that you would regularly read books that feel like homework … unless you are in school! I simply refuse to force myself any more. This book was vaguely interesting, but had it not been so short, it would have been cast aside like so many before it.

      I like your take – We do enough when we do something. I have always strongly encouraged my little sister in her pursuit of science as a career (she’s writing her dissertation now).

      I think some of the actions of N.O.W. really harmed the label of “feminist” – i.e. telling all women that they should self identify as lesbians until lesbian rights were granted. Things like that make people pull away.


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