The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, Cold Magic, Lean In, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack, Feynman.

So I read plenty of books that week, but really, all I want to talk about is Lean In. So some tweet reviews while I get to that. 

The Wind’s Twelve Quarters: UkG, short stories, career spanning, spotty in content and quality but occasional gems. Meh.

Cold Magic: Amazon thinks that this is the same caliber as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. It is not. Disappointing. Mediocre. Sigh.

You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack. Funny cartoons! Weird subject material, odd topics, great humor, fun visuals. Read at the library.

Feynman: A graphic novel that boils down to he had a life and then won the Nobel Prize. An inspiration to us all. Book is not that great.

Okay, so Lean In. Much has been written about this book, and I figured that given that I had recommended a number of the critiques to various people, I should probably actually read the book.

So I read it. And I stand by all the critiquing that I did before, and then some. To summarize a variety of critiques very quickly, Lean In is feminism from the corporate view, not from the intersectional view. It’s just enough feminism to address the problems that Sheryl Sandburg encountered, and no more. If you’re more disadvantaged than she was, you’re not really addressed by this book. And also, the way to fix things is for women to work harder - to lean in, to push themselves more. See the subtitle: Women and the Will to Lead. If women only had the will to lead, this wouldn’t be a problem. Systematic change? Not needed if women just push themselves harder.

The biggest systematic change that Sandburg specifies in the book? Pregnancy parking at Google. No, really - it’s the only one I remember from the book that wasn’t specifically addressed at a problem only Sandburg or another individual woman had. That’s what feminism means, folks! Pregnancy parking!

Some of the book is devoted to advice for young aspiring women professionals. This includes a denouncement of the common advice to seek a mentor and a sponsor - Sandburg points out that this leads to hordes of young women approaching her for mentorship, and not being appreciative when she does mentor them. (Fortunately, she does recognize that the demand for her mentor services come from a stigma against young women working privately with older men, and also from the utter lack of women in upper management.) Sandburg is, of course, entitled to her opinion, but I can’t help but feel that her advice on how to do better on this front, which could be summed up as “be noticed, don’t ask” is a good way for women to be seen and not heard.

One stylistic point: Sandburg often uses anecdotes to illustrate some of her points, and quite frankly, they often illustrate that someone she admires is an asshole. For example, she tells a story about Mark Zuckerberg trying to learn Chinese, and talking to a bunch of Facebook’s Chinese native speaker developers as a way to practice. One of the engineers tries to start talking to him about a problem with her manager - originally in Chinese. He can’t understand. Instead of letting her switch back to English so she can tell her CEO about a problem she is having, he makes her keep speaking Chinese and simplifying. Finally, she says “my boss is bad” or something like that. This anecdote is meant to illustrate the value of being direct. To me, it illustrates that Mark Zuckerberg cares more about learning a language than treating his employees as real people with real concerns.

Overall, I’m appreciative that Sandburg credits feminism, and recognizes that working women today have problems advancing. She also does occasionally recognize her privilege. But still, the flaws in this memoir/advice tome are myriad. Talking about women pushing themselves is not enough, especially when broader systematic issues such as the wage gap, discrimination and the pipeline problem are unaddressed. In fact, it often reads like victim blaming - and that is a a real problem.