Monday, March 04, 2013

On Leaning-In And Sheryl Sandberg. Or Leaning-Away.

Sheryl Sandberg,  Facebook’s chief operating officer, has written a book about what she calls leaning-in for women who have some power at work, as opposed to dropping out or staying silent, I assume.  Assertiveness, asking for what one needs, and so on.

This book and the associated ideas are a fervent topic of debate in many feminist circles

The reason why I have not written about any of that is that I want to be contrarian is that I've heard  the book is hard to get hold of so I never actually tried to get a review copy.  Also, I'm writing my own book.   Sorta leaning away.

Those are also the reasons why I haven't participated in the debates about the book.  It's tough to be anal-retentive (and lazy) in this fast-moving world, even if you are a  goddess and don't actually eat anything but monsters.*

Anyway. Anna Holmes has written a piece about the problems created by that need to comment on everything at lightning-speed and the fact that the book isn't very available for review purposes.  Or that the time is too short to read the book if it is available, given the 24/7 news cycle. 

Or perhaps because the topic is one of those on which different feminists have opposite takes, given that the vast majority of women in the work force, just as the vast majority of men in the work force, have little power to personally lean in (though men probably have a bit more power in that direction, what with the assertive male gender norm)  and so a book about the need to lean in might offer a gourmet recipe to those who can't afford to buy food.

Or perhaps not.  The point is that what Sandberg says is in the book.  Which is essentially pre-advertised before its actual publication date.  The sales of the book probably benefit from all the debates and arguments, of course.  It's the debates and arguments themselves that get muddied by the scarcity of review copies.

This problem of speed and the resulting inaccuracy is  a topic I face daily because I'm writing on how research on women gets reported, so Anna's piece has wider relevance than just the Lean-In proposal.

And opposed to many other problems I write about on this blog, this particular annoyance does have an easy solution: 

Make it a rule not to publish and advertise some study or book when it's hard to get hold of.  It's bad in the field of research (incorrect results get published and the corrections go by unnoticed because they happen too late) and it's bad in the field of opinion writing if the actual opinions cannot be scrutinized.  The discussion begins with the first mention, and there's no real time to equip oneself with the needed facts. 

Of course those who summarize research or discuss new books or studies must also do their bit and read the stuff.
*The furious rate of the news-as-opinions business makes it really tough to be as slow as molasses in January in one's thinking.  You don't get hired to write on some well-paying (hah!) website but have to keep eating the lower quality monsters in loneliness and isolation.

Why can't I stay serious with a serious topic?  That's probably the real reason why I'm not paid humongous amounts for these words of wisdom.