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Gender Trouble:
On Sandberg, Slaughter, and Female Self-Sabotage

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“I do not wish [women] to have power over men, but over themselves.”

Unless you live in a cave, you have no doubt been bombarded with chatter — much of it vitriolic — about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.  Perhaps you read the book, or saw her interviewed on 60 Minutes, or watched her on the recent PBS documentary, Makers: Women Who Made America, or maybe you’ve been following this topic since her 2010 TED talk.  Whatever the medium, you know there’s a conversation happening — but you may not quite know what to do with it, if anything.

Sadly, this “conversation” — if we can even dignify it with that term — is dividing women, instead of uniting them in an effort to address the real issues.  Last year, when former Obama official Anne-Marie Slaughter informed us “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” I felt defeated — and now she’s one of Sandberg’s harshest and most vocal critics.  When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer says, “I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist,” it then doesn’t surprise me why few-to-none of my college undergraduates self-identify as feminists: they think it’s an antiquated term for a fight that was won by their mothers and grandmothers.

And gentlemen: think this conversation is just for the ladies? The Guardian challenges that assumption by asking, “Why are men being let off the hook?”  Both men and women fall into gender patterns and traps, and it takes both sexes to shake them up.

In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler famously argues that gender is a social performance.  It’s not innate, but rather something that’s learned and adapted.  This applies not only to why men don’t wear skirts, but also why there’s a wide-scale failure to lead amongst women.

One of the tenets in the Sociology of Style Manifesto states that we believe in “creative self-presentation and conscious identity construction.”  In other words, how do you style your life? Not just its aesthetics, but its structure, philosophies, guiding principles, and goals.  We believe in making choices that challenge the status quo, we are resigned to the fact that success isn’t always popular, and we embrace the possibility of failure.

No matter the season, leadership is always in fashion.  Wear it often and loudly.

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Tell us how you’re fearlessly styling your life in the comments below.

 

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Anna Akbari

Founder / Editor at Sociology of Style
Anna Akbari, Ph.D. is a sociologist, entrepreneur, and “the thinking person’s stylist.” She is a former professor at NYU and Parsons and the founder of Sociology of Style, as well as Sociology of Style services, its image consulting division. A prominent thought leader, she can be found speaking or writing for such outlets as TED, CNN, The Atlantic, Daily Worth, and the Financial Times.
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