Recently two remarkable women have been in the news promoting their books. Both women are brilliant, hardworking, dedicated, focused and very accomplished. They have much in common – but it appears that they have very different world views. They hold opposing philosophical belief systems.
One woman is the COO of Facebook. She is a beautiful, politically well-connected Harvard graduate. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean Foreword: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has stirred up some controversy. Why is it considered a good thing to ‘lead’? Does that view promote a self-absorbed and narcissistic life style? The implication of that statement, on the front cover, is that if some should lead, some should follow. Really? Who should the followers be? Why should they follow? Are they inferior? Is endorsing a pecking order in our culture a good thing? Isn’t this why we have a ‘bullying’ problem in our schools? Maybe we already have too much prejudice and ‘one-upsmanship’ in schools, the workplace, and society in general.
We should be moving our culture in the opposite direction. We should be more inclusive, not less. End elitism. End the thinking that promotes… my team is better than your team, my kid is smarter than your kid, my wife makes more money than your wife, my car is newer than yours, my house is bigger than yours.
Since the Feminist Movement began, there has been a steady stream of books advocating for the rights of women in the workplace. Most advance the theory that serving a corporation should be the goal. This is just one more book to add to the pile.
That is not the only problem with the book. The controversy is not about whether or not women should have equal rights at work. That debate ended years ago. The controversy is because the discussion seems to so often trivialize the ‘other’ work that women do. Is the care and nurturing of children and families really a bad thing for society, while at the same time the care of and dedication to a corporation is a good thing? Should we devalue the work that teachers do? They teach and nurture children. Why is that same work devalued when done by a mother who is home-schooling her children?
Should success be measured only in dollars and cents? Must everything always be measured in terms of money? Are there other kinds of success? Is having a preferred parking space the only goal that validates a woman? Does having the corner office with the large windows elevate a woman or man?
Then there is the other woman, Jody Williams. She has worked non-stop for years. Her main focus has been on saving lives by the elimination of land mines. In 1997 she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for her work. She probably will never have a corner office. Many will never hear of her.
She has an amazing long list of accomplishments. None can question her dedication to making the planet a safer and more peaceful place for all. Her book is titled, My Name is Jodi Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize.
In a March 10, 2013 interview, by Brian Lamb, on C-Span 2 – Book TV, Williams made a statement that is rare. When asked about the source of her motivation, she did not mention money or prestige. Pausing only a split second to answer, Williams said that it was a call for Justice that motivated her. Of course, Willams’ watchers already knew that, but it was truly inspiring to actually hear a US citizen make that declaration publicly and openly.