feminist thesis monster


My thesis topic has morphed into a monster. From an innocent inquiry into how dance could be related to design, I’m now looking at public speaking and presentation. Friday in class we discussed Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer who has a book coming out in a few weeks. I only read the beginning of the Times article while I was in class and what I took away from it was that Sheryl Sandberg was maybe a little bit more of a feminist than I wanted to deal with. I told my professor and classmates that I was uncomfortable with the idea of my thesis becoming some platform for feminism.

Today I was doing research on Sandberg and watched her Barnard College commencement speech from 2011. She is discussing what I believe is the basis for her book “Lean In” by proposing that women immerse themselves in work that they love instead of pulling back to accomodate other areas of their life – like having children or being a homemaker.

She acknowledges, in her speech, that for her audience, having a child and returning to the workforce will likely be an option. I understood that she said this because her audience is a bunch of highly intelligent women at an ivy league school who will probably go out and get high paying jobs. But I also wondered if in addition to their high paying jobs if they will also marry a person who makes bank and therefore, the cost of childcare is a non-issue.

There is a part of her speech when she suggests that women may take less interesting jobs in order to accomodate the future life that they want (i.e. children) but don’t actually have. She says “women almost never make one decision to leave the workforce. It doesn’t happen that way. They make small little decisions along the way that eventually lead them there.”

I was happily only half listening to her. And then that part came along and I nearly choked and did an Amanda-chin out-hand slam onto the table. I am so guilty of doing that! Then I realized I could maybe get behind her as I respect the idea of forging ahead in your career/life until you have to make a life decision. She also said ” I know I need to believe in myself and raise my hand, because I’m sitting next to some guy and he thinks he’s awesome.” And really, that is the truth about most things that I’ve had to do in life.

So, I’m sorry Sheryl, for thinking that you were some old school feminist who had nothing to offer me (or my thesis). Maybe 1% of my change in heart had to do with the somewhat People.com-esque, but humanizing tidbit that she founded Harvard’s aerobics program in the ’80s, wearing blue eye shadow and leg warmers.

  1. I love this! I already find myself guilty of thinking about making those small decisions, if not following through on them yet.

  2. Yeah Julie, it definitely took another person pointing it out for me to have some self awareness that I was even thinking/doing it. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that!

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