Monday, April 15, 2013

If We’re Leaning In, Is Zuckerberg Reaching Out?

Facebook’s Culture of Misogyny

Obviously, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, reached out to Sheryl Sandberg as she leaned in to her ambitions. The rest of us? Not so much. Facebook’s misogyny is, in the words of sexist extraordinaire Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, “legend—wait for it—dary!” Oh, yeah. Facebook is like an out-of-control party in your virtual backyard, complete with rape jokes and sexualization of young girls. But never fear: there are no pictures of breasts nourishing children. Because, you know, that would be a total buzzkill.

My first thought when I read about Lean In was, “If Sandberg is concerned about women, why isn’t she dealing with Facebook’s misogyny?” This week, Elizabeth Plank has asked that question in her spot-on article, “Why Facebook Needs to Lean In and Fix Its’ Woman Problem.” I love this article because it gets right to the point: while we can’t expect Ms. Sandberg to speak for every woman, it is disturbing that she has not even mentioned Facebook’s sexism, particularly its promotion of rape culture and the impact it has on women. I encourage you to read this article and participate in the Twitter campaigns Ms. Plank mentions, using the hashtags #SupportTrista and #LeanIn.
Zuckerberg’s Responsibility

It’s important to name the person calling the shots here, the one with more power than Sandberg: Mark Zuckerberg. In her revealing article, “Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins From Leaning In?” former Facebook employee Kate Losse, who has written a book about Facebook’s internal culture entitled Boy Kings, says: “…by launching a feminist platform, Sandberg is able to contain the broader threat that a feminist critique poses to Facebook’s business, simultaneously generating more power for herself and her organization—Silicon Valley “revolution” at its finest. This maneuver, as I learned in my years at Facebook, is how the game is played, and both Sandberg and Zuckerberg play it well.”

Woah. Think about that a minute.

Zuckerberg, boy king extraordinaire of a corporate empire that uses sexism as capitalist fuel, hitches a ride on a feminist platform and gets to keep promoting rape culture all the while. So, do I think Zuckerberg is gonna woman up and tell the cadre of Facebook bullies that they are hurting women, who he so values and wishes to lift up?

Why no, no I do not. At least, not without serious encouragement.

Do I think Sandberg is only playing this game, and has no concern for other women? Absolutely not. I think she genuinely cares about lifting women up, and is playing a man’s game by the man’s rules—just like we all do, to survive and to thrive. If, along the way, we can empower ourselves and others, awesome. But we still have to play the game, right?

What we need, my friends, is systemic change. Sandberg has the power to ask Zuckerberg to use her feminist platform to create cultural change, within the company and for the millions of women who use Facebook. But she might not even be thinking in those terms.

The Lean In conversation has shown itself to be open to expanding dialogue and ideas: one of the things I love about it is that it hasn’t been swallowed up by a sound byte. Let us continue to expand its boundaries by asking Sandberg to woman up and tell Zuckerberg it is time for him to woman up, to reach out to those who are trying to lean in to a system that is stacked against us, all in the name of “hilarious” sexism.

Make no mistake, womaning up will take courage—from Sandberg, from me, from you, from Zuckerberg (who is going to face a posse of angry sexists, just as he has been facing angry feminists). From all of us.

But I just know we’re up to it—otherwise, what’s the point of leaning in at all?

By Elizabeth Hall Magill

Read full post here.

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