Lean For Yourself

“I have a confession to make. I cannot get into the book of the moment, Lean In. I tried and I really wanted to. I even signed up to participate in a book club I’m not regularly involved in so I had an excuse to put it at the top of my to-read pile.

When I found myself rolling my eyes throughout the first chapter, I knew I was in trouble. Still, I decided to stick with it. I’ve read books before where I wasn’t completely hooked from the beginning. But I just couldn’t do it.

And yet I wanted to like it so much. I wanted it to be a book I tore through. That I thought about when I wasn’t reading it and wondered when I would get the next chance to pick it up again. Instead what I felt was that I had read all this before. What was being said I had learned, years ago in college in a women’s studies course. How was this material I was reading printed in 2013 and so dated?

Reading the book I felt like I’ve failed. That by not liking the book I was a con to women today. To my generation. All over my facebook feeds are links from the Levo League and women bloggers urging me to “lean in”. There had to be something to all this hype. I pictured myself going into this book club meeting and being the only one who would say, “I didn’t care for it.” I could already feel each set of eyes digging into me in disbelief.

I consider myself a feminist-type. I side with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Hillary Clinton is one BAMF. I don’t perceive much of anything to be off-limits to me as far as getting what I want. Career wise or other.

It’s not that it’s necessarily a bad book. It has valid points and information that women (and men) should be aware of. Which is why it’s so peculiar to me as to why I didn’t care for it. Earlier this summer I read the book, Why Have Kids by Jessica Valenti and I raved about it about outdated stereotypes that to this day plague women. I talked about it for days. On Facebook, Twitter, to my co-workers. To my sisters. To the guy at a Chicago toll booth. To anyone that would talk to me, really. It was fun, smart, insightful, thought-provoking. Everything I should find Lean In to be.

What I found Lean In to focus on was women on the corporate side of life. Women CEOs and company higher-ups. How it’s still a man’s world and women don’t even have a bathroom designated to them on the top floor. I get it. It sucks. It should change. It’s not right.

But climbing the corporate ladder is not what’s important to me. Reading about going to a lean in group meeting felt like work outside of work.. My lean in groups involve a few bottles of wine and some good friends who listen to me bitch about my frustrations and cheer with me on my accomplishments. No need for an agenda.

I don’t have any desire to run an empire. To be a CEO. Yes, I understand that women on average still make an inexcusable amount of money less than men and yes that should change. Still,I don’t let my salary dictate my success or define me as a person. Male or female.

I’ve heard this all before. That growing up we’re all subliminally pushed into gender roles. Blue and pink. Trucks and dolls. This isn’t brand new information.

When I read about how Sandberg burst in on her employer and demanded designated pregnancy parking I thought, “good for her”. In the book she says something along the lines of maybe that’s what we need to do. Be vocal. I agree. Months earlier I did the same thing and went to my manager and fought my case for a raise. Four months later I won. And yet when I read that I thought, “duh”. Are women not trying to get what they want? That’s all it is when it comes down to it. You want something? Do it. Get it. Ask for it. Don’t let status quo and society lead your life for you. I’m a big believer in putting yourself first. Because really, if you’re not happy and you’re not making yourself happy what else in life do you expect to run smoothly?

So I’m not Sandberg’s key demographic. I thought I was, I wanted to be but I’m not and that’s okay. It doesn’t make me a traitor to women either. I like that the book has become so popular over the last few months. I like that it’s going to get a bunch of people reading who usually don’t. And I like that it’s going to open some doors, start a conversation and spur some thoughts. But if it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

You can read more from Ashley Horning on her blog.

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