Leaving the table at the empowerment lunch

Joan Didion, a female author who is not a feminist (and has at least the integrity to say so), summed up the sentiment of her class when criticizing the women’s movement. In her essay “The Women’s Movement” she suggests women just get a different job, find a different doctor, or go to a nicer hotel, if they faced discrimination for their gender. These are the women who would actually benefit from “Lean In,” the tutorial on how women can succeed at work by overcoming internal obstacles like fearfulness. It was a bestseller. The author Sandburg describes this as a lack of confidence, but “Leaning In” will only work if you can make demands with the reasonable expectation that they will be met. Most women, most people, don’t have that sort of agency. Sandburg has leverage, that’s the part that never gets mentioned in book reviews and empowerment lunches. Before you start making demands, you have to be able to leave.

(Later in that collection of essays, Didion also writes about having her hair criticized by a doctor while seeking care for debilitating migraines.)


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