Sheryl Sandberg versus Hanna Rosin?

Lean In or The End of Men?

My headline is intentionally provocative (a blogger’s got to get his clicks) but I found the compare and contrast technique of Anne Applebaum rather interesting.

Of Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the will to Lead, she says:

She has indeed done something new: She has written the first truly successful, best-selling “how to succeed in business” motivational book to be explicitly designed and marketed for women. She has done so cleverly, using language intended to appeal to women—“ongoing encouragement and development” as opposed to “battle-tested business techniques.” As part of her pitch to women, she also claims to be telling a larger story about gender and society, about which more in a moment. But this is not a book that belongs on the shelf alongside Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi. It belongs in the business section.Despite her gender, the similarities between Sandberg and Welch or Iacocca, for example, are more profound than the differences. Lean In, like Winning or Talking Straight, is neither a proper autobiography nor a work of journalism. Sandberg has conducted no original research. Instead she deploys autobiographical anecdotes, backed up by social science studies and material from other people’s books. Some of the social science studies are dubious. Sandberg claims, for example, that studies show that “couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex.” Alas, other studies show precisely the opposite.2 But that isn’t the point: this is a motivational tract, not a scientific paper.

Of Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men and the Rise of Women, in contrast:

Unlike Lean In, Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men is very well documented, meticulously researched, and based on the author’s extensive reporting, not her personal life story. It also draws almost exactly the opposite conclusion. In The End of Men, Rosin argues that the real crisis facing America today is not the dearth of women bosses, but the dearth of men at all levels except at the very top.

She then asks this question regarding Lean In:

Once again: would two hundred and fifty female Fortune 500 CEOs make a big difference to American women? Maybe a little bit, with things like pregnancy parking. Would they work doggedly to change American legislation in order to provide better access to child care, early education, and other programs that would make working life easier for women and men alike? Not necessarily. Would they help American men find employment in the changing economy, so they can help support their wives and families? Not very likely. Would they help the women around the world who suffer real hardship solely because they are women? On the evidence of this book, not at all.

Seems clear to me that Applebaum is arguing for less celebrity based inspirational books by and for women and more well researched books and ideas about how to actually address the very real problems men and women are facing.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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