“The photographs have been carefully curated to give lie to the brand’s consumer-driven philosophies. They exist ready to be downloaded to illustrate stories about female entrepreneurs who are “bold,” “visionary,” corporate success stories. These chatty stories already populate LeanIn.org’s website: pointers on how to divvy up housework, lean in to your marriage, and first person essays by stay-at-home dads. Absent from the website are stories about poverty reform or child care legislation – stories that might address structural discrimination rather than self-imposed hang ups. Like the stock photographs, they produce a kind of gender norm and prescribe what women should look like now. But visibility’s relationship to “empowerment” is slipperier than that. Visibility can be a “vise,” as Barthes would have it, which locks in the predetermined, preventing us from turning away and seeing competing accounts…
The “Lean In Collection” has moved past the outdated gender stereotypes of Women Laughing Alone With Salad. But its photographs neatly categorize the lives of modern women into a brand-friendly narrative. It’s a best a partial narrative—one in which the messy lives of all women aren’t all present.”
This is basically the core of what bothers me most about the Lean In narrative and, in my mind at least, it’s an interesting compliment to an argument I posted about earlier.
Related: I’m inspired to start Lean In-captioning my FB photos: “Young woman chewing on end of pen while reading journal article” or “Empowered fair-goer poses with fire-safety-cow-mascot.”