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Summary

Sheryl Sandberg’s business advice book Lean In was heralded as a defining moment in attitudes to women in business. But for all its commercial success, it proposed a model of feminism that was individualistic and unthreatening to capital.

In her powerful debut work Lean Out, acclaimed journalist Dawn Foster unpicks how the purportedly feminist message of Sandberg’s book neatly exempts patriarchy, capitalism, and business from any responsibility for changing the position of women in contemporary culture.

It looks at the rise of a corporate “one percent feminism” and at how feminism has been defanged and depoliticized at a time when women have borne the brunt of the financial crash, and the gap between rich and poor is widening faster than ever.

Surveying business, media, culture, and politics, Foster asks whether this “trickle-down” feminism offers any material gain for women collectively or acts as mere window-dressing PR for the corporations who caused the financial crash. She concludes that “leaning out” of the corporate model is a more effective way of securing change than leaning in.

©2015 Dawn Foster (P)2020 Repeater Books

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Concise but important

I probably wouldn't have bought this had it not been in the sale as I assumed it's brevity would make it a thin version of longer feminist critiques of (neo) liberal feminism. I was wrong. Whilst it covers some similar ground it is packed with examples of women organising and working intersectionality in their communities. I was pulled up short by her injunction to stop arguing everyone who behaves as a feminist should also self define as one, she's correct, this is far less important than the work being done. There are any number of really useful points to draw on when arguing with dickheads ("why Thatcher was not a feminist!"). I got an enormous amount of education from this short book, well worth it whatever price you pay.