Grief, Lean In, and Haters

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is best known for her controversial book Lean In, which is all about women in the workplace. Recently, her husband Dave Goldberg, died unexpectedly from a treadmill accident in Mexico. A few articles about her “lean in” mantra as it relates to his death have been published. The couple have two young children, and many of these articles are asking “What will Sheryl Sandberg do as a single mother? Will she still be able to lean in now that she is raising two kids without a spouse?” (Here’s one: (and another: (there’s also one on May 11 copy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that is print-only)

On the surface, these articles seem expected, just fine, wavering in expressing a clear opinion, but there’s a tone in these articles I don’t like. It’s the same tone I hear from women who won’t support Hilary Clinton or do not agree with affirmative action. It’s a tone that asks “What are you going to do now, bitch?” It’s as if people want to see her fail, not realizing that she has already won. Newsflash: Sheryl Sandberg leaned in, with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she leaned in nonetheless << did you catch that tone, that’s the tone?!

She can leave Facebook today and never go back, and because she has made a sizable salary there, her husband’s benefits and Social Security check from Survey Monkey will be more than enough to support her children, and she has sold millions of copies of two books. Sheryl Sandberg leaned in and she will be fine. She won’t fall on her face and fail, because she did the work upfront. No matter what she chooses to do from here on, she has already achieved the American Dream, and sparked a national conversation about feminism and women in the workplace at the same time.

Haters gonna hate, but I hope to see fewer op-ed pieces where women are hating on each other. Sheryl Sandberg deserves a high five, a congratulations, and a hug, not hate. She dared to tell the truth, which is that for every woman who opts-out, she makes it harder for other women to opt-in. It’s not a bad choice, but it is a choice, and whether a woman chooses to opt-out or lean in, when her husband dies, it shouldn’t matter.

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