Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan described the suburban woman as the unhappy housewife. She lacked challenging choices. Her abilities and identities were attached to her kitchen. She could whip up sour-cream-and-artichoke dips in a flash in an up-to-date kitchen with a refrigerator, range and blender in coordinated shades of peach, tan and aquamarine, but you could hear growing laments of discontent as the grrr in the purr became a growl.
The "woman of the house" became a frazzled chauffeur carpooling kids to school, baseball games and ballet classes in a station wagon that Detroit stripped of the wood that once suggested "class" in country living.
While an older generation of women were happy to have their husbands pay all the bills, the younger college graduates grew restless. Intellectual and emotional frustrations were exacerbated by pervasive and thoughtless male chauvinism. The desperate housewives of yore yearned for more, and turned against the generation of stay-at-home moms.
Second wave feminism -- following the suffragettes of 50 years earlier -- pitted feminists against traditionalists. Conscious-raising groups attacked "Mad Men" husbands and their male bosses who seemed to have all the fun, dictating to the women in their lives.
Fast forward to 2013. Kale in Gorgonzola swirls has replaced artichoke dips as the appetizer of choice of working women, who pick it up on the way home at the organic market with a carry-out deli. Liberated women won the fight for education and the right to work at careers previously closed to them, but now, having deserted the green grass of suburbia for the grim concrete of the city, they've encountered a new obstacle. Few get a room with the view from the top of the executive suite.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, wants to change that, to become the Betty Friedan of her generation, tapping into the dissatisfaction of contemporary women who feel stunted in both work and ambition. She has written what could be called "The Male Mystique," eager to shape female psychology in the mold of male power. "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" is about how women must learn to act like men if they want to succeed in business. She exhorts women to assert the aggressiveness that earlier feminists railed against in men.
"Lean In" both animates and intimidates women to ask themselves: "How can I do better?" "What am I doing that I don't know?" "What am I not doing that I don't see?"
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