"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" is the salty but quaint directive my mother gives me each time I achieve a bit of success that rankles or threatens my peers. It is a good bit of advice and one that can be joyfully applied to achievements big and small when they are decried by the Maureen Dowds of the world.
An ocean of ink has been spilled over the release of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's new book Lean In. Some has been fair, some, not so much. I think that many critics, however well-meaning, may have forgotten why we read books in the first place, which, to me, is to learn. We read to get information, and there is plenty of information to be found in Lean In.
I got up from the sofa after having read it, in it's entirety, feeling more capable and inspired than I had in a very long time. Ms. Sandberg provides valuable insight that comes from years crafting an impressive career. This book gave me tools to shake up my perspective about my professional life and allow me to see the whole board, rather than gazing at my shoes after a year that brought painful changes, upheaval, and perceived regression.
Many critics can't seem to resist accusing Ms. Sandberg of writing a book that applies only to an elite few, that her advice cannot apply to women who are at the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder, or perhaps not even on it. This view is so narrow it makes me rather sad. It assumes that women at the top, women like Ms. Sandberg, arrived there fully-formed. It assumes that women like myself cannot hope to one day lead the corporations we work for. This is a mistake and I am thankful to know better.
Ms. Sandberg wrote a book from the best perspective she could have chosen, her own. Sure, it was a little hetero-centric, it could have had a few more pages on the connection between violence against women in the poorest countries and the lack of women in leadership positions, it could have addressed the issues of single moms and wage earners. It was not perfect. It was not all-encompassing.
But it was useful. It was informative. It started a national debate about a subject that is rarely spoken of in such plain terms and so publicly.
So, Ms. Sandberg, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.