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A Series of Fallopian Tubes

We’re Getting Gender Inequality In the Worldplace: The Movie

Lean In, this year’s bestseller/cultural phenomenon about women in the workplace, is getting the Mean Girls treatment. By which I mean it’s a nonfiction book being adapted into a fiction movie, not that author Sheryl Sandberg is going to do a dance in a plastic Santa costume.

The Hollywood Reporter writes that Lean In “will not be a narrative of Sandberg’s life”—sorry for everyone who wanted the Facebook COO to get a biopic—“but rather a story based on the book’s themes,” namely gender inequality in our modern working world.

It’s a topic that we care about here at The Mary Sue because we’re, y’know, feminists. Another topic we care about is female representation in Hollywood, and I imagine that the Lean In movie will feature more than just one or two women upon whom the entire burden of representation will rest. Women who work at high-paying executive positions! Women who work minimum wage retail/food service jobs! Women who are just graduating college and are worried about their future! Not just white women of the age and body type that we see so much of in Hollywood. All women.

So I’m sure you’ll understand when I say I’m trying really, really hard to be positive about this movie. But it’s tough. The dread specter of He’s Just Not That Into You and What To Expect When You’re Expecting, both non-fiction phenomenons made into Hollywood blockbusters, is hanging over it. If the script introduces a romance subplot that overwhelms the career struggles the characters go through, so help me God. It shouldn’t, because those two books are more explicitly about relationships than Lean In is (at least from what I’ve heard—I’ve never actually read it, so feel free to correct me POLITELY if I am wrong). But every time I close my eyes I see one of those posters with approximately six different couples gazing at one another lovingly, and I get nervous.

(There’s nothing inherently wrong with romance subplots, of course. Romance happens, and having a romantic drama of one’s own—in a movie or in real life—does not in any way make one weak or lessen one’s value. But there are a lot of aspects to people’s lives, dangit, and somehow romance always manages to elbow its way to the front whenever it’s time for a movie to be made.)

Here’s hoping screenwriter Nell Scovell gives us something new and interesting. Her previous writing credits include some episodes of Charmed, Warehouse 13, and (appropriately) Murphy Brown. She was also Sabrina, The Teenage Witch’s showrunner. Seems promising. Make it more of a Mean Girls, Nell.

(via: The Hollywood Reporter)

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  • Janna

    “Women who work minimum wage retail/food service jobs!”

    Ok, I haven’t read it, but isn’t this book mostly about how women can join the tiny group of executives who receive the bulk of their giant corporations’ massive profits?

  • Dorothy

    Maybe it will be getting the Fast Food Nation treatment? Hopefully with better results.

  • locuas

    she was Sabrina’s showrunner? i loved that show!

  • DonnaBrazileRocks

    Nell Scovell also co-wrote Lean In, so I doubt any of the book’s themes will be lost on her. Janna is right in pointing out that it focuses mostly on more executive/business type people. Sandberg does have the sense to preface the book with a long thing that basically says “Yeah, I get this is mainly the most helpful for people who are as priveleged as I am, but I’ll try to put in things that everyone can benefit from and [theory that more women in high-paying jobs results in trickle-down effect that leads to better corporate treatment of women].”

    I definitely agreed with all of the criticism about classist implications of the book and things like that, but I ended up kind of liking it? It does have a specific audience, but she /did/ make good points and she came from a positive, pro-woman place.

  • Katy

    This makes me really nervous. If done well, it could be an amazing film that truly represents life and livelihood for some women in North America as the book is targeted to middle and upper class women working in high paying jobs. If it gets a bad Hollywood treatment… I shudder to think.

  • Tiger Park

    I wouldn’t hold my breath. “Lean In” was already a tome specifically for and by privileged middle to upper-middle class white women (as it hinges on such women co-opting white male patriarchal attitudes to compete and “work together” with them, aka something majority of WoC would never have the chance to do, and frankly doesn’t actually solve the problem of misogyny/sexism because it inherently adopts the notion that being feminine is Bad), and fold THAT in the Hollywood machine where even THOSE types of privileged women have a horrible time … yeah.

  • Vech2008

    No, it’s not, not at all. That’s the prevailing notion about it among people who are only aware of the catch phrase “lean in” and the context in which it has entered popular culture after the book came out. The book is really really good and anyone who’s read it knows that most of the criticism against it must be from people who haven’t read it because the book addresses all the issues it is accused of not addressing. It doesn’t just talk about women in high places, it talks (using statistics, relevant references and stories from women and men the author interacted with) about all women in the workplace. Women who earn less than what good childcare costs, women who need to work and not just want to, women who make different choices, women who don’t have equal distribution of housework with their parner etc. The book is basically about the challenges women face in trying to stay in the workplace and advance their careers.

  • delia

    i agree with your analysis here and additionally put forward borrow a point i read somewhere (cant remember where): when someone like donald trump writes a book about business, we dont expect him to speak for all men. so why do we expect that of sandberg? i agree we need more books and public discourse on low income women, women of color, etc, but there is something inherently sexist about expecting one successful, visible woman to represent all of womankind, instead of representing her experience and research relevant to her experience. i think it makes more sense to take on the forces keeping out the other women whose experiences need to be heard, rather than tearing down the one voice that got through.