Michelle Obama is getting real on her Becoming book tour.
The former First Lady was discussing the struggles of women trying to have it all, balancing work life, and excelling in every aspect of life at home and in the workplace. “That whole ‘so you can have it all,’? Nope, not at the same time,” Obama said, according to The Cut. “That’s a lie.”
Onstage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night, Obama took particular umbrage at the notion of “leaning in,” an approach espoused by the currently embattled Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her 2013 book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. “It’s not always enough to lean in,” Obama said. “Because that shit doesn’t work all the time.”
The crowd was reportedly quite surprised to hear Obama blurt out a curse word, and she quickly apologized: “I forgot where I was for a moment!” she said. She didn’t take back what she said about Lean In, though, balking at the idea that women can have professional success and personal fulfillment by simply facing their fears and working harder than everyone else. It’s a recipe for burnout and completely ignores the barriers that women of color and in lower economic classes face.
Obama isn’t the first woman to note that the idea doesn’t work for everyone. The Memo’s Minda Harts argued in Fast Company that Sandberg’s Lean In manifesto “ignored the systemic obstacles that women of color face,” while others have suggested (satirically) that some women would prefer to “Lean Over,” instead. At this point, even Sandberg has realized some of her book’s shortcomings. Obama’s statement may be the final nail in the lean-in coffin, so go ahead and lean out, ladies.
Cute moment at Michelle Obama’s book event tonight at the Barclays—she was getting into it & she said, “That lean in shit doesn’t always work!” Everyone freaked out that the First Lady had said "shit.” Michelle, too. She apologized. “I forgot where I was for a moment!” But…
— Touré (@Toure) December 2, 2018