Read Susan Faludi on “Facebook Feminism”

Post to Twitter

Unlike so many trite reviews of the “Lean In” phenomenon, Faludi brilliantly contextualizes her critique. Available at The Baffler, excerpt below:

… In 1834, America’s first industrial wage earners, the “mill girls” of Lowell, Massachusetts, embarked on their own campaign for women’s advancement in the workplace. They didn’t “lean in,” though. When their male overseers in the nation’s first large-scale planned industrial city cut their already paltry wages by 15 to 20 percent, the textile workers declared a “turn-out,” one of the nation’s earliest industrial strikes. That first effort failed, but its participants did not concede defeat. The Lowell women would stage another turn-out two years later, create the first union of working women in American history, lead a fight for the ten-hour work day, and conceive of an increasingly radical vision that took aim both at corporate power and the patriarchal oppression of women. Their bruising early encounter with American industry fueled a nascent feminist outlook that would ultimately find full expression in the first wave of the American women’s movement.

Capitalism, you could say, had midwifed feminism.

And capitalism, Sandberg would say, still sustains it. But what happened between 1834 and 2013—between “turn-out” and “lean in”—to make Lean In such an odd heir to the laurels of Lowell? An answer lies in the history of those early textile mills.

The Lowell factory owners had recruited “respectable” Yankee farmers’ daughters from the New England countryside, figuring that respectable would translate into docile. They figured wrong. The forces of industrialization had propelled young women out of the home, breaking the fetters binding them to the patriarchal family, unleashing the women into urban areas with few social controls, and permitting them to begin thinking of themselves as public citizens. The combination of newly gained independence and increasingly penurious, exploitative conditions proved combustible—and the factory owners’ reduction in pay turned out to be the match that lit the tinder. Soon after they heard the news, the “mill girls”—proclaiming that they “remain in possession of our unquestionable rights”—shut down their looms and walked out.

Capitalism, you could say, had midwifed feminism.

From the start, the female textile workers made the connection between labor and women’s rights. …

Share
This entry was posted in Employment Discrimination, Feminism and Culture, Feminism and Economics, Feminism and Law, Feminism and Technology. Bookmark the permalink.