case you missed it, Rosa Brooks's recent columns -- Recline! and Slack? Nap? Snooze?-- have created quite the buzz. Yesterday, FP turned to Anne-Marie Slaughter,
Julianne Smith, and Mieke Eoyang to get their thoughts on the Recline
Revolution. Today, four others -- Kristin Lord, Suzanne Nossel, Whitney Kassel,
and Ari Ratner --
offer their insights. And even a mantra or two.
Read more from FP on the Recline! Revolution
* * *
Kristin M. Lord:
Women of America: I have seen the enemy and it is us.
Sheryl Sandberg implored us to Lean In.
Tara Sonenshine implored us to Lean Out. Now Rosa Brooks asks us to Recline.
Anne-Marie Slaughter reminds us that women still can't have it all.
Ladies, we are making ourselves, and
each other, nuts.
I suggest a new (if somewhat facetious)
mantra: "Who Cares?"
Who cares if a wealthy tech tycoon has
perfect hair and wants others to be like her?
Who cares if you decide you can't be
PTA president, run marathons, run your organization, and look fabulous all at
the same time?
I have spent the past 20 years working
on security, conflict, and science and technology. Suffice it to say, I have
worked with lots of men. And this is what I've noticed: Men don't spend
nearly as much energy worrying what other people think -- and that may be one
of the secrets of their success.
Many things hold women professionals
back, but women also hold each other back by thinking that what other
women do is somehow a reflection on them -- as leaders, as mothers, and as
Here are three reasons we should care
First, the alternative is exhausting.
It is not possible to live up to the standard set for modern women without
running ourselves into the ground and bringing the people who depend on us
along for the ride.
Second, it is a distraction from bigger
challenges. Difficult issues like flexible schedules and childcare affect
women, men, and families alike. Let's focus on them.
Third, the current discussion is
dominated by people -- myself included -- who generally have it good. Too many
Americans are struggling with stagnant wages and levels of skills and education
that don't make them competitive in today's economy. For all the problems we
encounter, we should remember how fortunate we are.
When we hold each other down,
it keeps us from doing the things that will help other women (and, yes, men)
get ahead -- or enjoying a novel or taking a well-deserved nap.
M. Lord is acting president of the United States Institute of Peace. The views
expressed here are her own.
Sheryl wants us to lean in. Rosa wants
us to recline. The rest of us want a choice -- to lean when we're motivated and
recline when we deserve a break. To win this freedom, we need my mantra: Lean
and Let Lean. By leaning on one another to share information, lend a hand,
ask or give advice, or just sustain a friendship all of us will be better able
to lean in, lean back, and stay up on our feet.
We've heard about the "mommy wars" --
battles between stay-at-home and working moms over who could claim the moral,
financial, and feminist high ground. Yet even in the parental Ground Zero of
Manhattan's Upper West Side, mommy corps seems a more apt metaphor.
The "stay-at-home" moms are the mommy-corps
infantry. They are class moms and PTA chieftains. Us working parents do
our fair share of freeloading, but also run the pledge drive, the PTA
Nominating Committee, and other time-bound and less demanding (and often
duller) tasks. Working parents also tap their networks, employers, and
bank accounts to support the school.
One of my favorite forms of leaning
involves extending a hand to pull a stay-at-home mom back into the workforce
once she's ready. Having tossed out their business cards years before, these
women tend not to be looking for fancy titles or perks. They can work hard and well
as consultants, getting experience that brings their resumes up to date.
Rather than ogling Sheryl's blow-dry or pondering Rosa's
Lay-Z-Girl, we should focus on how to foster and support the leaning that can
allow all of us to both lean in and recline. Workplaces that allow employees
the time and resources to mentor others, schools with schedules that
accommodate both working and stay-at-home parents, and companies that hire
women returning to work can help make the choices and trade-offs less stark.
So lean in when you feel the passion, recline when you need
to breathe but -- above all -- lean and let lean so that if and when you
finally have "it all" you don't find yourself all alone.
Nossel is the executive director of PEN American Center.
In Washington, the "lean-in" mentality pre-dates
Sandberg by decades, with unclear effects on policy-making, and foreign policy
in particular. It's not just the bemoaned "tyranny of the inbox,"
which keeps senior officials treading water in a morass of memos and meetings
so deep they can hardly step back and strategize, let alone recline. But
there's also the issue of self-selection among those who choose to pursue high
level policy careers.
These are major leaners-in (lean-iners?) from the outset,
having climbed the ranks of a field in which the participants are driven not by
financial incentive, but rather a feeling of purpose and duty -- two factors
that make leaning in even more tempting than money alone, at least for
In some cases, "short" stints of two or three
years in a senior policy job may seem like a manageable amount of time to give
up a bit of reclining. Maybe your kids are grown or your spouse is able to
take time off while you grind away 14-plus hours a day. Nevertheless, those who
are offered, and are willing to take these jobs are a very particular kind of
It is very possible we want leaners-in to be running our
country, as they are clearly both capable and highly motivated. We don't,
however, know what we might be missing if we were to include other kinds of
personalities in the mix. The realities of Washington may make this impossible.
There is stiff competition for policy jobs, and those who make it to the top
may inevitably be of the lean-in variety. But it is worth considering what
a few more leisurely thinkers, or doers -- recliners, even! -- might bring to
the policy-making table.
Kassel is the regional director at the Arkin Group and previously served in the
Office of the Secretary of Defense covering Pakistan, Special Operations and
Rosa Brooks's advice to "Recline" struck a
chord with my friends and me -- all of us single guys, most in government or
former government officials. The consensus: Women obviously face particular
hardships in attaining leadership positions and "balancing" work and family
life. (Some that I can barely imagine: I heard Anne-Marie Slaughter speak last
year and was identifying with her description of "why women can't have it all"
... until she started talking about whether a woman should freeze her eggs.)
But as much as I support any movement that
encourages women to "lean in" into leadership positions, this entire town could
stand to "Recline" a little more.
Today, I stand -- OK, sit -- with Rosa. Most
of us privileged enough to have this conversation don't lead lives of quiet
desperation. We lead lives of manic desperation -- constantly maneuvering,
incessantly accumulating, surrounded by a cacophony of noise (email, Twitter,
our own self-doubt). And I don't even have kids.
Leadership comes with all sorts of perks. You
have the chance to improve the world. People also return your emails. It's a
But the climb to the top is toxic -- for
leaders and everyone else affected by policies made on little sleep and lots of
Look at D.C.'s typical psychopathology: Those
striving for power tend to combine deep-seated insecurity with the conviction
both that they're better than everyone else and that their superiority
(somehow!) goes unrecognized. (Ted Cruz, you're not alone.)
Those at the pinnacle often just want to
reclaim what they've lost -- their "Rosebud" -- before it gets tossed in the
Leaning in can be valuable: Women rightly deserve
their seat at the head of the table. And we can all benefit from Sheryl's sage advice
But our problems are systemic. We can't just
escalate the arms race to the top. We need a comprehensive approach to empower
all of society that would be something truly new under the sun.
-Ari Ratner is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
He served as an appointee in the Obama administration's State Department from
2009-2012. Follow him on Twitter: @amratner.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images for La-Z-Boy