"Despite what Beyonce may have you believe, men still run the world."
This message of disempowerment is credited to "Cheryl Sandberger," author of Lean Over: Women, Work, and Women’s Work. It’s a sharp rebuke to the uplifting words of the like-named Sheryl Sandberg, chief operations officer of Facebook, whose own book, Lean In, spawned a fairly ubiquitous buzzword this past year. Fortunately, it’s also a joke.
Alison Leiby and Alyssa Wolff are Ivy League-educated, New York-based comedians who together make up "Cheryl Sandberger." Their new ebook, Lean Over, is the satirical answer to Sandberg’s famous book on women and leadership, which proves to be a ripe target for parody when placed in the right hands.
"We were walking around Portland during a comedy festival, discussing our material and how it reflected feminism in slightly unexpected ways—you know, the usual," Leiby says. "Then Alyssa brought up the extreme popularity of Sheryl Sandberg’s feminist tome, and we just started riffing on it. Like, 'Sure, I’d be pro-woman if I had millions of dollars.' And since we both started laughing, we figured it was worth fleshing out as a full idea."
The two each read sections of the book and then reported back to the other when they got together for writing sessions. They would also read certain sections out loud while sitting together to make sure they were staying true to the parodic voice they’d created, as well as to the core concepts of the book. They took cues from the original text. If Lean In emphasized a point, they made sure to include a riff on it in their version too.
The authors use the Sandberger voice not just to take shots at their target’s brand of feminism, but also to underline the conditions that brought that book into existence. A memorable line from the introduction—"I cannot recall one woman who helped me in my life, so figure it out on your own"—laments the competitive nature of career-oriented women expressed in many other books long before Sandberg’s. Without all the earnestness, the message still hits.
While Lean Over is a parody, it’s an affectionate one. The authors may disagree with the actual Sandberg about her philosophy on women holding a smile throughout business negotiation, but they recognize the inherent wisdom of some of her other ideas—or at least their rich potential for mockery.
"We agree with Sheryl that choosing a life partner is the most important decision a woman can make during her professional career," Leiby says with a smile—the kind of smile Sandberg might prescribe when it comes to business negotiations. "Neither of us has had an opportunity to test that hypothesis. But still, we believe it to be true."
[Leaning Woman: RTimages via Shutterstock]