'Man is defined as a human being and woman is defined as a female. Whenever she tries to behave as a human being she is accused of trying to emulate the male.'' That observation by Simone de Beauvoir helped to inspire the feminist revolution after World War II. Two generations later, Sheryl Sandberg has written a book, ''Lean In'', arguing it is still the case today.
Some critics have challenged Ms Sandberg's authority to comment on the female condition because her gilded perch as chief operating officer of Facebook makes her one of the most powerful and richest women in the world. But it is precisely that insider's perspective _ what Ms Sandberg demurely describes as her front-row seat _ that makes her ''sort of feminist manifesto'' so persuasive and so radical.
It is radical because Ms Sandberg is not decrying the vile misogyny that oppresses women in some distant and impoverished land. The sexism endured by the women of, say, Afghanistan is of course incomparably more severe and more limiting than the stereotypes that trammel the graduates of Harvard Business School. But it is also much easier for the privileged Westerners _ men and women alike _ who inhabit Ms Sandberg's world to champion the cause of downtrodden females in another, poorer society. Confronting the problems in your own backyard _ or indeed your own corner office _ is more personally threatening.
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