Oct. 16--Wearing thick white makeup and brandishing whips, three tech executives enter a conference room, telling the new female employees to put their hands on a conference table and lean in.
"Lean out!" an executive shouts, as the workers do pushups off the table. "Lean in!"
This mock training exercise -- complete with references to Sheryl Sandberg's corporate advice for women -- was part of a performance piece put on by the Mail Order Brides, a San Francisco arts group that is at the forefront of a new movement in Bay Area art to critique the tech world.
During "Manananggoogle Onboarding Experience," the MOBs -- as their corporate alter egos, CEO R. Immaculata Estrada, COO E. Neneng Barrios and CFO J. Baby Wofford -- welcomed a new class of employees (the audience) to a fictional company, Manananggoogle.
"We know you know what Manananggoogle is -- you don't know who you are," said Estrada, who noted that she would be "molding employees like raw meat" and that they should have Manananggoogle in their blood by the end. " '9 to 5' unnecessarily divides the cycle of life into work and non-work," she said. "At Manananggoogle, those distinctions do not exist. There is no work or non-work, only Manananggoogle."
Living to work
The performance tapped into a larger anxiety many feel around working for tech companies, which often aim to be immersive lifestyles rather than 9-to-5 jobs. Facebook recently announced it was building its own employee housing complex next to its Menlo Park complex, or "campus." Local artists and writers are beginning to respond. In Dave Eggers' new book, "The Circle," which came out this month, an ambitious young woman begins working at a tech company and finds it overtakes her life. (The company's slogan? "Privacy is theft.")
In the lobby at the Global Fund for Women in the Tenderloin, where the show was held, a tall, severe-looking woman in a pantsuit guided the audience, who had been told to dress for success, to the boardroom.
At the door, assistants encouraged the audience to pick up a Manananggoogle mug and a new book: "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Power," with a cover image of the three mock executives scowling and leaning onto a table.
Two screens on the wall showed the Manananggoogle logo and trademark: Divide and conquer.
Many in the audience of around 70 people had followed MOB performances for years -- "They're iconoclasts in our community," said Irene Duller, who had written her master's thesis on the troupe and came dressed to join Manananggoogle.
As the lights dimmed, a soft female voice-over intoned: "We favor voracity over experience. Our human resources model is find them, grow them, keep them."
The executives marched in wearing tight pencil skirts, wide metallic belts, and silk tops.
"The first 20 registrants receive Manananggoogle glasses," one executive said, lifting the glasses -- red bars with hideous bulbous protrusions (later identified as fake "intestine") on the right-side above the eye, where the small screen of Google Glasses would sit.
Company training was in San Francisco rather than its Mountain View headquarters because "the Manananggoogle bus doesn't run on Saturdays," she said, scanning the room and flicking her crop.
"Onboarding" would involve a series of videos and group activities. During the Supplication video, images flashed at half-second beats -- Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, raw meat, a stapler, Sandberg of Facebook, graphs, charts, more raw meat.
For the lesson on Synergy, they played a video with hundreds of Filipino prisoners dancing in unison to "My Sharona." After videos on Voracity and Dedication, they played a clip about Understanding Your Place (Sigourney Weaver being firm with her assistant in "Working Girl"). Finally, they talked about the Personal Transformation that new employees must undergo at Manananggoogle (they played a clip of a young woman in the woods, screaming while her torso separates and she becomes a wasp).