03/02/2014 03:11 pm ET Updated May 02, 2014

Why the Lean In Backlash Has Returned, One Year On

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In was met with mixed reviews last spring. The book, part autobiography and part self-help, aimed to spark a conversation about women and the workplace. But with that positive message came some questions about whether Sandberg was in touch with the realities of the average American woman. In addition, some argued that more overarching factors -- such as discrimination, bias and income inequality -- are the real impediments that required fixing, as opposed to individual women's motivation, persistence and willingness to crusade for changes.

For Sandberg, the book's release was just the first step toward a larger movement. Over the past year, Sandberg and her executive board have formed a corresponding organization to establish more fully the staying power of the Lean In ideal, pushing a meaningful motto for the modern-day woman. The book's success paved the way for partnerships, sponsorships and events to keep this conversation going.

Sandberg has encouraged women to form "circles" to continue to discuss the issues at play and to empower others to both speak up and stand up. Although noble in concept and construction, none of these efforts received the same acclaim and attention as the original form. The book alone is what most people remember and attach to Sandberg.

In recent weeks, as the first anniversary of the book launch neared, Sony Pictures announced its decision to pursue a film based on Lean In. What that will look like is anyone's guess, and how it will avoid becoming a flop like 2011's "I Don't Know How She Does It" is to be determined. For now, the announcement brought the phrase "lean in" back into focus. With it, the same arguments against Sandberg and her mission have come back to life. But the volume of vitriol that's emerged shortly thereafter is unprecedented in this space.

"Ladies, if we want to rule the world -- or even just gain an equitable share of leadership positions -- we need to stop leaning in. It's killing us," Georgetown law professor Rosa Brooks wrote in an essay that went viral last week. The pressures that society imposes on women, added The Nation's Bryce Covert, are real: "Men have to lean out before women can relax more without sacrificing something."

If this movie does make it to theaters, it'll surely be met by another round of this debate. For the small groups who feel that they're better understood by their community of peers, these circles have made a remarkable difference. But seeing a Sarah Jessica Parker-type balance it all with relative ease on the big screen will infuriate others.

Of course she can make it all work; she's a successful actress. What's that mean for the rest of us?