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Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfectionby Debora L. Spar
Synopses & Reviews
Fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, why are women still living in a mans world?
Debora L. Spar spent most of her life avoiding feminism. Raised after the tumult of the 60s, she presumed that the gender war was over; she swore to young women that yes, they could have it all. “We thought we could glide into the new era with babies, board seats, and husbands in tow,” she writes. “We were wrong.”
Spar should know. One of the first women professors at Harvard Business School, she went on to have three children and became the chair of her department. Now shes the president of Barnard College, arguably the most important all-women school in the country, an institution firmly committed to feminism.
Wonder Women is Spars story and the cultures. Armed with reams of new research, she examines how womens lives have—and have not—changed over the past forty years. The challenges confronting women are more complex than ever. They stem from breast pumps and Manolo pumps; from men whose eyes linger on a womans rear and men who rush that same rear out the door. Theyre problems that come inherently and inevitably from being female. Yet theyre falling on generations of women who grew up believing that none of these things are supposed to matter now.
Wonder Women gives us an important voice in an increasingly heated debate. In this wise, often funny, always human, and smartly conceived book, Spar asks: How far have women really come? And what will it take to get true equality for good?
"Barnard College president Spar (The Baby Business) skillfully addresses the state of feminism and suggests that, despite historic gains in education, the workforce, and equal rights, American women suffer under 'an excruciating set of mutually exclusive expectations' resulting, paradoxically, from the proliferation of options that feminism made possible. Drawing on her experiences as well as extensive research, Spar lucidly traces how the movement's 'expansive and revolutionary' political goals have evolved into a set of 'vast and towering expectations' that trouble women at every stage of their lives. Wisely forgoing hostility or blame, Spar finds women struggling, if anything, with the fantasy of 'having it all.' 'We're doing this to ourselves,' she writes, addressing, among other topics: the explosion of toddler princesses; eating disorders and hyperachievement among adolescents; the hookup habits of young adults; the 'adoration of pregnancy'; competitive mothering; and the lucrative wedding, diet, and plastic surgery industries. Her solutions call for sanity and simplicity: to kill 'the myths of female perfection' and recommit to the goals of early feminism, abandoning the 'individualized quest' in favor of organizational and collective change. Tactfully navigating heated debates and effectively contextualizing historical trends and contemporary problems, Spar's book will be welcomed by readers who envision a world 'driven by women's skills and interests and passions as much as by men's.' Photos. Agent: Will Lippincott, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Sept. 17)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Debora L. Spar spent most of her life avoiding feminism. Raised after the tumult of the 1960s, she presumed that the gender war was over. “We thought we could glide into the new era with babies, board seats, and husbands in tow,” she writes. “We were wrong.”
Spar should know. One of the first women professors at Harvard Business School, she went on to have three children and became the chair of her department. Now, shes the president of Barnard College, arguably the most important womens college in the country, and an institution firmly committed to feminism. Wonder Women is Spars story, but it is also the cultures. Armed with reams of new research, she examines how womens lives have, and have not, changed over the past fifty years—and how it is that the struggle for power has become a quest for perfection. Wise, often funny, and always human, Wonder Women asks: How far have women really come? And what will it take to get true equality for good?
About the Author
Debora L. Spar is the president of Barnard College, a womens undergraduate college affiliated with Columbia University. She received her doctorate in government from Harvard University and was the Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Spar is the author of numerous books, including Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Invention, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet and The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.
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