Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection

Debora Spar, Author
Debora L. Spar. FSG/Sarah Crichton, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-29875-3
Reviewed on: 07/22/2013
Release date: 09/17/2013
Paperback - 305 pages - 978-1-250-05606-1
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-4453-3
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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)
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