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

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

by Debora L. Spar

Picador | October 7, 2014 | Trade Paperback

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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, she’s the president of Barnard College, arguably the most important women’s college in the country, and an institution firmly committed to feminism. Wonder Women is Spar’s story, but it is also the culture’s. Armed with reams of new research, she examines how women’s 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?

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8.18 × 5.42 × 0.85 in

Published: October 7, 2014

Publisher: Picador

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1250056063

ISBN - 13: 9781250056061

Found in: Social and Cultural Studies

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– More About This Product –

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

by Debora L. Spar

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 320 pages, 8.18 × 5.42 × 0.85 in

Published: October 7, 2014

Publisher: Picador

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1250056063

ISBN - 13: 9781250056061

Read from the Book

1   Growing Up Charlie When I was growing up in the early 1970s, there was a commercial for Charlie perfume that appeared on all the network stations. I remember it vividly, as do many women of my generation. It showed a beautiful blond woman prancing elegantly down an urban street. She had long bouncy hair, a formfitting blue suit, and a perfect pair of stiletto heels. From one hand dangled a briefcase; from the other, a small, equally beautiful child, who gazed adoringly at her mom as they skipped along. The commercial never made clear, of course, just where Mama was going to leave her child on the way to work, or how they both managed to look so good that early in the morning. Instead it simply crooned seductively, in the way of most ads, promising something that was “kinda fresh, kinda now. Kinda new, kinda wow .” The perfume, if I recall correctly, was not particularly nice. But the commercial was terrific.1 So was another of the same vintage for Enjoli, a similarly unremarkable fragrance. This one’s heroine was even bolder, strutting home in a tight skirt after an apparently successful day and proceeding directly to the kitchen. As she cheerfully whipped up some kind of dinner delight, she sang a provocative little anthem, which most women of my age, I’ve discovered, still recall. “I can bring home the bacon,” she cooed. “Fry it up in a pan. And never let you forget you’re a man. ’Cause I’m a woman. Enjoli
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From the Publisher

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, she’s the president of Barnard College, arguably the most important women’s college in the country, and an institution firmly committed to feminism. Wonder Women is Spar’s story, but it is also the culture’s. Armed with reams of new research, she examines how women’s 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 women’s 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.

Editorial Reviews

“A terrific read.”—Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In “A must-read for every woman on the move in life.”—Tina Brown “Part memoir, part feminist history, and part cultural analysis, [ Wonder Women ] includes ample data and anecdotes about modern women and the workplace....An interesting and powerful observation on the evolution of feminism.”— The Washington Post (A Book Every Leader Should Read) “Explosive.”— Glamour “Spar’s overall message is a universal one....Her struggles are a reminder that now more than ever, women’s issues are often more relatable than we think.”— Jezebel “Profoundly sensible stuff.”— Financial Times “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 fantas
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