Wonder Women by Debora L. Spar

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I entered Barnard College in the fall of 2008, when the economy tanked and when a woman named Debora Spar began her first semester as president. I remember almost nothing about her arrival and I can’t recall when she was baptized “DSpar” and became a kind of cult figure in Barnard’s corner of Manhattan. Never did I drop in during her office hours, which she held once a month. Never did I participate in “Run with President Spar,” a two-mile jog through Riverside Park. Never did I attend a so-called “Fireside Chat” or spot her serving pancakes at “Midnight Breakfast.” I do, however, vividly remember one early sighting.

During a campus tour with my orientation group, we stopped at a statue of Athena, which stands near the main lawn, behind Barnard’s wrought-iron gates. As I learned from the guide, Athena, goddess of war and wisdom, was dressed in full battle attire, shouting war cries, when she was born out of the head of Zeus—and the goddess has a palpable presence on the four-acre campus. The tour guide then stopped talking. An attractive, dark-haired woman whizzed by. Wow, said the guide, I think that was just Debora Spar.

Five years after taking the helm at Barnard, Spar has introduced herself as a major player in feminism. Her new book is called Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection and its main message can be best described by a female specter named Charlie.

Charlie is Spar’s metaphor for modern day womanhood, named after the popular Charlie perfume commercials that aired in the 1970s and ’80s. (I’d never seen Revlon’s Charlie ads, but my mother lit up when I asked her about them.) Spar, who turned fifty last June, remembers Charlie, a skinny, blonde working woman—played in the 1970s by supermodel Shelley Hack—meeting a handsome man for drinks or holding a cute kid by the hand. There was even a jingle. In the most famous ad, Hack, looking impossibly stunning in a chic white pantsuit, saunters into a swanky restaurant serenaded by singer Bobby Short:

Kinda young, kinda now, Charlie!

Kinda free, kinda wow! Charlie!

During the Women’s Movement, Charlie was one of many images that portrayed women as triumphantly combining traditional female roles (wife, mother) with new realities (independent, professional). Charlie is terribly perfect—and that, in Spar’s opinion, is the problem. “Before we had even reached puberty,” Spar writes, “women of my generation not only wanted it all, but firmly expected we would get it: the education, the sports, the jobs, the men, the sex and shoes and babies.” Thanks to the Women’s Movement, opportunities did open up. But that meant expectations increased—Charlie could do it all, so she did it all. And with no apparent effort.

Wonder Women follows the course of a woman’s life in ten chapters with Nora Ephronian titles, like “Growing Up Charlie” (on girlhood) and “Memories of My Waist” (on ageing). Spar moves us from Barbie to sex to marriage to babies to chores to work to Botox—identifying how women’s lives during these stages have shifted in the past fifty years. She covers the greatest hits: Betty Friedan and her Feminine Mystique, Helen Gurley Brown and her Sex and the Single Girl, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, the pill, the zipless fuck, Title IX, Playboy, Charlie’s Angels, Roe v. Wade, marriage means rape, Jane Fonda, Murphy Brown, and so on.

An impressive amount of scholarship is neatly compacted into 249 pages: Wonder Women is at once a social history, weaving together data and analysis, and a personal narrative. In a chapter about body image, for example, Spar chronicles her three-year struggle with anorexia, which began at age fourteen. She dropped to eighty-eight pounds: her breasts disappeared and her period stopped. Drawing power from plain style and frank observation, she recalls a male doctor telling her family that she was thin—but “didn’t exactly look like a ballerina yet.”

But Spar’s body image chapter doesn’t just retell the cliché of society’s obsession with thinness. It’s about something else: mixed messages. Spar goes on to describe getting a breast reduction after college to diminish her “indisputable 36DDD behemoths,” which men couldn’t keep their eyes off of. Her plastic surgeon told her the procedure would make her look slimmer—“maybe not quite like a ballet dancer, but we’ll get close.” These anecdotes, put together, represent a kind of schizophrenia—a term Spar uses throughout Wonder Women. In this case: big tits, ballet body. “If men can’t keep their eyes off our breasts,” Spar wonders, “why do they want us to look like ballerinas? And why do I still care?” She cares because it’s just one example of the schizoid expectations—running a Fortune 500, attending every PTA meeting; turning fifty, looking twenty—that make so many women miserable.

Each chapter, like each stage in life, includes moments where expectations about women have grown and, now, collide. Hovering over this mess is Charlie—the symbol of perfection. “My generation made a mistake,” Spar confesses in what has become the book’s most-cited passage. “We took the struggles and the victories of feminism and interpreted them somehow as a pathway to personal perfection.”

Spar also confesses that any approach to feminism today must begin with “killing Charlie.”  When I read Spar’s homicidal declaration it made me think of one famously made by Virginia Woolf in 1931: “Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of the woman writer.” (The Angel in the House, a metaphor for Victorian womanhood, was perfect by being pure, not by working like Sheryl Sandberg and looking like Jennifer Aniston.) 

Wonder Women is a confession—at one point, the book was even titled “Confessions of a Reluctant Feminist.” Last October, Spar, appearing on a panel about women and work at Columbia University, spoke about why the title changed when she went to sell the book. “[I] was quickly told that you could not publish a book that had ‘feminist’ in the title because nobody would buy it,” she joked. “If you notice, my book now has sex in the title, which turns out to be much better for marketing purposes.” Sigh. Fifty years after The Feminine Mystique and you can’t publish a book with “feminist” in the title. (Thank God for Spar’s sex chapter.)

I was especially curious about the “reluctant” part of that unmarketable title. Spar seems like the perfect candidate to write a book about feminism—but feminism hasn’t been a lifelong subject for her. The reluctance is partly generational: Born in 1963, Spar came of age in the immediate aftermath of the Women’s Movement. Like the rest of “Betty’s daughters,” she believed that the big goals had already been achieved. Sure, they had feminism, but, as Spar recalls, it wasn’t “feminism of the fervent, hard-won sort, but a kind of trickle-down feminism, the feminism wrought by Friedan and transmitted through the cultural ether of the early 1970s.”

Debora Spar was raised in Rye Brook, New York, a town twenty-five miles north of Barnard. She attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and then received her doctorate from Harvard in government. She thought she was going to be a spy and even interviewed at the C.I.A. after college. In Wonder Women, Spar recounts falling in love on the first day of graduate school and how she went on to marry “the boy from the dorm room next door” when she was just twenty-three. She had their two sons when she was still in her twenties and they adopted their daughter when she was in her late thirties.

For nearly two decades, Spar taught as a political economist at Harvard Business School, where she eventually became a dean. She published a slew of articles and authored numerous books; her last book, The Baby Business, published in 2006, examined reproductive technologies. In the winter of 2008, Spar was named Barnard’s seventh president after Judith Shapiro, who’d been the college’s president for thirteen years, decided to step down at the end of that academic year. “We never expected to have anybody until March or April or May, but she was too good to pass up,” Helene Kaplan, a Barnard trustee and head of the search committee, told the New York Times in January. Kaplan called Barnard’s new leader  “bright,” “lively,” “energetic,” and “young”—at the time, Spar was two decades younger than her predecessor.

That’s where I thought Spar would begin Wonder Women. At Barnard, reflecting on feminism, its failures, its triumphs, on women today and our problems. Sure, that’s all addressed—but Spar starts her story somewhere else. She begins in a dingy women’s bathroom at LaGuardia Airport with a breast pump.

“I’m pretty sure I remember the moment I knew I was having it all,” Spar writes in the book’s opening. It’s 1992, she’s five-weeks postpartum, wearing a business suit, and pumping breast milk in between flights.

Spar admits that her having it all realization was a wry, ironic one. I thought it was the perfect opening. Not only does it set Wonder Women’s confessional tone, but it also places the book in the context of the inextinguishable can women have it all “debate.” Having it all: a myth, a fallacy, a delusion, an absolutely terrible phrase (eclipsing important debates about women and work) that, like Charlie, like the Angel of the House, must be killed.

Wonder Women takes a deadly shot.

***

It rained hard on the morning of May 17, 2011. Our Barnard commencement ceremony had to be moved from Grant’s Tomb in Riverside Park to a grimy gymnasium at Columbia University. But nothing could have quelled Sheryl Sandberg that day. Before Sandberg took the podium to deliver the keynote address, she was Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. After, she was Facebook’s rock star Chief Operating Officer.

I was one of the 600 seniors Sandberg addressed that morning. I came to the ceremony skeptical (not to mention hungover and drenched), thinking, a COO? Really? The seniors before me got Meryl Streep and the seniors before them got Hillary Clinton. I had expected banality—and was surprised by Sandberg’s boldness. (I was apparently one of the few students who hadn’t seen Sandberg’s celebrated TED talk, delivered about six months before the graduation.) “Do not leave before you leave,” Sandberg declared, warning us not to make career choices based on the presumption we’d marry and then have kids. She told us to be ambitious. She told us to put our foot on the gas pedal and keep it there. She told us to go all the way to the top in our careers. She told us not to lean back. She told us, notoriously, to lean in.

“Rather than falling into the traditional platitudes of graduation and rather than following the predictable route of urging the newly minted young women graduates to follow their dreams,” Spar recalls in Wonder Women, “Sandberg, one of the country’s most successful female executives, explicitly told the Barnard graduates not to compromise their careers.” Despite my cynical impulses—and my disappointment that I may never meet Meryl—I enjoyed the speech. Sandberg was honest and it was refreshing. She spoke about what she knew: ambition. No bullshit. One of my classmates, who embraced Sandberg on the stage, called her, affectionately, the “baddest bitch.”

Though Sandberg had received press after her TED talk, the Barnard speech pushed her into a new sphere of celebrity. She further developed her message in Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, her so-called kind-of feminist manifesto. (“It is not a feminist manifesto—okay, it is sort of a feminist manifesto, but one that I hope inspires men as much as it inspires women,” Sandberg writes.)

In Lean In, the bold declarations made at Barnard were backed up with statistics, references to various studies, and personal anecdotes. The first chapter—one of the more controversial sections—was devoted to an idea Sandberg had introduced in her commencement address. The chapter bears the lengthy title, “The Leadership Ambition Gap: What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?” It builds on her claim that we women, despite facing “external barriers,” hold ourselves back.

When Lean In was released last March it shot to the top of the New York Times’ Best Seller list. Though it was warmly received in some reviews, Lean In and its architect faced enormous backlash. Many criticized Sandberg for glossing over some of those “external barriers,” for giving career advice to women struggling to make ends meet. These criticisms were fair. Sandberg, who is now Facebook’s rock star billionaire COO, was also attacked for being an out-of-touch elitist, and for, well, coming off like a Charlie girl. Kinda young, kinda now, (kinda rich), kinda wow!

But the Lean In backlash had begun long before the book was released last March—it began the summer before, to be exact. It began in the summer of 2012.

One year after my Barnard graduation, in the summer of 2012, I checked my Twitter feed and noticed that an article called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” had gone viral. The story, appearing in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, was written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Princeton professor and former top adviser at the State Department under Hillary Clinton. The piece, about women in the workforce, was 12,000 words, which meant I had to put down my iPhone and buy a dead-tree edition. An alarming cover featuring a confused-looking toddler stuffed into a woman’s briefcase greeted me. This can’t be good, I thought.

The most quoted of the 12,000 words were the ones criticizing Sandberg’s Barnard address—criticizing Sandberg for telling my class that women aren’t committed enough to their careers. “I am all for encouraging young women to reach for the stars,” Slaughter wrote. “But I fear that the obstacles that keep women from reaching the top are rather more prosaic than the scope of their ambition.” Perhaps “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” was too long for our 140-character attention span. Many, myself included, ignored the nuances of Slaughter’s argument and instead focused on the story’s headline. That became the conversation. The media and its consumers turned, with monomaniacal interest, to the question of women having it all. Consider the headlines of that summer’s stellar reportage:

Can Women Have It All? Remarkable Women Weigh In… (Forbes)

Can Women Have It All? Most Think Yes (Los Angeles Times)

Why Women Can, and Can’t Have It All (PBS)

Women (And Men) Can Have It All (Harvard Business Review)

Can Women Really ‘Have It All’? Why It’s Important To Still Keep Talking About Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Article (Glamour)

No Matter Where You Stand In the ‘Can Women Have It All Debate,’ Kids Must Come First (FoxNews)

The repetition of that reductive phrase seemed to authenticate a silly debate about a serious issue. Define “have”? What exactly is “it”? Tell me what you mean by “all”? Even Slaughter recoiled from having it all. In a follow-up piece in The Atlantic titled “The ‘Having It All’ Debate Convinced Me to Stop Saying ‘Having It All’”—you can’t make this stuff up—Slaughter said just that, and acknowledged that Salon writer Rebecca Traister had convinced her to stop using the term. “When I asked Rebecca Traister what hashtag she would suggest as an alternative to #havingitall,” Slaughter wrote, “She came back with: #StumblingTowardParity, #PushingForBetter, #StillWorkingOnIt, #GuysThisIsYourProblemToo, #DemandingMoreForMoreOfUs, #Feminism.”

But it was too late. In the summer of 2012, having it all was out there. And it was out there without much wryness or irony. Without the wryness or irony that comes with pumping breast milk in a dingy women’s bathroom at LaGuardia.

Enter Debora Spar.

Debora L. Spar

Debora L. Spar

In September 2012, Spar wrote an article that appeared in Newsweek and on The Daily Beast called “Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect”—one of a few articles she wrote in the year leading up to her book’s release last September. Spar changed the subject. She told us to forget having it all and to start thinking about the dangers of perfection. “The only way that American women will ever fully solve the ‘women’s problem’ is by recognizing the quest for perfection for what it is: a myth,” Spar writes. “No woman can have it all, and by using all as the standard of success, we are only condemning ourselves and our daughters to failure.”

What I found most fascinating about Spar’s Newsweek piece was a two-minute video that was posted online with it. It’s a clip of a Barnard senior named Sarah, who, armed with a “Beast TV” microphone, walks around campus and interviews students about having it all.

Sarah: So the question of having it all—what do you guys think about that question just as a general concept?

My favorite response comes from a girl in a jean jacket who gesticulates wildly. “I hate the have it all question,” she says, “I find that it’s, like, so infantilizing.” She then turns on Sarah, mock-flips her hair, and continues, “Like, do you ask that—do you have it all— to a man, you know what I mean?” (Cut to a confused male student: “I thought it applied more to women.”) Before the video is over, we return to the girl in the jean jacket. “I don’t even know what it all would be,” she says unapologetically. “I’m sorry, I just have a lot of rage about this…”

I have a lot of rage about this, too. Rage seems extreme, but rage is right. Let’s return to 2012. It was the year Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut. The year Todd Akin schooled the nation on “legitimate rape.” The year Fifty Shades of Grey became one of the best-selling books of all time. The year Columbia students—after it was announced that President Obama would speak at the commencement at Barnard (and not his alma mater)—took to a student blog to call their neighbors “bitches” and “cum-dumpsters.” The year of many restrictions related to women’s health and reproductive rights. The year Susan G. Komen announced it would withdraw funding to Planned Parenthood—for mammograms. The year Ann Romney shamelessly pandered to women at the RNC: “I love you womennnnnn!” The year Michelle Obama shamelessly pandered to women at the DNC: “At the end of the day my most important title is still mom-in-chief.”

A year of mixed messages, of schizoid ideas about sexuality, of unabashed jockeying for the woman’s vote. The year there was a war on women. And the year we focused much of our attention on debating whether women could have it all.

***

Last Halloween, the author of Lean In was the phantom haunting a panel called “Women and Work,” co-sponsored by Columbia University and the New America Foundation. The three panelists were Debora Spar, Anne-Marie Slaughter (now the president and CEO of the New America Foundation), and a British professor named Alison Wolf, who has just published her book about women, The XX Factor. They were there to share—shocker—their perspectives on women and work. (Slaughter spoke about “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”; her upcoming book, set to expand on the article, is set to be released in 2014.) “Not with us in person today, but I feel part of our intellectual background and engagement […] is of course Sheryl Sandberg,” said the moderator in her introduction.

Each panelist spoke about her work and its conception. Wolf kicked it off. The XX Factor centers on 70 million—the number of highly educated, highly successful women working in the world right now. Wolf investigates this new movement and believes that high-powered men and women are actually more alike than ever before. But these elite women—the 15 percent—have “parted company” from the rest of the female population. “Feminists once talked of the ‘sisterhood,’” Wolf writes in The XX Factor, “but educated successful women today have fewer interests in common with other women than ever before.” As Wolf explained:

If we are going to deal with this [gulf] and create societies that are as good as we can manage for everybody, as a dead compatriot of mine said, and it’s still one of my favorite statements, ‘Knowledge is power.’ You want to change the world, understand it first!

Societies good for everyone! Knowledge is power! Change the world! Applause. For a rather lackluster panel, held on Halloween no less, robust applause. I wondered how Spar would follow that up—especially since sections of Wonder Women can seem like champagne problems. (“Rather than cutting back on the home front,” Spar writes in one section, “many women appear to be upping the ante, racing to create the perfect holiday costume, the perfect gluten-free bake-sale brownie, the perfectly pillowed home.”) But Spar avoided any awkwardness by simply acknowledging it: “I’m afraid [my story] may come across as a more shallow and superficial story,” she said. “But you know, I gotta go with what I know.”

That’s the strength of Wonder Women: it’s unabashedly frank. Spar’s clear about the biases she brings to the conversation—she’s white, straight, well-educated, well-off; she’s been happily married for twenty-five years and is the mother of three healthy children. And she’s unabashedly honest about the struggles she’s encountered along the way. She dealt with an eating disorder. Her path to parenthood wasn’t easy (she writes movingly about suffering a miscarriage). Motherhood wasn’t easy—as it appears to be for, say, Yahoo CEO/Vogue model Marissa Mayer: “The baby’s been way easier than everyone made it out to be,” Mayer notoriously declared last year at an event celebrating Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women.” Spar continually struggled with that “damn breast pump”—in restrooms and in cars. She didn’t make all the PTA meetings. She wasn’t always taken seriously at work.

Why are Spar’s confessions important? Because when you’re in your twenties trying to lean in, trying to make your way up to the top, pressing your foot on the gas pedal—just trying to merge onto the freeway—it’s nice to know that those attractive Athena goddesses whizzing by aren’t as perfect as they seem.

Spar’s confessions chip away at Charlie—a myth that’s bewitched even America’s favorite goddess: Oprah. In January 2008—the same week Spar was named Barnard’s new president—Shelley Hack appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in an episode called “What Makes America America.” In a segment called “Classic Americana,” chronicled on Oprah.com, Oprah admitted the commercial “defined the woman” she hoped to become. She’s even quoted saying, “I wanted to stride like her with confidence. I wanted to be this fabulous.” Et tu, Oprah?!

I hesitate to mock Oprah and the woman she hoped to become. Because before she wanted to stride like Charlie, before girls could dream of running their own media empire, or become an astronaut or a Supreme Court justice, before second-wave feminists assailed patriarchy, women didn’t have the choices we now take for granted. The choices that overwhelm us. Spar spoke about this shift in her inaugural address at Barnard titled “The Distinction of Choice,” delivered in October 2008:

This is not the Barnard of the 1890s, opening its doors to women with no other educational options; not even the Barnard of the 1950s or 1960s, spitting most of its graduates into the mysterious limbo that Friedan described. Instead, this is the feminine boutique. This is the distinction of choice.

Friedan and her de facto feminist manifesto undoubtedly influences Wonder Women. Consider the section titles of Spar’s first chapter: “The Feminine Mystique” (on Friedan’s work and its impact), “Betty and Me” (on being one of “Betty’s daughters”—a generation somewhat removed from the Women’s Movement), and “The Feminist Critique” (what went wrong).

I doubt it’s a coincidence that Spar’s book was released exactly fifty years after Friedan’s book hit shelves and shocked society—not to mention fifty years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Spar may call herself an “interloper” in the field but Barnard hasn’t been shy about placing its president in the pantheon of feminist goddesses. The Fall 2013 issue of Barnard Magazine, which arrived in my mailbox last month, was devoted to the “The Challenge of Choices” and excerpts from Spar’s book were featured. On the cover is an illustration of a Barnard student staring into a three-panel mirror with three reflections: some kind of Cinderella scenario (a prince stands behind the Barnard princess, who’s holding a baby); some kind of professional scenario (the student as a doctor); and some kind of beauty scenario (the student, in workout gear, posing sassily.) Books are scattered on the dorm room floor; the only two with titles are Wonder Women and The Feminine Mystique.

Choice and the misguided quest for perfection are just a part of the “women’s problem” Spar addresses in Wonder Women. She has her own version of a lean in chapter called “Crashing Into Ceilings: A Report from the Nine-To-Five Shift,” and the report isn’t pretty. Spar regurgitates data she says she’s been repeating at women’s conference after women’s conference: women still earn 77 cents to every man’s dollar; women account for only 16 percent of partners at large law firms; only twenty-one Fortune 500 companies are run by women; only 16 percent of these companies’ board members are women. And Spar is one of them. Since June 2011, she’s sat on the Board of Directors at Goldman Sachs. (She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a member of the Board of Trustees at The Nightingale-Bamford School, an all-girls private school in New York.)

The “16 percent power cranny” is Spar’s account of the depressing reality working women face. When it was her turn to introduce Wonder Women at the “Women and Work” event, Spar spoke about her time at the testosterone-saturated Harvard Business School, before her “16 percent” aha moment, when it dawned on her, finally, that she was the only woman left in the room. Around this time, she was getting asked the same two questions.  “I really hate to do this,” Spar said, mimicking the first request, “but we’re having a panel, a conference, a whatever and you’d be fabulousand, uh, we really need a woman.” Spar said she reached a point where that clause prompted an automatic “no.”

The second request may have been less offensive, but it was certainly more daunting: please solve the women’s problem for us.  “It forced me to realize that there really was a women’s problem,” Spar admitted, “and that I had no idea how to solve it.”

There’s no better place to try to solve it than at Barnard, the country’s leading all-women’s college. But Spar couldn’t have picked a worse time to move from Cambridge to Morningside Heights. Her inauguration, held on October 23 came a day after the Dow dropped 514 points—one of the largest single-day losses in the stock market’s history. The new president had an extra problem: a global economic meltdown. And the financial crisis exposed what has historically been Barnard’s Achilles’ heel: money, and the college’s lack of it. When Spar took office in 2008, Barnard’s endowment was approximately $212 million; today, it’s about $241 million. (By comparison, Wellesley College maintains an endowment of about $1.4 billion.)

Spar seems to be moving the college into a stronger financial position: the school is set to announce the public phase of a major capital campaign in 2014, when Barnard celebrates its 125th anniversary. As for that other problem—the impossible “women’s problem”—it has been a major part of President Spar’s agenda. Sometime when I was a junior, I received an email about something called the Athena Center for Leadership Studies—which I immediately ridiculed. Athena?! Again! The center is run by Kathryn Kolbert, a civil rights attorney who argued before the Supreme Court the landmark reproductive rights case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which essentially ruled to protect Roe v. Wade. The Athena Scholars Program, just one part of the center, is home to students studying leadership and presumably developing leadership skills. The Leadership Lab offers workshops—available to students for free and to the rest of the world on a retail basis. Say hello to Barnard’s new brand of feminism.

Of course, Barnard has always held a position of enormous influence in the feminist community. The Barnard Center for Research on Women, founded in 1971, was the first research institution at an American university that focused on women’s issues. The idea that “women can live and work in dignity, autonomy, and equality”—the BCRW charter statement—is the lifeblood of the college. Still, I can’t count how many times I’ve had to explain what exactly Barnard was. (No, I didn’t just mumble that I graduated from “Bard.”) Spar is changing that.

Her “Global Symposia” series, an annual high profile gathering of accomplished women leaders, is meant to bring Barnard abroad in a big way. One of its goals—the most important one, in my opinion—is to discuss women’s issues in regions where choice doesn’t readily exist. Following summits in Beijing, Dubai, Johannesburg, Mumbai, and São Paulo, the college is returning to China—Shanghai this time—to host a symposium in March.

But Spar’s biggest foray into feminism is of course the book. Wonder Women is not for the radical feminist. It doesn’t call for a revolutionary movement. Though Spar chronicles (and slightly bemoans) how feminism was “privatized” during the reign of Reagan and Thatcher, she doesn’t seek to deconstruct capitalism. (Her position at Goldman places her in that system—hopefully to help fix what’s broken.) The book doesn’t call for a complete restructuring of male-female relations (though Spar insists we bring men into the conversation—and that they should do more housework!). It’s a book for the realist. For those sick of hearing modern day Charlie girls talk, or subtly hint, about having it all.  A book that, at the very least, gives feminism some much-needed CPR.


Briana Fasone graduated from Barnard College in 2011. She’s now procrastinating across the street at Columbia University, where she’s pursuing her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of many tweets. Follow her on Twitter @brifasone. More from this author →