It doesn’t take a feminist to wonder why fifty years after the Equal Pay Act – fifty years after Betty Frieden’s The Feminine Mystique – women are still faced with endless double-standards in both the public and private domains.
Debora L. Spar’s wonder years, the 1970s, were an optimistic time: the gender war in America was supposedly over, with patriarchy on the home front smashed once and for all. She herself became living proof of this revolution, having achieved positions as one of the youngest tenured female professors at Harvard Business School and President of Bernard College, the leading women’s college in the United States. On top of her academic duties, Spar balanced a family life as a mother of three.
But the further Spar grew into adult life, the more apparent it became to her that the example she lived was a rare exception to the rule; for most other women, the promises women’s liberation set forth in the 1960s and 70s remained ideals. American women’s lives changed, much for the better, but in limited ways. Why? Why have feminist milestones such as the passing of the Equal Pay Act and the publication of The Feminine Mystique only pushed women’s rights so far?
In a contemporary society that promises so much equality, the challenges women face now are more complex than ever, especially as these new generations of women have been raised with such expectations but face opposite, crushing realities.
Interspersing personal experiences with thoroughly researched, statistical arguments and pop culture critique, Spar approaches this startlingly perplexing case of arrested development with crystal clarity, exploring and debunking myths about the current and future generations of women’s potentials to truly “have it all.”