August 6, 2014

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

Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection
Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection by Debora L. Spar

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had a hard time reading this book. The first time I checked it out from the library, I discovered the edition they had purchased had some major printing mistakes--whole thirty-page sections simply missing, and other twenty-page sections printed twice. I took the book back and pointed this out to the library volunteer, and thought nothing more of it till on a recent visit I spotted the book again. After flipping through the pages to make sure they were all there and in the correct order, I thought, "I might as well finish reading this."

Now, I wonder if it was worth the effort. This book was mediocre at best.

I mean, the author tries her best. She certainly has some cogent points to say about the Myth of Perfection, and society's pressure on women and young girls to be the Best, Blondest, Skinniest, Sexiest, Most Wholesome, Breastfeeding Working Stay-At-Home Wives and Mothers We Can Possibly Be! She readily acknowledges that no one can do that, although she doesn't seem to want to force the HUSBANDS and BOYFRIENDS of all those stressed-out women to help them out. (Indeed, it seems to me that men are hardly mentioned in this book, as if they all get stuffed in the closets as soon as they get home from work. As far as that goes, the explosive topics of lesbian women, trans women, women of color, and intersectionality are barely touched on--this is definitely a White Woman's Feminism book.)But she also dabbles in some evo-psych bullshit--that particular phrase isn't mentioned, but in the chapter I most detested, "Mythologies of Birth," she goes on and on ad nauseum about how ALL WOMEN WANT TO BE MOTHERS and WOMEN WANT BABIES, DAMMIT! Which is simply nonsense. I am a living example of that, and so are many other childfree people I know. In fact, the author's continued assertion of this is almost insulting, and it pretty much spoiled the rest of the book for me.

There are far better gender studies books out there than this one. Start with bell hooks, then move on to Estelle Friedman and Susan Faludi's Backlash, still terrifyingly relevant after more than twenty years. This one, unfortunately, doesn't cut it.

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