Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Women Having It All

At 50, a woman who is a college president, former powerhouse on Wall Street, wife and mother has written a new book, "Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection," to complain that members of her gender are “really shackled by expectations, rather than liberated.”

Duh. As an editor of women’s magazines during the 1960s who employed both Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan without always agreeing with them, I am taken aback by such ingratitude from a generation that benefited from those Feminist pioneers and now kvetches that their efforts did not free them from the human condition.

I have news for President Spar: Nobody has it all, women or men. There is a simple law of physics that applies: You can’t be in two places at once, in a boardroom and soccer game, making business decisions and dinner, nurturing profit margins and kids.

This year Barack Obama is awarding Gloria Steinem the Presidential Medal of Freedom for a life “dedicated to advancing civil rights” for women. Civil rights offer the oppressed an equal chance at the pursuit of happiness, not a guarantee. President Obama himself can explain all about that.

Ironically, just before Debora Spar is interviewed about her book, the PBS NewsHour has a segment about how young girls in India are sold into virtual slavery by their impoverished families to older men who treat them like domestic animals.

No sentient human being who lived through the twentieth century would deny that most American women back then did not have full freedom to fulfill their potential. In some ways, some still don’t and Ms. Spar’s complaints will resonate with them.

"Women of my generation,” she writes, “got feminism wrong, seeing it as a route to personal perfection and a promise of all that we were now expected to be. Because we could do anything, we felt as if we had to do everything."

In an imperfect world, nobody reaches perfection and those who get close might want think twice before grousing about it.

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