Ever since Sheryl Sandberg advised them to “lean in,” modern women everywhere seem to be drowning in the Wonder Woman myth.
Being a “Wonder Woman” means the high expectations that women place on themselves to have perfect bodies, relationships, and jobs.
But according to Debora L. Spar, author of “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, And The Quest for Perfection,” no one can do it all.
Not even Wonder Woman.
Spar, also the president of Barnard College writes, “We have opportunities today — to choose our educations, careers, spouses — that would’ve stunned our grandmothers. But now we’re dazed and confused by all the choices,”
“Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we can do anything, we feel as if we have to do everything.”
It might be OK if our need to be perfect only showed its nasty head in our professional lives. Unfortunately, the Wonder Woman myth also exists in our personal lives, and we simply don’t have enough time in the world for perfection to exist in both places.
The minute women discovered that we could do the same jobs men do — and possibly do it better — we started fantasizing that we could have 60-hour-plus work weeks and still go to every school play.
But Spar argued that it doesn’t stop at the need to feel equal with men in the board room. Society has placed even more pressure on women today to look beautiful — all the time. More than 14.7 million plastic surgeries were conducted in 2011, mostly in North America, South Korea, Greece, and Italy.
“Americans, mostly women, spent more than $US13 billion on plastic surgery in 2007; 10 million U.S. girls a year have eating disorders; and any magazine rack confirms our obsession with one scantily-clad celebrity after another,” Spar writes.
Then, there’s the idea of the perfect marriage. No, it’s not just about finding a life partner and settling down. “It’s all about fireworks, co-parenting, lifelong romance, and ecstatic sex,” Spar says. The problem is, no one ever talks about how hard they have to work on their sex lives and partners in the hopes that it will get on a life-long path. It doesn’t just happen overnight, but we somehow still think it does.
“We want to be fully involved in our children’s care — without compromising time at work, with spouses, and for ourselves. We want men to love our independence and gas up the car.We want to achieve pay equity with men, but we prefer our husbands to earn more than we do.And whether we’re working as truck drivers or consultants, we want to be good homemakers, mothers, and wives.”
Even the image of motherhood has been distorted. Spar says that at one time, if we were too busy to have kids, we’d just consider adopting. Technology today has enabled us to become biological parents and time pregnancies to align with our careers. We can do all of this without ever actually having sex. Is the technology helping us or just making the “having it all” case stronger?
To be Wonder Woman, you have to have the perfect body, dress scantily, and still manage to save the world and every man in it. Spar says the problem is that we simply don’t have the time, mental ability, and energy to “put [our] foot on that gas pedal and keep it there,” as Sandberg advised.
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