Barnard President Debora Spar on Women, Power, and Perfection

Monday, September 23, 2013

Barnard College President Debora Spar discusses how American women’s lives have—and have not—changed over the past 50 years. In Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, she draws on her own personal experience as one of the youngest female professors to be tenured at Harvard Business School and as a mother of three. She also describes that the challenges confronting women are more complex than ever, and these challenges come inherently and inevitably from being female.


Debora Spar

Comments [18]

Sex Slavery Selection Sale
The Ownership of Women
Coming Soon To The Neighborhood Near You
“Please understand, soon all humanity will be humane to each
other and literally live together in peace. This will be the BLESSED
future of all mankind. Yet, today we live in serious times
and the days are extremely evil. Therefore we must now communicate
with each other sincerely and plainly. The future of
women is bleak at best but the future of men will be much worse.
“In many places throughout God’s word, the references of the
man will be killed and the women raped are explicit. Yes, women
will be raped, ravish from one end of our earth to the other. But
men will almost be non-existent, sort of extinct especially those
who have the character to stand up and protect the woman from
being raped. No, those men will be slaughtered on a global scale.
There will be a condemnation for those who refuse to stand up
and be men and because this swift punishment will take place
against men, women will be left alone, sadly, to fend for herself,
because she thought of herself as independent – independent of
men. Therefore, independent and alone she will be. Reality of rape is the sad future of all
who dwell on the earth.

Feb. 24 2014 11:24 AM
Leslie Tucker from East Village, Manhattan

For me, Debra Spar lost credibility at her opening scene revelation at the LaGuardia Airport restroom. I find it hard to believe that a woman who grew up in the 70s/80s actually thought she could balance child care with a high powered job and not lose something along the way. This is not a gender issue, it's simply an issue of practicality. I grew up in the 50s/60s and I always knew a woman couldn't "have it all." It's not rocket science to understand that balancing child care with a high powered job and do both equally well, is just not practical, for a man or a woman.

Sep. 24 2013 07:36 AM
jennifer from new rochelle

I worked as an editor at a journal published by an academic department at an Ivy League university for 6 years, and during that time the professors treated me as if I were their secretary (not that there's anything wrong with being a secretary) --when in fact we were actually colleagues. This attitude cut across gender lines, so that the female professors were just as condescending as the males--but of course, they all regarded themselves as feminists. The fact that they looked down on me, and on the secretaries, anyway--indicates what, if not a lack of identity as a "feminist"? A lack of compassion? Intelligence? Not sure which, but I suspect both.

In the end, those female professors are all middle-aged women now, and now they're in the same boat we were in back then--disparaged, dismissed, and despised.

I think the way out of this is to stand up for all women--all people-- as you go up and down the ladder at work. Respect your secretary as much as you do your boss. Modeling respect to our male colleagues will eventually have an impact. And if not, at least you can have a clear conscience.

Sep. 23 2013 12:55 PM

"Women of certain age" should file complaints to the League of Sexual Reform, if they don't like the way men treat them.

Also, I have a legal case against a large US bank and the US government. Every person from the other side - from a paralegal to the head lawyer - is a woman. So, cry me a river...

Sep. 23 2013 12:53 PM
BK from Hoboken

While I like some of the guests more measured, nuanced stances (not trying to fight a silly war over gender based toys), I do get tired of her and other women who address women's issues. More often than not, I hear "WOMEN don't want to make difficult decisions", "WOMEN in leadership positions want to be like", "WOMEN..." Stop try into speak for all women. My very successful wife has none of the many issues that this guest tries to attribute to all women. Are there societal issues that need to be addressed? Yes. But I feel like the complaining must stop. I am happy that my two young girls had their har working successful mother to look up to, and not listen to some of this constant complaining.

Sep. 23 2013 12:45 PM
tom r from UES

Your guest gave a great interview. Her responses were intelligent and nuanced. But for your part, Leonard, your questions are consistently weak and lack drive. For example: in what way or HOW were the guest's respective administrations "fundamentally different" due to gender dominance?

Sep. 23 2013 12:42 PM
Becca from montclaire

apropos tina fey and women becoming invisible as they age, to quote Alec Baldwin's character from 30 Rock, after a discussion with a woman his age, played by Carrie Fisher, "don't ever make me talk to a woman that old again."

Sep. 23 2013 12:42 PM
Tess from NY

This woman is making all these well documented, already experienced, problems that professional women experience, but she is not suggesting ANY solutions. It sounds like these are just cliché problems she has ruminated on herself, but can't suggest any solutions. So WHAT!
I'm sure her high salaried high powered academic life is so hard.

Sep. 23 2013 12:39 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Again, taking away baby-making from women would retard their loss of physical beauty too. Women fall apart sooner by having babies. But definitely, good looks, be it for men or women, have always been important in gaining and retaining influence over other people, i.e. power. Power comes from beauty and money. Those are the two major sources of power. To be charismatic, or to be very rich. That's what attracts most people to them. People want beauty and money.Those are the two sought-after properties, and one can be exchanged for the other. Like mass and energy, beauty and wealth are two states of the same thing.

Sep. 23 2013 12:39 PM
Middle aged woman from Brooklyn

I am about the same age as your guest and also an academic. I never ever felt discriminated against in the academic world, and in fact felt that I had some advantage as a young ambitious woman. And then I hit middle age and everything changed. By 45, accomplished and at my most confident, for the first time in my professional life I encountered the worst kind of discrimination, hostility, etc. coming from men who were my age or older. It was absolutely shocking to me and I had to rediscover feminism. I wonder if your guest could speak to the problem of the middle aged woman, who becomes the inevitable dragon lady (while her aging male colleagues benefit from aging, never disrespected when they confidently assert their opinions).

Sep. 23 2013 12:29 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Yes, something is going to "have to give." Children will have to be produced and raised in a very different way. By corporations and the state. There is no point to "family" anymore. What is the point in this day and age?

Sep. 23 2013 12:28 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Yes, there are anatomical differences btwn. men & women, but that doesn't mean the assumptions about the effects of those differences are right. And there are ways employers can accommodate those differences.

When I entered the workforce, many employers were setting up on-site daycare. Parents (yes, usually mothers at that time) could bring their children to work w/them & visit them on their breaks. A lot of people liked that. What happened to it?

Sep. 23 2013 12:27 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

>This just occurred to you right now? How many times have you trotted out this silly sentiment?<

No, it actually began to occur to me in 1958, when I first read "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley in the eighth grade. However, the technological possibilities of actually producing babies in factories is only now become an actual possibility. And the disintegration of the family system due to the opportunities now open to women to compete with men for naked power makes this only more feasible and even desirable.

Sep. 23 2013 12:24 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Interesting. Seems that women and blacks have made similar mistakes:
-- Being so eager to take advantage of the new opportunity that they (1) ignore ongoing unfair obstacles afflicting their less lucky sisters/brothers, (2) resent those who continue the fight and (3) completely drop the ball, neglecting the struggle that benefitted them.
-- In dropping the ball, find themselves unequipped to deal with the complexities of the current phase of the vital struggle...

On another note, too bad the guest did not dismiss the idiocy of Clarence Thomas....

Sep. 23 2013 12:23 PM

[[jgarbuz from Queens

"Marriage" has virtually outlived its historic usefulness. We have to prepare for a world where children are ultimately produced by corporations and the state. They are basically cared for by the state most of the time in schools anyway. More than half their lives are spent in schools. Might as well go all the way, and liberate both men and women from this tedium called marriage. Certainly men get nothing out of it.
Sep. 23 2013 12:10 PM]]


This just occurred to you right now?

How many times have you trotted out this silly sentiment?

Sep. 23 2013 12:18 PM
John from nyc

hope I am not being showanistic.

its easier for women to drop out of the work force.

if they went to a brand name school, chances are they met a husband that went to a brand name school, who can provide nicely for the family.

easy to for them to quit.

Sep. 23 2013 12:17 PM
A listener

As a man, I will consider buying her book simply for the absence of "vocal fry" in this interview.

Sep. 23 2013 12:10 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Marriage" has virtually outlived its historic usefulness. We have to prepare for a world where children are ultimately produced by corporations and the state. They are basically cared for by the state most of the time in schools anyway. More than half their lives are spent in schools. Might as well go all the way, and liberate both men and women from this tedium called marriage. Certainly men get nothing out of it.

Sep. 23 2013 12:10 PM

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