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Will Superwoman Survive The 21st Century?

By Liora Mendeloff
Founder, Women Speakers Association
Santa Monica, CA

When I say “Superwoman,” what do you think of? My guess is something like: “She has it all together”; “She balances work, motherhood, running a home, being a good wife, etc.”; “She fulfills her potential”; “She is happy doing it all.”

While the concept is one we all dream of, the truth is…she’s a fantasy! Superwoman is an unattainable caricature of a woman we strive to become, size ourselves up to and inevitably fall short of. Like Barbie’s 19” waist, the idea of Superwoman’s unlimited, never depleted, energizer bunny-like super-human powers – is a myth. An illusion once invented to liberate women, has in effect left us in shackles. When’s the last time you met a woman who is capable of being everything to everyone AND also able to take care of herself…really?

Yes, it’s true that as a result of four decades of “progress,” today women are more educated, and in theory, better equipped and capable of being a successful career woman and wife and mother and daughter and friend and sister and...

Although these changes, many of which have been brought to us by women for the good of women, have increased possibilities and opportunities for us, they have also added new responsibilities and stress to our lives. Not only can we do more, but now there is the added expectation that we should do more. Now that we’re “liberated”, thanks to the “progress” of the women’s movement, I gotta ask, “is this what we imagined progress would look like?

Don’t get me wrong, many women have succeeded inside this model – but at what cost? Did she get there by doing what comes naturally to her or by going against the grain? Is she left feeling her best, vitalized and fulfilled or is she left feeling overwhelmed, depleted, unfulfilled and sacrificing her own well-being for the sake of others (her family, “the firm”, society)? If you were to ask her, would she say that she is truly happy?

Who better to prove my point than Oprah Winfrey. For years I’ve watched her in awe as she’s built her empire and often wondered how the heck she manages to do it all and take care of herself. She’s just wrapped up the 25th season of her TV show, she’s got her magazine, her webinars, her TV appearances, her angel network, her school for girls, her youth ambassador program, and now her own TV network! She’s got the trainer, the chef, the cleaning crew and assistants, a huge team to support her and yet, even Oprah confesses that this Superwoman thing is simply an impossible, unattainable, unrealistic and unhealthy role to aspire to. On January 5th, 2009, during her “Best Life Week,” Oprah aired her “Weight Gain Confession” and here’s what she said:

“When you see me gain weight, it’s not about that I’m pigging out, it’s always about my life being out of balance (anybody who struggles with a weight issue, it’s about what you’re really hungry for. It’s not about the food. It’s that you’re hungry for something). Many a day I didn’t want to come into work because I was so tired! Too much work! Not enough play! Not enough time to come down. Not enough time to really relax. So, it’s about balance. When I ask myself what I’m hungry for…I’m hungry for balance.”

So, I wonder…if Oprah, Superwoman of all Superwomen, with all of her resources and support team has trouble keeping balance, then how are we, the average, normal “laywomen” expected to find balance? Is trying to live up to the idealistic Superwoman helping or hurting us, really? And, will it take firing her to live a fulfilling, abundant, balanced life?

As we at WSA begin to talk more and more about a new paradigm of “doing business” and living our lives as REAL women of the 21st Century, what do you think? Is there a place for superwoman in this new era or is it time to fire her once and for all?

CLICK HERE to read next month’s post “Is It Time To Fire Superwoman?”



  1. If Oprah says she has an imbalance in her life and knows it, then why doesn’t she set a good example and do something about it?

    Maybe she feels too responsible for the livelihood of so many others, to put a pause on her work. Is she reacting to external pressures?

    But surely with all of her money and influence, she can take the time she needs to refresh herself and feel happier. It saddens me that she doesn’t feel able to do that when so many of us are looking to her to mentor us in exactly this type of spritual journey.

    Le’ts hope that once her new network settles in, she’ll treat herself better, take some time off and make herself happy again.

    • The role of Superwoman is so engrained in us, psychologically and emotionally, that even IF Oprah is technically capable of dishing out the dough to pay her way to balance in her external environment, clearly there’s no money in the world that can resolve the feeling of unbalance in her “internal environment.” THIS is what I believe is shifting right now. There’s a tremendous opportunity for us specifically at this moment in history, to begin seeking within ourselves (our TRUE selves) to get our own needs met. Perhaps another blog post is calling me…Thanks for the comment Calla!

  2. Great subject!
    Perhaps if we keep the term Super Woman, let’s expand it to encompass not more in general, but more of who we are as individuals, defining for ourselves what it means and how we live it.
    As a “super” woman during the late 70’s through the mid ’90s, I had to be strong to keep my center while being a feminist “heretic” ! Consciously, on PURPOSE (my own), I bucked the trend to do my chosen first career of Homemaker/Mom ( it was not my first job!). At the same time, I was doing much more than my job – studying several healing modalities, pursuing my dancing and other passions, volunteering in lots of places and leading Parents United for Health (a group I formed to stop toxic herbicide use on city property).
    I think we all make some comprises no matter what we choose to do in/with our lives, and I certainly did in order to follow my heart… So I agree – BALANCE is Key!
    But from my personal perspective, following my heart, doing what was right for me was an inner imperative…

    I’d encourage others to follow your hearts and make 21st Century Super Woman be whoever YOU Are!
    Let’s make “progress” mean allowing our souls, our full beings, to thrive!

    • I like your thinking Alisa! Super Woman…I like it! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  3. Whenever life becomes heavy it’s time to head for the mountains – as you climb the mountain you can leave what no longer serves you. From the summit you see a whole new world , become one with the mountain, leave your worries to the wind that roves above and around you , stay on the summit as long as you wish , feel the solid rock under your feet, your life’s stepping stone to all that you wish for yourself and others. Now you are ready to return to the valley and share your new found freedom from the load you carried to the top and left behind.

    Mt Everest – Mother Goddess of the Universe.

    Women – 21st Century Goddesses

    Julie x

  4. ‘Super’ is like a goal. It can be whatever you want it to be, for yourself and your own expectations, not someone else’s. ‘Super’ is perceived as going beyond, so no matter what your level of ‘beyond’ is…. then go for it. It’s only you that you have to please, after all.

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