January: My Life On the Road, Gloria Steinem

Here we are! The first review and discussion in the BIRL Book Club! YAY! I have to say, My Life On the Road was perfectly timed and it had absolutely nothing to do with current events. Whoops. The reason I chose it first was because I already had it from seeing Gloria Steinem speak, and in order to get this review out on time I couldn’t wait for the rest of the book list to get to me. Happy accident, though, because it was exactly what I needed to be reading at this exact time.

I started reading it the week before the March on Washington and this book filled me with incredible purpose and incredible drive to keep going on and on and on.

The books speaks on many levels, lest you think this is killjoy feminist drivel. It’s a memoir of Gloria Steinem’s life and career through all of her time traveling the world and the United States. The book is one of those that demands to be read from cover to cover. Don’t skip the dedication, don’t skip the appendage. It’s all good. Every last drop.

The paragraphs that I keep coming back to in my mind are some that I’m going to share here. (And for anyone who has read this book, please tell me what you keep chewing on. There are so many moments that Gloria has lived and thought about and bared witness to and I’m sure you are all chewing on something.)

[When speaking about her mother]

If I pressed and said, “But why didn’t you leave? Why didnt you take my sister and go to New York?” she would say it didn’t matter, that she was lucky to have my sister and me. If I pressed hard enough she would add, “If I’d left, you never would have been born.”

I never had the  courage to say: But you would have been born instead.

As a mother I have to work to still have a self. I have to work to not be swallowed up by my children while still doing my best by them. This part breaks me. It is too common that women are trapped by children because they have no choices. Because they have too many. Because they didn’t know there were any other options.

But where this book was its biggest educational win for me, was in explaining the history of intersectional feminism, and how second wave feminism was largely intersectional. BUT that getting the media, at the time largely run by men, to GET IT and run with it, was incredibly difficult. Second wave feminists have been pushing for intersectionality for decades, and our love of boxes has been making that message muddy. Betty Friedan didn’t help either.

I finished this book on the plane home from DC. I read the majority of it in flight, as I think it is best digested. It frustrated me just how much I did not know because women’s issues don’t make the news. It frustrated me how much what we’ve been pushing for we are still pushing for. It made me love Gloria Steinem even more for her ability to talk about her regrets, her mistakes, her personal shortcomings while also paying homage to the many women who helped her along the way. It made me want to listen more. Listen and learn and offer assistance.

If you haven’t read this book, you should read this book. If you have read this book, talk to me about it in comments!

18 thoughts on “January: My Life On the Road, Gloria Steinem”

      1. Ok, I just finished Steinem’s book last night. I have so many emotions about it, First, angry because besides the playboy bunny thing, I didn’t really know much about the rest of her professional life, and angry because when she endorsed Clinton she was smeared as just another old white woman lining up behind an old white woman instead of the young black man. Also angry when I read about the harassment she and her fellow female staffers faced during her time campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, and how we still see liberal white men engage in sexism despite otherwise being “enlightened”. I have a deeper appreciation now for the marchers who hold up signs saying “I can’t believe I still have th protest this shit.” Not just about abortion rights, but all of it, as you alluded to above. At the same time, I felt totally fired up, and after the March the book gave several concrete examples of ways to get involved. Speaking of the March, I wish I had read the book beforehand. I had no idea who the Nuns on the Bus were, and the speaker from their group seemed pretty cool. Finally, I finished the book feeling hopeful. Her writing is infectious.

  1. I haven’t read this, but it’s on my TBR list. I did, however, want to say that I LOVE the label for this post “I Have a Vagina and an Opinion”. Virtual fist-bump 🙂

  2. It’s been too long since I read this, but I remember being really struck by the similarities between the 2008 Democratic primaries (Clinton and Obama) and the 2016 primaries (Clinton and Sanders). Made me think that history just repeats itself over and over…

    1. It reminded me of how fans of different pop culture things, like xbox vs playstation, really believe that the two companies or groups are out to get each other and that there really is a pop culture war between them. But in reality, it isn’t like that at all. Behind the scenes, there isn’t really any animosity, it’s just business. I also so appreciate the fact that liberals continue to have excellent choices. Not so much with the crazy repub candidates.

  3. I haven’t read this yet, but it’s now on my To Read list. Seems like the perfect timing for it. If you feel like sharing more of the paragraphs you’re still chewing on, or if others do in the comments, I’m interested!

    1. oh my gosh I took photos of a bunch of them as I was reading haha because I was so into it. Here is a good one: “I was angry because young men in politics were treated like rising stars, but young women were treated like – well, young women. I was angry about all the women candidates who put their political kills on hold to raise children – and all the male candidates who didn’t. I was angry about the human talent that was lost just because it was born into a female body, and the mediocrity that was rewarded because it was born into a male one. And I was angry because the media took racism seriously – or pretended to – but with sexism, they rarely bothered even to pretend. Resentment of women still seemed safe, whether it took the form of demonizing black single mothers or making routine jokes about powerful women being ball-busters.”

  4. are you planning to share the next one in advance? I have a never-ending to-read list but would love to put one on with some sort of timeline for when you’ll post about it to actually make me read it.

      1. The dedication was perfection. I saw her speak about it and it was powerful then, and then I read it in the actual book and it was doubly powerful. It is such a statement that gives no fucks and stigmatizes NOTHING. I really appreciate her on the ground type of feminism, that she talks about things I Am old enough to have lived through and she gives the feminist perspective on them and it’s like YES and HOLY SHIT THAT HAPPENED and just …. her connection with the friends she has made over all of these years, and even the acquaintances she remembers is so so human and dear and real. It made me want to leave even more purposefully.

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