Title: My Life on the Road
Author: Gloria Steinem
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Well, there’s something rather fitting about writing this review on International Women’s Day. It’s also complete luck, as I just happened to finally finish this book last night. It’s interesting, having read some reviews from people I know and trust, to see that this book didn’t quite meet their expectations. I guess I was lucky, in that I had none. I knew about this book from reviews, from it being Emma Watson’s book club pick. Truth be told, and shamefully so, I didn’t know much about Steinem and her life. I knew she was a major player in the fight for women’s rights, an OF (original feminist) but..that’s about it. This book allowed me not only to learn more about this incredible woman, but also about the lessons she’s learned in her decades of activism, organizing, fighting, and traveling.
Steinem organizes the book more my topic than in any kind of chronological order. She does start with her childhood, of winters spent on the road with her family as her father tried to make a living selling antiques. This is how she learned about America, how she learned about travel. The bug, it seems, bit her early. It’s funny that as much as we try and fight who we are, some things are just meant to be. Steinem was meant to be a road warrior, taking plans, trains, and automobiles as she crisscrossed the country on her fight for equality.
The chapter about the National Women’s Conference in 1977 was incredible. A lot of this book focused on politics, as they play a large part in bringing equality, but this was something else. Reading about how hard she and her fellow organizers worked to bring together women from all over the country, to make sure women from all races and ethnicities were included. They wanted to give as many women as possible a voice in shaping the future of women’s rights because it was realized even then that WOC have a much harder battle in the fight to be seen as equal to not only men, but to white women.
Intersectionality did seem to be a big theme of the book. There are sections about African-American women, Native American women, Latina women. Steinem stresses over and over that it’s about listening. She wasn’t trying to go in and be a white savior as much as she wanted to learn from these women, to see what their needs were and then figure out how best to serve them. That’s something that strikes me as a lesson still really needing to be learned by a lot of modern feminists, so it was nice to see that reflected in her work.
And the part about the 2008 election…Lord, you could take a lot of that, change Obama to Sanders, and it would still be just as applicable today as it was 8 years ago. It really saddens me to see how little has changed in terms of the misogyny against Hillary, from both sides of the aisle.
There are a series of vignettes that end each chapter, little stories of things that Steinem has seen and experienced in her years of travel. Encounters that have helped to shape her, lessons and conversations she’s been apart of. This book is also, in a way, her learning that having a home is a good thing, because it always gives you somewhere to return to.
This was an enlightening and wonderful read. For as fearful as Steinem was speaking in front of crowds, she has a way with words that make the topics she picks approachable, understandable, and relatable. We are still fighting for many of the same things that women were 20, 40, 100 years ago. We’ve lost so much because of the patriarchy, because of religious and governmental groups trying to shut women down out of fear. Steinem does a really great job of outlining this history and making it relevant to what’s going on today. I highly recommend this one.