Review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

154510581 Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

I had never heard of Gloria Steinem before this book was featured as the January pick for Emma Watson’s “Our Shared Shelf” book club, but I saw the book at work and thought it looked interesting, so decided to give it a solid shot.

I did not expect to love it half as much as I did. I didn’t expect to learn new things and find it incredibly inspiring and enriching to my long stifled feminism. I feel that I’m okay to loudly and proudly say that I am a feminist, as I don’t believe that the movement is solely about shutting men down- far from it, I have no problem with most men. I have problems with a certain type or group of men, but I have similar problems with certain women. But anyway, I digress.

“Feminist” has become a pretty dirty word to a lot of people. I’ve had people who don’t even know me talk down about “man hating, ugly feminists” and expect me to agree with them. My ex boyfriend repeatedly told me he would dump me if I ever said I was a feminist, for heaven’s sake… now I wish I had, but it’s a long time ago now.

Gloria discusses these ideas of feminism and breaks down the attitudes that have brought them about. She also discusses wider topics, such as the civil rights movement, indigenous rights, advocacy, her nomadic childhood, mental illness and politics with great sympathy and great anecdotes. Her storytelling throughout the book is phenomenal- for example, she talks of her most interesting experiences with taxi drivers, and I really didn’t want it to end!

The book is strangely organised, but I didn’t have a huge issue with it. I felt some parts would have been better slotted into other chapters, or some chapters would have slotted in better before or after others, but in general I thought it was fine. I didn’t really like that she assumed the reader was American, but perhaps she didn’t expect the book to gain the global readership that it has attracted.

The book details Steinem’s achievements as an organiser and advocate, but focus is often shifted to those that have inspired her throughout her journey. A chapter about her amazing friend, Wilma Mankiller (what a name!), was beautiful and truly inspired me to try and be as calm and patient in my own bodily suffering as she was.

I took quite a long time reading this book, as I felt the need to stop frequently to digest ideas and wrote all over the margins, underlining and commenting on ideas and thoughts. My copy now looks rather manky, but luckily the dust jacket is still there to cover up my sins…. and regardless, I will be keeping this book to read over again, to pick up and reinforce ideas and to contemplate.

So my first ever book club pick has been quite the success, though I read it a month late. I probably won’t read The Colour Purple, which is February’s pick, right now as I just don’t have the time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I couldn’t get a copy through work either! The OSS people seem to have wiped out the supplier’s stock! Well done!

I’d seriously recommend this book to anyone wanting an inspirational and enlightening book, to any woman wanting to read more about feminism without it being too “radical” (definitely no bra burning in this one, and no man hating either!) and those interested in contemplation of a nomadic lifestyle.

4.5/5 and Leo with a wine glass, not an Oscar.

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7 thoughts on “Review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

  1. I’ve read her other biography, which was very good, so I’ll watch out for this one. I’m a proud feminist, although I used to call myself an egalitarian feminist at university to differentiate myself from the separatists and man-haters, of whom there were a few. That ex! Goodness!

    • I must get my hands on her other bio at some point! She’s led such an amazingly full life.
      The man-haters are definitely a problem, but hopefully the image of the bra-burning intense followers will decrease over time.
      Yeahhhh dat ex… ex for a damn good reason.

  2. Steinem was already legendary when I first became a feminist in the 1970s. I really should read some of her work. Like Liz,Ii distance myself from the separatists (and I used to get really cross with those who said I should be a lesbian on political grounds – for goodness sake!). But my feminism is unshakeable. As for your ex – let me punch him……

  3. Thank goodness you’re no longer with the feminist-dissing ex!

    I heard during the week that Steinem is coming to Sydney for the Writer’s Festival & I immediately thought that I must read this book. Now you’ve tipped me over into “I really, really must read this book before May.”

    I was trying to explain to my eldest stepson the history behind the word ‘feminist’ and why some women refuse to accept it (after we watched Q&A on Monday night). Sounds like I should leave this book lying around for him to dip into 🙂

    • I know, I count my lucky stars daily for that escape, believe me!
      My fiancee is as feminist as I am, so I’ve definitely gone for an upgrade!
      Oooh I didn’t know that!! I bet she books out really quickly… or I’ll be working on the day or something!
      You should read it! I lovingly harassed a colleague into reading it and he loved it too 😉 Teenage boys could get loads out of it, even if it’s just the civil rights/indigenous culture threads. “Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates would be a good one to leave about too, as the harrowing stories of sexism really drives home why we need feminism so badly!

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