Book Review: Gloria Steinem’s “My Life on the Road”

Hallelujah! I finally finished “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem, which I have had since my birthday last year. What makes this book so special to me – first and foremost- is that it is signed by THE Gloria Steinem, someone I have idolized growing up. Since the physical book is basically sacred to me, I think I was scared to open the book to actually read it but I did and….it did not disappoint!IMG_5082

The beginning of the book is Gloria’s tale of growing up with her father working as a traveling (and struggling) antiques salesman, in which she would travel with him in his car throughout the U.S. Meanwhile, her mother stayed at home and struggled with mental illness. As privileged as she was and still is, I was surprised at how humble her beginnings and how her time on the road with her father influenced her. Gloria would later chronicle her own many journeys throughout the U.S. as she gave speeches at universities and organized events.

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Gloria Steinem’s autograph. 

Many experiences (unsurprisingly) include her talking about how she was not taken seriously and disrespected. During the Lyndon Johnson administration, on the way to an event for Bobby Kennedy two famous writers in a cab in NYC with Gloria leaned across one another to say “You know how every year there’s a pretty girl who comes to New York and pretends to be a writer? Well, Gloria is this year’s pretty” (139). This is just one of many examples in which Gloria was mistreated due to her gender. We all know, of course, that she is no pretty face. Ironically, she went on to break barriers for women everywhere.

What I also liked is what Gloria spent the final pages of her book on – the plight of Native Americans and the successes of her best friend, Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation in 1985. This was a touching tribute to her friend that was with until her last breath, heaving fought many years recovering from a car accident and then succumbing to pancreatic cancer.

Between just Gloria and Wilma alone, there seemed so many possibilities as to what they could do, especially when together. Gloria was a women’s rights crusader who made feminism mainstream. Wilma was a true warrior spent her live improving health care and education for Native Americans. Both Gloria and Wilma were recipients of the Presidential Medals of Freedom. By the end of the book, you are left with the hopefully message that yes, life is a journey, and you really are free to make it your own. This may mean hitting the road and organizing events like Gloria, or finding passion at home. Whatever it is though, you should follow the path you love.

What’s your passion?

 

A Day to Remember: Boston Women’s March

Uplifting. Untifying. Those are the two words that immediately pop into my head when thinking about the Women’s March in Boston I attended on December 21. Though I may not be the best account of the March, seeing as I had to leave early and was unable to complete the actual marching, I can still describe the feeling that was evident while I attended the rally in the Boston Commons.

The night prior to the March, I was starting to think I would not go because I wanted to sleep in. However, that next morning I felt as though my body was being possessed to go to the March, and I am so glad I did!

I traveled to the March alone because I knew no one else going and coming from a conservative household, there was no way anyone from my family would join me. On the train to Boston, I made friends with a woman who told me about how she too was traveling alone because her husband and son were strongly against the women’s rights movement. She then proceeded to tell me a story about how her boss from the 80’s sexually assaulted her, prior to the laws shifting towards sexual harassment (thank you, Anita Hill).

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As you may notice, there were men in attendance. You can’t tell from this photo, but they were in abundance to support their ladies. 

When my new friend and I got to Boston, we joined people that she knew would be there and made our way into the Commons. We were too far away to hear the inspirational speeches but the chant of “March! March!” were heard ever so often. With the distance between me and the microphone, it allowed me people watch.

What I noticed is that there was no shoving when people needed to get by. Women were polite to one another. They were sharing their beads and other rally decorum. They were sharing their stories of prejudice and discrimination. Overall, women were hopeful. I saw a lot of people with signs protest Trump but the feeling that shook me was how you could almost feel the strength and energy bouncing off of other people. I couldn’t hear the mic very well, but that’s because everyone was huddled so close together! This closeness is metaphoric to the connectedness of the crowd.

I feel very lucky to have experienced the day even for the short time that I was there. I hope that someday, when this day is in a history book, my grandchildren will exclaim, “My grandma was there!” and know that I was part of a movement grown out of the love, to protect our country from imminent harm.

I do want to believe in our government and our President. Even though he sees the March as “fake news,” I hope he is actually internalizing the effects of this historic demonstration.

 

Female Empowerment: A Subjective Subject

Take a look at a music videos by any famous pop star and 9 times out of 10, they will be wearing little to no clothing. Should we be offended? Probably not–especially since it is their bodies and they are free to do as they wish (or the record labels are free to make whatever decision they see fit *cough cough*). A famous pop star group that sought to embody female empowerment was The Pussy Cat Dolls, a group of talented female singers and dancers whose personas were built on being sexually provocative. Though they claimed their platform was one of female empowerment, many would say that being empowered has nothing to do with wearing booty shorts and singing songs about teasing men. Though on one hand, these things should have NOTHING to do with female empowerment, their message was that by a woman owning her sexuality, she can take charge of her life–or can exude more confidence at the least.

If a woman does not have the kind of aesthetic of a Pussycat Doll, can’t dance nor sing, she can still have her own kind of beauty and need not act like a sexy pop star. A woman can own her own sexiness or choose to embrace other traits, such as intelligence. The main idea is that what empowers one woman may not empower another. Some people feel powerful in suits while others feel powerful in the nude and we should not judge people based on what makes them feel the most confident.

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Photo courtesy of Vevo

A few months ago, there was a huge online debacle between reality TV star Kim Kardashian and a young, accomplished actress named named Chloe Grace Moretz. Moretz wrote a post to Kardashian about how she should set a better example for women after posted an all nude photo in a bathroom with her private parts blacked out. This is how she responded.

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Courtesy of Twitter account @kimkardashian

Though it seemed as though Moretz was voicing a valid concern, Kardashian sought to put her down. I know what you’re thinking–isn’t this contradictory!? Can’t Kim K be naked if she wants!? Well, of course she can. Moretz’ concern seemed more focused on the fact that Kim K has such a large following and her whole business is based off her body (her celebrity status took off after a porn tape release), it was received as an attack.

The bottom line: Women should help one another. If you want to be naked in a photo, that’s great. However, not all people may understand and it’s not our jobs to make them understand what makes you feel your best. All women should acknowledge that there are so many ways to feel confident and there is no one is one size fits all!