A BOOK WRITTEN BY AN AMERICAN FEMALE FEMINIST ACTIVIST about her life on the road… sounds like a no brainer: this is a book I should want to read. Except… I didn’t want to read it. I’d seen the book pop up on different sites, but I never felt the urge to read it.
And then Emma Watson decided to start a feminist book club and of course, being the book-loving, Harry Potter-loving, feminist-loving woman I am, I now had to read everything to do with this book club (which I started with all my usual enthusiasm, and then stopped like so many other projects, but that’s another story all together). Of course the first book to be read turned out to be “My life on the road” by Gloria Steinem and I felt forced to read this book that I had been ignoring for a while now. Funny how that works.
Turns out, I was a fool not to want to read this book. From the very first page I was addicted. This woman has a voice I could just imagine (and that I later found out sounded nothing like the actual real-life Gloria Steinem). Her story about growing up on the road caught my attention and I loved listening to it. What really got me though, was her transformation to a feminist activist that happened whilst she was travelling. It was inspiring to read how a relatively shy girl, could grow into one of the more prominent figures of the feminist cause in the United States.
In this book, Gloria Steinem has so many things to say about the subject of feminism, without becoming the stereotypical angry man-hating butch lesbian feminist. To my everlasting shame I’d somehow unconsciously come to believe that feminists from the ‘60’s who were still writing about feminist issues had to be that stereotype. Even though most of my life I have tried to tell people again and again that feminism is not about seeing women as better than man, I’d still somehow fallen into the trap, which I only discovered from my own surprise about her style of writing.
Thank god than for this book, because it not only showed me my own prejudice, but at the same time taught me how my feelings about feminism could be articulated. The book reads like a memoir, but provides information on a lot of issues. Issues that seem to belong to the past, or another place, but also issue I could relate to. And the magic of the book is that the issues are discussed eloquently, but simple enough for anybody to understand. It provides a starting point for me to speak about my feelings and ideas on feminism.
The only negatives about this book are the last two chapters or so. Gloria Steinem clearly got interested in native American history and the marginalisation these people have had to suffer. So much so, that she states wanting to write a book about this issue and you can feel that seeping into the book. Although it still provides an interesting read, it feels like a departure from the rest of the narrative. Honestly, if she’d finished the book a few chapters earlier, it would have made the book even stronger, but as far as negatives go, this is still a pretty good one.
This book has made me want to read more feminist literature (you have been warned, though being the avid reader I am, I’m sure I’ll cover more types of books) and it makes me want to speak up on this issue more than I am currently doing. This certainly is an activist and activating book!
So to start: please read this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants their perspectives shifted, for anyone who has even the slightest interest in the issue and for anyone who believes feminism is no longer necessary.
Finally, my favourite quote is about a group of people, doing things their own way and changing their corner of the world. They “are changing the system to fit people, not the other way around”. A lesson worth remembering in these times.