Gloria Steinem has been in my peripheral for years now. She’s lovely. She’s a feminist journalist. We both have a penchant for large sunglasses. She did waitressed for Playboy to write an exposé. She’s an iconic feminist figure. Sometimes her politics and approach seemed too bland for me to really deeply identify with her. Other times she seemed too out there.
I read her latest book, My Life on the Road, and here’s what stood out to me. Because of her known beauty and brains, she could have chosen a conventional path: marrying for love and money, children, soccer games, and charities–all meaningful work, but too often requires the sacrificing of the self for the good of the others (family). That she chose not to pursue a more conventional path, one that so many women value and judge themselves against, is powerful. Steinem had a choice, and she chose feminism. (I’m fully aware the this observation might seem less than feminist, but I think her beauty is part of her particular feminism, and I’m treating it as such.)
The book itself if full of important feminist history. I tend to be exposed to more “high theory,” academic feminism. Steinem’s history is a political one, a public one. She’s a journalist after all, with a wide readership.
First–and this blew my mind–she began the book by dedicating it to her abortionist. Her abortionist. I found this to be completely provocative and outrageous and wonderful and true. And for that I loved it.
Here are some quotes from the book that I thought were of interest (with page number):
On violence against women and a healthy society: “We might have known sooner that the most reliable predictor of whether a country is violent within itself—or will use military violence against another country—is not poverty, natural resources, religion, or even degree of democracy; it’s violence against females. It normalizes all other violence” 43.
On the economy and the environment: “pressuring women to have too many children is the biggest cause of environmental distress, and economic courses should start with reproduction, not just production” 100.
On our Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton: “she was potentially, as one said, “a great girlfriend” who had their backs” 160.
Cultural problems: “Women are always better liked if we sacrifice ourselves for something bigger—and something bigger always means including men, even though something bigger for men doesn’t usually mean including women” 165.
This one’s just a good line: “Laughter is an orgasm of the mind” 181.
These song lyrics:
It’s a rainy night in Georgia
and it looks like
all over the world
Just another great line: “Surrealism is the triumph of form over content” 189.
This is going to take forever: “According to the wisdom of Indian Country on my own continent, it takes four generations to heal one act of violence” 202.
Here’s why it’s so important to me that Hillary Clinton received the presidential nomination: “…when God is depicted only as a white man, only white men seem godly” 205.
A great chapter title that has me thinking about my relationship to Truth: “What Was Once Can be Again” 211.
Truth: “YOU CANNOT THINK YOURSELF INTO RIGHT LIVING. YOU LIVE YOURSELF INTO RIGHT THINKING. –Native Elders 234.
On women: “Women elders were keeping the rhythm of life” 241.
Something to remember in regards to politics: “Anybody who is experiencing something is more expert in it than the experts” 245.
Parting wisdom to remember: “My father did not have to trade dying alone for the jobs of the road. My mother did not have to give up a journey of her own to have a home.
Neither do I. Neither do you” 251.
Be well, my loves.