Friday, October 20, 2017

Book 164: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

It turns out I picked the perfect book for our vacation to Canada: My Life on the Road by gender equality activist Gloria Steinem. In this book she chronicled her travels around the world and the U.S., during which she gained experience that made her so well-equipped for roles as a women's right's activist, writer, journalist, speaker, and grassroots community organizer.

Each chapter of this book focuses on a different travel experience and shows how each experience gave Steinem tools to approach her next challenge or build a following around an issue. In one chapter after another, Steinem described herself as a veritable modern gypsy, more comfortable and alive on the road than anywhere else. Now in her 70s, Steinem says traveling is the reason she's stayed young at heart.

My Life on the Road was not just about travel. It was about exploring controversial topics - racism, gender equality, homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, prostitution, abortion, human trafficking, migrant workers, LGBTQ, civil, and human rights - through Steinem's interactions with people impacted by these issues. As she traveled, she learned more about the U.S. than she ever would have in the history books. And she also saw firsthand how women and minorities were treated, and how they fought back by building vibrant, supportive communities.

I found this book fascinating for many different reasons. For one, I believe in equal rights for women but also believe we are centuries away from achieving it. This book gave me hope that perhaps one day, a man will feel shame in addressing any women over age 10 as "honey" or "sweetie." It also validated some of my own experiences, such as being called "aggressive" and given poor marks on a performance review when I was, in fact, doing my best to hold male coworkers to normal workplace behavior standards. Also, like Steinem, I am so shocked when someone does something obviously demeaning that I don't know what to say in the moment. I think a lot of women deal with the same crisis of conscience: the desire to remain respectful, professional, and polite while also wanting to tear someone's head off for not being respectful, professional, or polite.

I began the book while on vacation, and ended it as I was pulling into my hometown, which was precisely when Steinem was concluding her book with a story about the comforts of home. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone of any gender (but certainly adult).

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