Book review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Just finished reading My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem at 70-something. A beautiful testament to her life – from her difficult childhood with a loving but somewhat looney, itinerant father and her lost-soul mother, to her many, many years traveling around the world writing for major outlets and organizing people in pursuit of women’s equality and reproductive freedom.

Beautiful stories of people she met, some of whom she developed very close relationships with, from the amazing Native woman who brought self-reliance and independence back to so many Native tribes that had lost their way, to the cab drivers and poor people and famous people and powerful people – including the then-pope – whose lives intersected with hers in some way, she gives the facts and reflects on their meanings in simple, fluid prose.

Another woman who fights for women's equality

Another woman who fights for women’s equality

My favorite parts are the ones where she speaks gently of her longing for a home when she was little and speaks tenderly about so many of the people she’s met and/or worked with. She has a clear eye and an open heart, and her book lets you know her in a way you never could from reading many of the often-harsh news stories about her battle for feminism and her long struggles to help make Ms. Magazine a force for good.

The book is a reflection on how a single courageous soul can create profound change by listening to people.

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Who are you?

So many of us are raised in fear. We all need and want our parents’ approval and encouragement. Some of us get it in fair measure, and others get little or none. After all, many of our parents weren’t raised by people who’d had terrific support–it’s a long vicious cycle.

Found this great quote on successful-PR-expert Kirsten Osolind‘s Facebook site:

“All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone
tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were
often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking
for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I,
could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my
expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born
with: that I am nobody but myself.”

“The harder we fought, the more threatening the men became…”

– Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal”

I was moved to comment:

So applicable to so many of us women–waiting for approval or permission. At SWWAN we are working on making the world a safer place for women to step out of the shadows and be themselves in spite of society’s discomfort.

“A single woman represents chaos. Woman belongs only in a marriage or in a convent.” …line from a famous South American fim that I can’t remember the name of right now.

How have you gone about finding yourself? How much do you rely on the approval of others? It can be tough to believe in yourself when you don’t fit into an accepted pattern–don’t meet people’s expectations for “normal.” Single women, more than many others, have to face this reality every day. Thanks, Kirsten.

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The circle of life – the mother in us all

Women. Mothers. Single women as mothers. The nurturing qualities for which women are justly celebrated are not distributed in equal degrees. But regardless of what kind of mother you yourself are so far–or hope to be–you have a mother of your own. And there’s no human connection like the one between mother and child. Even when fraught with pain, it is yet the most powerful bond on earth.

Tomorrow is a day to celebrate the mother in us all. Let us stand together on this day. For just a moment, close your eyes and imagine you’re holding hands with every other woman on earth–imagine your neighbor, your coworker, your friend, your sister, aunt, cousin, your mom (even if she’s not here). Feel in your sister’s hands the warmth of her love for you, feel the energy of your friend’s pains and joys passing to your fingers. Send your coworker the peace you feel in a tender moment with someone you love, feel tension and pain ebb away in the shared warmth of your hands touching.

Feel the strength you pass between you, the courage you celebrate in each other, the laughter and the tears you share with all these other women. And just for a moment, know with absolute certainty that we are all in this together.

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