Jessie Young's Reviews > My Life on the Road

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
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really liked it

I really look up to Gloria Steinem and I loved learning more about her important contributions to feminism by reading this book (her memoir). I found the Hillary Clinton chapter of this book to be a bit off-putting. I understand why she did it, but it felt like a political campaign ad right smack dab in the middle of the book. I am a Clinton supporter, but would have preferred to see that part of the book taken up with more of Gloria's fascinating stories.



Sometimes I think the only real division into two is between people who divide everything into two, and those who don’t.

“Hate generalizes, love specifies.”

Faraway India helped to introduce me to the way most people live in the world, something way beyond anything I knew. I’m still thankful to that huge and struggling country for being impossible to ignore; otherwise I might have come home as the same person I was when I left.

hope is a form of planning.

My dream bore a suspicious resemblance to the life I saw in movies, but my longing for it was like a constant low-level fever.

If I pressed hard enough, she would add, “If I’d left, you never would have been born.” I never had the courage to say: But you would have been born instead.

Like many daughters especially, I was living out the unlived life of my mother.

I never told my father how grateful I was that he was different from my best friend’s father. I had just witnessed my first humiliating clean-your-plate-or-you-can’t-have-dessert incident at her house. When I came home, I tested my father. We were eating in our usual haphazard way in the living room—never on the debris-covered dining room table that was used only on national holidays—and he asked me if I wanted dessert. I pointed out that I hadn’t finished my dinner. “That’s okay,” he said as he went into the kitchen for ice cream. “Sometimes you’re hungry for one thing and not another.” I loved him so much at that moment.

Only after I saw women who were attracted to distant, condescending, even violent men did I begin to understand that having a distant, condescending, even violent father could make those qualities seem inevitable, even feel like home. Because of my father, only kindness felt like home.

I had wanted to escape my traveling childhood, yet I was traveling and making the discovery that ordinary people are smart, smart people are ordinary, decisions are best made by the people affected by them, and human beings have an almost infinite capacity for adapting to the expectations around us—which is both the good and the bad news.

I began to see that for some, religion was just a form of politics you couldn’t criticize.

“When an Ethiopian general is killed, the troops are in disarray,” one Eritrean driver explained to me. “When an Eritrean general is killed, every fighter becomes a general.”

If you travel long enough, every story becomes a novel.

If you do anything people care about, people will take care of you.

No wonder studies show that women’s intellectual self-esteem tends to go down as years of education go up. We have been studying our own absence.

They applaud when Margaret says, “I still have scars on my head and dust between my toes from marching across that bridge in Selma. Once I was left for dead. But when the organizing began, they asked me to make coffee.”

Since many have also been raised with traditional southern ideas of womanhood, they also cheer when I talk about women feeling like a half-person without a man standing next to them, whether on Saturday night or throughout life. This would surprise men, too, I explain, if they realized how little it matters which man is standing there. More laughter, and cries of “Tell it!”

If there is one that men want to talk about most, it’s how much they missed having nurturing fathers, or any man in their lives who cared. Once they delve into that, the question is how to become that father or man themselves. This childhood wish is one of the greatest allies that feminism could have.

I could see that not speaking up made my mother feel worse. This was my first hint of the truism that depression is anger turned inward; thus women are twice as likely to be depressed.

I’ve noticed that great political leaders are energized by conflict. I’m energized by listening to people’s stories and trying to figure out shared solutions. That’s the work of an organizer.

Both white and black women were more likely than their male counterparts to support Hillary Clinton—and in my observation, also more likely to believe that she couldn’t win. Male and female black voters were more likely than white voters to support Obama and also to believe he couldn’t win. Each group was made pessimistic by the depth of the bias they had experienced.

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. In choosing Hillary, I would be seen as selfish for supporting a woman “like” me. But that was a warning, too. Needing approval is a female cultural disease, and often a sign of doing the wrong thing.

children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman;

A writer’s greatest reward is naming something unnamed that many people are feeling. A writer’s greatest punishment is being misunderstood. The same words can do both.

the power to make people laugh is also a power, so women have been kept out of comedy.

Polls show that what women fear most from men is violence, and what men fear most from women is ridicule.

We can be made to fear. We can even be made to believe we’re in love because, if we’re kept dependent and isolated for long enough, we bond in order to survive. But laughter explodes like an aha! It comes when the punch line changes everything that has gone before, when two opposites collide and make a third, when we suddenly see a new reality. Einstein said he had to be very careful while shaving, because when he had an idea, he laughed—and he cut himself. Laughter is an orgasm of the mind.

Since learning causes our brains to grow new synapses, I like to believe that the road is sharpening my mind and lengthening my life with surprise.

Truckers are such constant listeners that they dictate pop music hits. Also, Nashville produces specialty truckers’ songs as a profitable category. Who knew?

“You’re always the person you were when you were born,” she says impatiently. “You just keep finding new ways to express it.”

Those with extra money discover how much more satisfying it is to see talent and fairness grow than to see objects accumulate. Those without money learn the valuable lesson that money doesn’t cure all woes. Instead, it may actually insulate and isolate. I think this

No wonder oral history turns out to be more accurate than written history. The first is handed down from the many who were present. The second is written by the few who probably weren’t.

“The root of oppression is the loss of memory.”

By respecting and expecting self-authority in others, she drew people out of passivity and despair.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December, 2015 – Finished Reading
July 11, 2017 – Shelved

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