My Life On the Road by Gloria Steinem

I listened to this and enjoyed Debra Winger's narration. Gloria Steinem is one year younger than my mother. So part of what was interesting in this book was thinking about their two disparate lives. The other part was acknowledging how my life has been informed by the words of Steinem and others like her. 

My mother was a strong women who never really understood that feminism was about having choice. Life threw many hardships at her, and she just stepped up to the plate and dealt with them. She ended up with a career in nursing, but it wasn't really her first choice. My father was a stay at home dad because of an accident that left him using a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It wasn't his first choice either. Being responsible for five small children removes a lot of choice from your life, but whether or not they realized it, my parents made important choices that resonated deeply in their children. Steinem, being unburdened with children, was able to make choices more freely, and when the choices she wanted to make were limited by her gender, she did something to change that. For her work in this area, I am eternally grateful. 

I discovered feminism in the mid 1960's at the age of sixteen when I was forced to stay home from school after contracting hepatitis A at a Catholic youth conference. (such delightful irony in this) My father and I listened to CBC radio as Peter Gzowski interviewed Steinem as well as many other feminists. Then we would have conversations about equal pay for work of equal value, and what it meant to have choice. I returned to my small town high school transformed. Later on, during my first year at university, I became part of an unofficial consciousness raising group (what Steinem calls talking circles) with a diverse group of women from the east Vancouver neighbourhood I moved to. Thirty some odd years later, I still get together with this group of women at least once a year. 

It was through this group I came to understood that feminism was about telling our stories, listening and believing them, and then doing something so that the next generation of women will be telling different ones. This is a truth that is reinforced in Steinem's book. I only wish we could have accomplished more change so that younger women wouldn't be still telling the same stories of violence against them. 

Mostly I enjoyed this book, although there were sections that left me uncomfortable. This is especially true when Steinem speaks about Native American culture. There are places where it seems to be overly romanticized. However, I liked listening to her stories about the different women she has worked with across her life. 

It was interesting to listen to her thoughts on the last American election and making a choice between Obama and Clinton: especially given her recent gaff on why young women support Bernie Saunders over Hilary Clinton in this round. 

This book got me to thinking about who the prominent Canadian feminists were at this time. I can't remember reading Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, but have added it to my want to read list. As I read this book, I've been having conversations with a woman friend. We have decided to go and read the Royal commission on the status of women 1967-1970. We are afraid that not enough has really changed since then. 

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