Book Talk: Gloria Steinem’s Life on the Road

by Erica Moody

The feminist icon delivers her first book in more than twenty years. 

By Erica Moody

gloria steinem laughing

Gloria Steinem at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (Photo by Bruce Guthrie)

“When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel,” Gloria Steinem writes in her new book, My Life on the Road.

Lucky for Steinem’s many local fans, her travels took her to Washington, D.C. The feminist activist, writer, organizer and founder of Ms. magazine, now 81, stopped by for a talk with Congresswoman Maxine Waters at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. The evening included Steinem graciously answering audience questions and signing copies of the memoir.

Steinem began by commending her friend Waters for demonstrating “that women’s authority in public life is ok, is normal, is good, is positive…because otherwise I think we’re so used to seeing women only in child rearing. We associate female authority with nurturing and emotion and things inside the home. We see male authority outside the home, and I think that’s part of the reason why it’s hard for some women too and especially for men. I’m thinking about 2008 now when Hillary took all this shit. I think in a way they [the male politicians] felt regressed to childhood because that was the last time that they thought they saw a woman in authority.”

Maxine Waters and Gloria Steinem (Photo by Bruce Guthrie)

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Gloria Steinem in conversation (Photo by Bruce Guthrie)

Waters confessed that she was hesitant to label herself a feminist back in the day, “because black women would say, what are you talking about, you can’t be a feminist, that’s a white woman thing.”

“That’s so wrong,” Steinem said. “To me, black women invented feminism, as proportionately.”

Maxine Waters and Gloria Steinem (Photo by Bruce Guthrie)

Rep. Maxine Waters and Gloria Steinem (Photo by Bruce Guthrie)

Steinem read from sections of her book, including a hilarious tale from a bikers reunion and one from the beginning of her grassroots organizing.

“The road is my substitute for meditation,” Steinem said, adding that her friends encourage her to try mindfulness meditation but she never does it. “[The road] forces you to live in the present. It forces you to be alive with all your senses and to question all your senses.”

“What is the one thing that you are most frustrated about not having seen come to pass and what’s one of your proudest achievements that has come to pass?” an audience member asked.

“Collectively I think the thing that is the most crazy making to me is violence against women in all different forms,” Steinem said. “Altogether it adds up to the fact that, for the first time that we know of, there are fewer females now on spaceship earth than males.”

Answering the other question, Steinem said, is hard. “I live in the future so when people ask me that, I would say I haven’t done it yet.”

Audience members chuckled at Steinem’s answer from a student in the audience, the president of her college’s Association for Women in Mathematics, who asked what Steinem would say to people who ask her, “Why isn’t there an association for men in mathematics?”

Guests hold Gloria Steinem's book "My Life on the Road" (Photo by Bruce Guthrie)

Guests hold Gloria Steinem’s book “My Life on the Road” (Photo by Bruce Guthrie)

“The association for men in mathematics is called mathematics,” Steinem replied.

With so many obstacles in their way over the years, what was it that kept both Steinem and Waters going? “Did you ever think about quitting?” asked another attendee.

“Every day,” Waters said, laughing. “One thing that bothers me and probably motivates me to work is unfairness. I really truly believe in equality. I believe in respect for every human being and I am motivated to fight some of those evil spirits you see on TV.”

Steinem followed, “What keeps me going is that the only thing worse than trying is not trying, and then you go around wondering, ‘what if.’ It’ll drive you crazy, so better to try.”

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