In her memoir, My Life on the Road
(2015), Gloria Marie Steinem tells her story of traveling, creating change, and most importantly, finding herself. Praised for being candid in her writing, the book’s critical reception was overwhelmingly positive. A feminist, journalist, and activist, Steinem was a nationally recognized spokeswoman for women’s movement during the 1960s and 1970s. She is the founder of numerous projects dedicated to women’s rights. In 2005, she launched the Women’s Media Center with the help of Jane Fonda.
Steinem introduces My Life on the Road
with a chapter called “Road Signs” in which she explains that having spent most of her life on the road, it is time she sat down and wrote about her experiences. Steinem doesn’t expect to ever settle down to a permanent residence in any one place. Being on the road is home to her, as it has been ever since she was a little girl.
Steinem looks at the different reasons she travels so much, and how the people she has met along the way shaped her outlook. She is constantly evolving and changing perspective because she doesn’t stay in one place for long. This allows her to invest herself in many different causes, which is how became a spokeswoman for so many campaigns. She understands whom she’s speaking for, and why their voices matter because she gets to know them.
Steinem describes how fascinating and freeing life on the road is. She says that, for most of her life, she has let the road carry her along instead of choosing a set path. She has learned so much about herself from accepting that life is messy, and there is very little we can do to control it. All we can do is change with it. Traveling in My Life on the Road
is symbolic of life in general.My Life on the Road
is not simply a travel memoir. Steinem encourages us to find ways to be more open to change. Even if we don’t travel, we should always be looking for new opportunities and ways to broaden our perspectives – try a new hobby, or visit a new place, or simply stop planning life so far in advance. Steinem offers these suggestions if we want to live freer, happier lives.
If Steinem’s first goal is to share her life with us, and her second goal is to encourage us to live freely, then her third goal is to help us bring about change. Steinem shares stories from the people she has met on the road, hoping that they will move us to communicate with people more. She hopes we will encourage people to share their stories with us so that together, we can campaign for change. Until we are prepared to listen, and until we open ourselves to new perspectives, change is impossible.
Steinem reflects on her formative years and how her father, Leo, taught her to see the road as its own destination. He taught her to take public transport as much as possible, because she would meet other travelers. She didn’t own a car when she grew up because that would isolate her from the people around her. Steinem does everything she can to expose herself to the world and all its possibilities.
Recalling her campaigns over the years, Steinem reflects on how far we’ve come. Change is often created behind the scenes and goes unnoticed by the masses – for example, the 1977 National Women’s Conference was groundbreaking, but people rarely discuss it. Having contributed to many revolutionary causes over the years, Steinem is proud of how far we have come – even if there’s still a long way to go. Just as the road is long and endless, so is the path to equality and justice.
Although she has made positive changes, Steinem is honest about her own prejudices. She isn’t perfect, and she has had her eyes opened many times over the years. She hopes that, by sharing her own misconceptions and the lessons she has learned, more people will feel empowered to admit they still have a lot to learn. All that matters, Steinem says, is that we are willing to grow.
Steinem reflects on how important it is to stay true to ourselves. It is impossible to please everyone and we shouldn’t try. Instead, we should set an example to other people, by showing them it is possible to stay true to ourselves. Although Steinem has spent most of her life traveling, and she has evolved in countless ways, she has always stayed true to who she is. Her identity is, in a sense, its own permanent destination.