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276 pages, Hardcover
First published October 27, 2015
When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. For more than four decades, I've spent at least half my time on the road.
I've never tried to write about this way of life, not even when I was reporting on people and events along the way. It just seemed to have no category. I wasn't on a Kerouac road trip, or rebelling before settling down, or even traveling for one cause. At first I was a journalist following stories, then a sometime worker in political campaigns and movements, and most consistently an itinerant feminist organizer. I became a person whose friends and hopes were as spread out as my life. It just felt natural that the one common element in that life was the road.
It's the surprise, the unexpected, the out of control. It turns out that laughter is the only free emotion--the only one that can't be compelled. We can be made to fear. We can even be made to believe that 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 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. ~Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road
I stopped reading for a moment. Gloria Steinem's melodious voice faded into quietness and all I could hear was the silence surrounding me. I remember thinking, how is it possible to be so quiet when there's a revolution going on inside my head? Then I realized I had yet to speak up.
"When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses."
"If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them.
If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live.
If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye-to-eye."
"In fact, many questions have three or seven or dozen sides. Sometimes I think the only real division into two is between people who divide everything into two, and those who don't."
"I could leave – because I could return. I could return – because I knew adventure lay just beyond an open door. Instead of either/or, I discovered a whole world of and."
I remember an African American woman judge in a night court who refused to hear charges against any woman accused of prostitution until her customer was arrested, too. It was amazing how fast those charges melted away.2) ...and its subversive applications:
people should have sued for being culturally deprived in a white ghetto. When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.Describing the practice of directing welfare mothers from Nevada to a legal, licensed brothel (1971) on penalty of losing welfare/unemployment checks:
I am discovering that words have consequences (...) If prostitution is "sex work", a job like any other, then women can be required to do it. Men, too.3) Useful pieces of trivia:
...the Catholic Church not only didn't oppose abortion but actually regulated it until the mid-nineteenth century. It was made a mortal sin mostly for population reasons. Napoleon III wanted more soldiers, and Pope Pius IX wanted all the teaching positions in the French schools - plus the doctrine of papal infallibility - so they traded.4) Steinem's penchant for one-liners:
...as we explained our idea of teaching Gandhian tactics to women's movements, [Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, a rare woman leader during the independence struggle] listened to us patiently, sitting and rocking on her veranda, sipping tea. When we were finished, she said, "Well, of course, my dears. We taught him everything he knew."
Surrealism is the triumph of form over content.-so true of our political situation at the moment!