My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

BIG NEWS! Except not really big. And not really new. As I announced on Instagram about a month ago I have decided to join Emma Watson‘s feminist book club called «Our Shared Shelf» on Goodreads. My reason number one for joining is that it‘s Emma friggin‘ Watson, and basically if Hermione Granger opened a book club I‘d join without hesitation. But I also figured that I don‘t really know anything about feminism. I can see why women would need it in, say, Saudi-Arabia, but I have never really thought about why feminism might also be important to me personally. So reading a book about it every month might really be an eye opener.

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Last month‘s book was called My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. It was a bit hard to get by which is why I finished reading it a little later than originally planned. There is a huge discussion board on Goodreads, but I‘m usually so busy that I can‘t really take the time to actively participate in the discussions; however, I decided to read through some of the arguments and put them on my blog. If anyone still wants to discuss certain aspects or opinions, please feel free to do so in the comment section. 🙂

First of all, the blurb:

«Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. Every fall, her father would pack the family into the car and they would drive across the country, in search of their next adventure. The seeds were planted: Steinem would spend much of her life on the road, as a journalist, organizer, activist, and speaker. In vivid stories that span an entire career, Steinem writes about her time on the campaign trail, from Bobby Kennedy to Hillary Clinton; her early exposure to social activism in India; organizing ground-up movements in America; the taxi drivers who were “vectors   of modern myths” and the airline stewardesses who embraced feminism; and the infinite contrasts, the “surrealism in everyday life” that Steinem encountered as she travelled back and forth across the country. With the unique perspective of one of the greatest feminist icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, here is an inspiring, profound, enlightening memoir of one woman’s life-long journey.»

To me, one of the first and most important aspects of feminism that Gloria Steinem mentions is that of a functional community that listens to the needs of others. Or as she puts it:

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This doesn‘t just count for women but really for people in general. Women are just one group that is or was being oppressed, depending on region and culture. So feminism is about injustice being heard. And not just that – she states right in the beginning that helping somebody, be it women, men or children, you have to go about understanding them and their situation, every aspect of it:

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This can not be stressed enough. Steinem later tells the story of how she once tried to save a turtle by putting it back in the sea. Her teacher then explained to her that this turtle had just spent weeks crawling up the beach to lay its eggs – now it would have to start over. Her conclusion:

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To me that means that we can‘t, for example, just tell women in the Middle East to stop obeying their husbands. I, at least, am in no way entitled to do that. I know very little of their culture and I can not possibly fathom the outcome of such protest. Wouldn‘t everyone agree that Malala is a feminist? Yet, she wears a headscarf, just like millions of women do, and our western society tries to tell them that this is sexist and limits them in their freedom. How many women have we asked? Sure, they should be able to decide for themselves, and many aren‘t allowed to make such decisions – but unless someone from their own culture takes her headscarf off as an act of female liberation, many women will not even want that «freedom.» And I certainly have no say in it. Scrolling through Goodreads I found a few interesting comments on the topic and I take the liberty to quote them here (since Goodreads is a public sphere already):

«As a domestic violence survivor a friend of a friend used to try to help me by being mean to my abuser after we broke up. Nothing could have bothered me more than that because I felt that I had sacrificed years of my life to make him happy and someone making him miserable now was not a comfort to me, but even when I told her that she kept doing it. I loved this story because it reminded me of that and it gave me a way to remember that I have to make sure I’m doing the right thing for others.»

«I’m Mexican, which means my darker skin gives me away whenever I go on vacations to the US, and something that gets to me every time is the condescending looks people give me. People constantly talk to me slowly, as if I was stupid, when they don’t know that I’ve studied English ever since I was two years old. And when I reply with good English they look surprised, it’s insulting. As Latins we are constantly misrepresented as illiterate, lazy or even stupid. And even when I know I am privileged, it bothers me that people think they can put an entire nation down just because of the stereotypes they are bombarded with.»

That actually leads to another thread that I never even considered a part of the feminist movement: race. This certainly has a lot to do with the fact that I live in Switzerland where racism, although prominently existant, is not to be compared with racism in the United States. I never realised the obvious fact that black women in a white world would struggle twice as hard as their male counterparts – once because of the colour of their skin and the discrimination they had or have to face because of that, and twice because of their feminity that would discriminate them in both black and white cultures. I always think that stating somebody‘s skin colour is in itself a racist act – why should I care whether that girl next door has brown or white or purple skin?! But Steinem made me realise that in certain contexts it‘s an essential piece of information. Not because it necessarily says something about the person, but it says a lot about the society around them.

The author naturally also takes into account Native American societies. What I didn‘t know either was that gender roles aren‘t simply a given. They have changed throughout history and gender equality was a given in certain cultures. Steinem quotes Paula Gunn Allen:

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There is an incredible amount of topics Golria Steinem touches and discusses in her work and it‘s simply not possible to spread them out in a single blog post. I believe that the most essential thing I have learned so far is that feminism equals the fight for human rights. This doesn‘t come as a surprise, but feminism as a word has become more of an insult than the definition of an activist movement. It does not consider simple aspects of human rights such as a woman‘s control over her own body or the male rape victims or domestic violence. One very interesting opinion of Gloria Steinem‘s is the following:

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It‘s such an interesting thought that human rights would start with the fair treatment of women. I‘m not sure I entirely agree, and this quote will definitely have to be put in context. But it is certainly a thought I‘ll keep taking into account and that I might come back to on this blog as well.

My Life on the Road is a very moving and interesting read; I think I agree on almost everything Gloria Steinem has to say. She is definitely not a man hating, non-shaving women‘s libber that so many of my gender fear to be or seen as (and if you are, then good on you! There‘s nothing wrong with that either. Except, don‘t hate men. Don‘t hate, ‘k?)

I definitely recommend this book, even, and especially, if you don‘t consider yourself a feminist!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

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Last But Not Least: Day Four

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Ten years ago someone asked me what my favourite part about Winchester was, and I answered, «the catherdral.»

And I still feel mesmerised by this ancient structure that stands there so proudly. The windows were once destroyed and yet, people gathered the broken pieces and rearranged them, a beautiful chaosof of unfitting colours and shapes. The floor is crooked, and do not trust these walls. All those small imperfections that show just how desperately people want to live. How little effect war and destruction have on our need of beauty and light and divinity.

They say that Winchester is the hometown of Camelot.
I believe it.

(Quote: The Sword in the Stone [Disney])

Blogmas (Day 25) – «Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time!»

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I‘ll be leaving you with a short last post for this wonderful Blogmas night, seeing as it takes up all my strength not to finish Giovanna Fletcher‘s Dream a Little Dream right now!

Today‘s been the first day in months that I didn‘t have to get up at eight and head off to work or uni or my desk. Instead I took it slow, got up at nine and made Christmas cookies in my jammies while my mum fixed her Christmas Day with her boyfriend. Around midday Tobias and I headed over to our dad‘s house, almost missing the train – but then again, what is Christmas without a race through a busy main station, right?

We had pasta for lunch because my wonderful stepmum just knows her picky eaters well, then stuffed ourselves with the Red Velvet Cake I made for my dad‘s birthday a few days back. Opening the presents was as exciting as ever, especially as I didn‘t expect anything! My dad and his wive already got me an (almost) new MacBook and as a (wannabe) writer I couldn‘t have asked for a better gift! However, they still managed to whisk up a book series that I didn‘t know and that‘s right up my street. It‘s called The School for Good and Evil by Soman Ghainani, and part of the reason why I want to finish reading Dream a Little Dream so much is that I can start on this one. Oh, the agony!

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Of course nobody had as much fun tearing off paper as my niece did. And finally, when all the excitement of that was gone I kept walking around the richly decorated Christmas tree with her and discovering all the gorgeous little ornaments and baubles with her. It‘ a wonder, really, that she didn‘t knock any of it down!

To finish this grand day off we watched Three Gifts for Cinderella, my all time favourite Christmas movie, and The Rise of the Guardians (am I the only who‘d totally hit Jack Frost?!). Now I‘m sitting on the couch by myself and taking in the Christmas atmosphere. It‘s smelling of gingerbread and sugar cookies and chocolate and blown out candles. It‘s quiet with all the giggles and music having faded away and it‘s peaceful. It‘s me and my books, and I think that looking back on all of my Christmases, it‘s always been that – me and my books having a little Christmas party when everyone else has disappeared into their own beds.

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I hope everyone has had an amazing Christmas and I‘m sending out virtual hugs to all of you!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Don’t forget to wish a Merry Christmas to Anna who has been an amazing Blogging partner this Christmas season! You find her blog over on http://www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com. This will certainly not be our last project together seeing as we booked a trip to London – and how could I ever visit London and not blog about it, right?!

Blogmas (Day 24) – Christmas Eve Celebration

Happy Christmas Eve everyone!

I have just had the loveliest Christmas Dinner with my family. We went to my grandmother‘s house as we do most years because out of all of us she cooks the best. Also, in contrast to my mum and me, she‘s quite well organised. She‘d made a vegetarian lasagna and I brought a butterscotch roulade for dessert. My family loves eating, so dinner was clearly a highlight of the evening. We usually go to church after opening the presents, but this year we took our time singing Christmas carols, my mum read us two stories, then we each took turns opening our presents.

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I feel so blessed having been able to spend another Christmas with the people I hold dearest. It‘s such a privilege to be alive and well and happy. I was also given amazing presents, and I realise that that, too, is not something to be taken for granted. To wish for something and to just get it, that‘s a huge wonder in itself and I‘m amazed to have been so lucky all my life. Even when times were not as good as they are now, my parents always gave my brother and me everything they could.

I don‘t care if I get a laser sword next year or if somebody buys me an Around-the-World ticket, all I‘ll ever want is this: my family gathered around the tree and laughing until tears flow.

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Tomorrow Tobias and I will be spending Christmas with our dad and our adopted patchwork family which will probably include even more eating. I can‘t wait!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Blogmas (Day 23) – Blogger Gift Exchange

Hello Lovelies!

Today Anna (aka my Blogmas partner in crime aka Tiny Trinket on http://www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com) and I exchanged our Christmas presents. It wasn‘t a proper exchange, because I was in the book shop working and she just dropped hers and then had to commit to an odyssey through the store because I had put mine behind a colleague‘s counter on another floor. According to the messages I received I assume she found it, though!

I love opening presents. I don‘t care whether they‘re big or small and I certainly don‘t expect people to get me anything – but I love opening presents so much that sometimes , when I buy something for myself, I have it gift wrapped. So when I had the bag of wrapped up goodies at my feet this afternoon at work I was feeling downright giddy. Anna got my so many exciting things I really can‘t wait to share them with everyone (on the internet. Not in real life. Let‘s not get carried away, okay?)

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The most amazing thing is the Frozen muesly she got me. I have a half finished box already in my kitchen, but yay! I was feeling put off because it‘s so delicious and I keep telling myself that I must not buy stuff just because Olaf is on it. But now Christmas is saved!

Then she got me a pasta measuring thing that gives spagetthi the shape of a unicorn. Again, magical!

And lastly she added a recipe book called Vintage Teatime Recipes. If you‘ve read my About page you‘ll know that I love the English culture, so this is just pure awesomeness! I‘ll be making scones for the better part of next year!

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This just goes to show how well Anna knows me, and I‘m so psyched about the whole unwrapping process that I‘ve just been through! A huge thank you is definitely in order (thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!). If you want to know what I got her pop over to her blog on www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com where she‘s already uploaded pictures!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Blogmas (Day 22) – Daddy’s Girl

Hellooo!

My dad turned half a century today, and that is a cause to celebrate!
Tobias and I went over to his house after work, just in time for dessert (we‘re always in time for dessert!) and spent the evening talking over a hot cup of tea and eating tons of cake and cookies.

2015-12-23 02.05.50 Something I will aways adore about my dad‘s and his wive‘s household is how utterly geeky and pink it is. They love to decorate, so during Christmas time it just looks so much like Santa‘s house. They are massive Disney fanatics and can spend hours discussing Star Wars. My dad once actually kept me entertained for an hour straight by talking about Lord of the Rings characters peeing (because it just bothered me that it is never mentioned in the books – like, in Harry Potter you know there are bathrooms, but in LotR do they just go behind the trees? Do they have plumbing in Rivendell?!). Obviously the present he got from us was just as nerdy, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a geek father – namely two books called Darth Vader and Son and Vader‘s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown. They‘re little comics that show Darth Vader‘s life as a committed father to twins. I thought it was accurate because my dad obviously identified with Darth Vader a lot and I idolised Princess Leia (she is so hardcore, yeah!). 

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It‘s only  three more days until Christmas! Whoohhooo! Go see what Anna‘s favourite Christmas memory is over on her blog: www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com. I haven’t read it either, so you‘ll be joined by me… in a way… I suppose, right?

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Here’s my absolute favourite picture from Vader’s Little Princess btw!

Source: www.thinkgeek.com
Source: http://www.thinkgeek.com

Blogmas (Day 21) – A Christmas Memory

Last friday I had actually planned on writing about a lovely Christmas memory – which I didn‘t do because I was so psyched about the new Star Wars movie (still am, but MOVING ON!). Although I used to call rainy weather «Star Wars Weather» when I was little (because I was not allowed to watch telly when the sun was out), there are of course better holiday memories to tell you about.

The one that has stuck with me the most is from when I was about seven years old. It was a few days before Christmas Day and my dad, who‘s a reverend, took me to a Christmas Party in the woods. This is something quite traditional in Switzerland and not as creepy as it sounds. Basically people working at church gather somewhere in a forest and decorate a tree, there‘s a little sermon and you sing Christmas carols. My dad was in the organising committee and quite spontaneously took me along. I just remember that sort of magical feel, standing in a dark forest and holding a candle and being a little, shining light. I felt so small and so big and so much a part of the world around me.

At the end there were presents and I was given a Tarzan picture book. The Disney movie had just come out and I loved that book so much. I read it over and over again on the train later that night. And then I wondered what would happen if I stuck a piece of the apple I was eating up my nose – and, being me, I simply tried. And then Tarzan landed on the floor and I was crying because I could not get the darn thing out of my nose.

We went to my grandparents‘ house for the night and I remember being taken in by my grandmother. She had been waiting up and, having removed all fruity remains from my nose, I felt so safe and wrapped up. My bed was already made and I think I fell asleep on the way from the porch to the guest room, and closing my eyes was so easy and harmless because arms would always catch me and carry me, and somebody would always tuck me in.

Now I feel I sometimes forget the light that I once felt I was, and I forget that just because I have to tuck myself in now there will always be arms to catch me.

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Anna’s blog turned 1 yesterday, so everyone, please go and congratulate her/it! You find her on http://www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com. Her blog’s amazing, as is she! 🙂

Also, here’s a song that reminds me of that Christmas!

Blogmas (Day 20) – Christmas in Godric’s Hollow

So, I have been thinking, you know, I collect the plushy Disney Princesses, right? Is there a Leia one? Does she count as a Disney Princess yet? Oh, the questions that haunt a student‘s mind!

Moving on! I‘ve just come home from a Harry Potter marathon at a friend‘s house (yes, we‘re staying on the geek road), and can I just repeat how utterly amazing Harry Potter is! We watched the last two films which I had last seen in the theatre. My friend has neither read the books nor seen the final movie, so she had no idea who was going to die and how the saga was going to end. That‘s, like, not knowing who won World War II! But she did an excellent job, she laughed at all the right puns and cried in the right moments. We were both hugging our part of the blanket when we got to the end of Part II, and just gasping for air.

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One of my favourite parts is when Harry and Hermione visit Godric‘s Hollow together where Harry was born and where his parents were killed. It‘s Christmas Eve and they stand at the grave of Harry‘s parents, and it‘s sad, but I just feel so much watching this. This is Harry who has been neglected by his family throughout his entire childhood, who‘s had to live with the legacy of being a war orphan, alive only by his mother‘s sacrifice. This is the closest he ever got to his parents in his adult life, and maybe just for a second he reflects on what could have been if they had survived. It may be a sad Christmas scene, but I think that this is essentially also where Harry gathers new hope. He was brought into the world being loved and he understands what this is worth in a world of hate.

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I know it‘s heart wrenching but this is just a boy who misses his parents and a lifetime of happiness he was refused when he was younger. And if we can‘t allow our hearts to be wrenched at Christmas, then when can we? I love this scene, especially considering how happy Harry is 19 years later. When they all stand on Platform 9 3/4 he is giving his children what he never had and he certainly does not wish to be dead. He finds his peace and I find that very reassuring.

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Now I really need to hit the hay or else I‘ll be pretty damn dead at work tomorrow!
Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Blogmas (Day 19) – Funny Customers and a Birthday Dinner

Hello Hellooo!

So, today I was working at the check-out counter in the book shop and there was a huge line. One guy came up and he was buying a calendar and a book, and while I scanned his items he started checking out one of the children‘s books we have on display. He asked whether this was suitable for a two year old which I denied. He then said, «Well, but do you have anything for two year olds?» – Please note that he was standing in the friggin‘ children‘s section! I pointed him in the general direction of more suitable books, well aware that about twenty people were impatiently waiting for their turn. He left his stuff lying and just dashed off into the unknown. When he was back fifteen minutes later with some toy he pulled out his wallet and asked me if I could also give him a card, so he could attach this to the gift he was about to buy. I pointed him in the direction of the cards, and at least, this time, he had the decency to pay first before dashing off again. But you bet, he was back! And this time he did not want to wait, oh no! He just bluntly stepped up in front of me, handed me the card and the money and he was gone. Not to complain or anything, he was very friendly throughout the entire process – if a tad confused as to how shopping works. Poor guy.

On a different note, tonight I went out with my friends Anna and Magalie. If you don‘t know Anna yet – she‘s my blogger friend and you can find her on www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com.  She‘s also doing Blogmas this year and we are cooperating most days. Visit her and love her blog (and her, she‘s amazing!).

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Because it was my birthday last monday we had a belated celebration dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Bern, Sous-Le-Pont. They have amazing vegetarian dishes, and although the clientele can be a bit dodgy at times (tonight some super drunk guy lifted a trap door and just aimlessly wandered around it for a while, then put it back in), the atmosphere‘s really nice. Later on we moved on to Tibits, another restaurant, where we had some Christmas inspired drinks and tried to read our future in the foam of my Chai Latte (it‘s looking pretty grand for all of us!). It was so good to hang out together again – it‘s so hard to meet up when everyone‘s busy with one thing or another. Especially now that we‘re studying at different universities and Anna who‘s moved to Zurich, it‘s so much harder finding a date to hang out that actually fits everybody. It‘s all the more special, though, when it finally happens of course.

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Blogmas (Day 18) – May the Force be with You

Tadatadaaaaaaaa Taaa! Tadadataaaaataa! Tadadataaaa Taaaaa! Tadaddataaaa!

Folks, we have a problem. I’m supposed to be writing about a jolly Christmas memory, but I have just seen the new Star Wars movie and it was so spectacular that I won’t be able to talk about much else for the next months. So, I’ll just be cheating and make this my favourite Christmas Memory… does that count? Just a little? I don’t want to spoil the film for anybody, but I really need to discuss this shit right now or I’ll burst. 

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Source: http://www.etsy.com

First off, for a Disney movie a crap load of people die. What’s that all about? I got no warning whatsoever when I went to Disneyland last summer!

Then, let us all appreciate the fabulous volume of Ben Solo’s hair. What conditioner’s he using? And is it only available in a Galaxy Far Far Away or can I order it online? Because, seriously, he looks glorious!

Source: www.vanityfair.com
Source: http://www.vanityfair.com

Talking of Ben Solo, Han and Leia really suck at parenting. My parents raised us with their Laissez-Faire policy, and my siblings and I have never been tempted to blow up any solar systems. And Han and Leia really only have one child, why didn’t they just spoil him rotten and got him every stupid toy he wanted before he snapped?

And then, can someone please explain why everybody’s so trusting? «Hey, I’m a Stormtrooper and I hate my job!» – «Sure! Nice to meet you!» How does Poe know Finn wasn’t a lying Stormtrooper? How?

Also, why are the Dark Side’s vessels always so ill maintained (hello! you can physically lift up the floor by hand!), yet the Millennium Falcon works effortlessly after having been neglected for years?!

All of that aside – OMG HOW PRETTY IS DAISY RIDLEY! I loved her from the very first moment, she is one super protagonist, and where can I get her action figure, please?!

Source: www.complexmagazine.tumblr.com
Source: http://www.complexmagazine.tumblr.com

As you can probably gather, I was absolutely smitten by the cinematic spectacle I just witnessed. The theatre was filled with devoted Star Wars fans who started shushing everybody even before the film had actually started, and they clapped once the end credits started rolling, and Harrison Ford is still hot, and I cried a little at the beginning when the theme music came on. 

In short: Go see Star Wars VII, because it is life changing!
Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Don’t forget to say hi to Anna who is not a Star Wars fan and still sat through the entire movie with me! You find her on http://www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com