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

Last But Not Least: Day 7

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A letter to J.R.R. Tolkien as found on his grave in Oxford

Dear Pro. Tolkien & Mrs. Tolkien:

Thanks a lot for the Middle Earth.
Thank you for everything in the magical world.
Thank you for Legolas, thank you for Bilbo Baggins, thank you for Frodo, thank you for the Silmarillion.

Wish God bless both of you.
Happiness and peaceful forever.

E.G.

(Quote: Lewis Carrol)

Last But Not Least: Day Six

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We went to Stonehenge today, and I loved it. It‘s a funny feeling, getting excited about stones. But just think, those lifeless junks of rock surpassed the ages of history. All the wars, the storms, the crises, all the malice in the world could not push them from where they are stood.

And just think, all the people that come to visit, so desperate for a little bit of mystery, for the proof of magic. And those unmoving stones just keep standing in a circle, casting shadows and marking the sinking of the sun, they are all the proof some of us need.

Just think, maybe the stones are not special at all, maybe people just made them so. Maybe fairy tales exist for those who believe in them and who are willing to look at things as if they really are magical.
Just think, maybe that is the real power of the stones.

(Quote: J.K. Rowling)

Gold Star for Hannover

Hello dear reader!

[I was going to name this post Hungover in Hannover but I never was hungover in Hannover, so I decided not to lie to you.]

I am writing this while sitting on the train home from Hannover, and there is no time like a long train journey to write or read or sleep (or, in my case, eat!). I spent five glorious days with Inga up in the north. It was so lovely seeing her again after almost six months, and especially after having travelled the UK with her last summer. She is my number one travel buddy and I’m very lucky that she keeps going off to live in exciting places where I can stay with her!

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Hannover is a seriously underrated city. I mean, have you ever heard of it? Have you ever made any plans to visit at all? Admittedly, seeing Inga was my sole purpose of visiting, so no judging! Buuut for starters, Hannover has a mean coffee house culture. We spent so much time in cafés drinking tea and eating cakes. My favourite café was called Glücksmoment which translates to «Happy Moments» and is a very adequate description of what’s expecting you inside. They have a massive variety of cakes and beverages and the mugs and plates and inside décor are super cute and pretty in blue and pink shaded colours. They also have a little shop within the café that sells baking essentials. I couldn’t resist and bought Bavarian themed cupcake molds; I know that’s all the way down in the south, but, hey! They say I mog di! at the bottom, and I like being told «I love you!» in Bavarian!

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Another fun thing we did was visit the zoo. I am very very fond of monkeys, and I was so excited to see the cuddling gorillas and the tantrum throwing orang-utan, and OMFG the chimpanzees! Aren’t they the cutest?! I SO want to adopt one! I also got slightly carried away when I saw the flamingos. But, honestly, they are pink birds standing on one leg, looking elegant as fuck and matching my socks – it was an intense moment, okay?

One night we went to a concert in some dodgy bar called Glocksee. Well, I say dodgy, really I felt quite at home. It’s just your alternative, 21+, smoking-is-allowed-inside kinda bar that allows live music and encourages the dealing of drugs. In short, it was brilliant! The music was fun to dance to and even allowed for my microwave dance to bloom. Hannover supposedly has quite a number of secret locations to go out, but you have to discover them for yourself. And that’s what, to me, makes this city so utterly charming, the fact that the really great places are not as advertised as they are elsewhere.

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We got all of the touristy stuff done as well, as you can see on the badly taken photos above (yeah, sorry for the lack of quality). For me, some of the nicest moments we had were on the couch with a cup of tea and chocolate cookies, watching Doctor Who and talking about all the places we’ve been. Especially with the weather as rainy and windy as it was it was good to be sitting in the warmth. Carrie Hope Fletcher and Dodie Clark recently did a song together called Gold Star For Me – to which Inga introduced me one late night. I think I should probably some day write us our own song, but I still think the lyrics relate to us pretty well, too!Bild 98Today I insisted on visiting the History Museum and I was very excited, too, when we walked there after breakfast in yet another beautiful café, but I ended up feeling more and more tired the further we explored Hannoverian history. There was a lot of talk about kings and horses and houses, but my mind just kept spinning around images of kings’ beds (of which they sadly had none on display). So thus conclude my adventures in Hannover, and I’m going to try and get some sleep. I still have five hours to go, and tonight I have two parties to attend. It’s going to be a late night. Tomorrow is not going to be fun (except that I’m going to the bookshop and then catching the train to go on a skiing holiday with my family, so I believe the hangover will be just a minor distraction.); I told Inga I’m not going to drink tonight, but open bar? Who’m I kidding!

Okay, better stop here before anyone thinks I’m a hopeless alcoholic (if anything, I’m a promisingly hopeful one!). I hope your week has been as great as mine!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Sexy Books: Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

Just read: Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

I have been so excited to finally talk about this book! It has become one of my absolute favourites and I think everyone should read it, because there is so much to gain from it!

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Fools Rush In tells the story of Bill Carter who visits Bosnia in the 1990ies during the Siege of Sarajevo. He helps distribute food and other goods, he goes to rock concerts and parties and he finds friends.

Basically, the blurb already says it all:

«Some trips are chosen, some choose you. When tragedy strikes Bill Carter‘s life he finds himself drawn to a war zone. In the modern heart of darkness, the besieged city of Sarajevo, we meet a man rebuilding the ruins of his former self in the most unlikely of places. Carter joins a maverick aid organization, „The Serious Road Trip“, and dodges snipers to deliver food and supplies to those the UN can‘t reach. He makes friends with the artistic community of Sarajevo and fights alongside them for survival in a place where food and water are scarce, where you meet death every day, but crucially where life, love and laughter ring out all the same.
Carter takes his journey one surreal step further and enlists the help of major rock band U2. The ensuing events go no small way to influencing the course of the war and Western awareness of it.»

There is no way I can do this book justice by writing this review, so I‘m not even going to try. But let me tell you this: it wrenched my heart, it reduced me to tears, it made me giggle hysterically, it sent shivers down my spine – but most importantly, it gave me back some faith that even the smallest person can change the course of events. It had me believe that there are people who care and who stand above themselves. Not just Bill Carter, who just seemed to be acting without much further thinking, but also U2. Bono offered the band‘s help and meant it. During their 1993 world tour they did satellite link-ups where Sarajevans were broadcast onto stage and told their stories to so many people. Please, just look at this video!

Fools Rush In is such a genuine story, and it‘s really a work of philosophy. Bill Carter writes in large parts about loss and love and family and home – things that essentially have nothing to do with war, but have everything to do with life. And life just appears to be going on during any war.

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I know the Bosnian War has long passed, but there are so many other tragedies taking place in the world, and the least we can do is not turn our backs. Let‘s talk about it. Let‘s not pretend there aren‘t any people suffering. No one is required to go into a war zone and risk their life, of course not. But who has ever stood up to a bully or paired up with the unpopular kid at school? If anything, this book makes us care about each other.
It‘s a life changing read, I promise!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Last But Not Least: Day Five

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Two things. One, I had the best of days today. Two, Brighton is heavily overrated and I do not wish to go back. The pier was too loud and the pier was too bright, the beach was too crowded and the noise of the traffic was everywhere. The fish ‘n‘ chips made my stomach ache.
But.
Around noon the sun came out.
And we wandered along the promenade and we left behind the people and the noise and we told each other stories that we already knew but liked to hear anyway.
I remember waking up from my own snoring on the train back.

It was such a complete day.

(Qote: A.A. Milne)

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])

Blog another… 2016!

Hellooo!

Happy New Year Everybody!

I hope everyone has started well into 2016 and you‘re not feeling too rotten today! I spent last night at my friend Tashina‘s house. It was so lovely; seeing as her boyfriend is currently in the States and I‘m actually in the country for once, it was just the two of us. We made pizza and then cuddled together for a movie. Of course, for me there is no such event without a cake and I had tried the vegan chocolate cake recipe from the Primrose Bakery recipe book – it was marvellous, I can tell you!
Tashina‘s family has the tradition of doing Molybdomancy on New Year‘s Eve, a technique of divination using molten metal. We melted a spoonful of lead over a candle, then poured it into a bowl of cold water. The resulting shape can either be directly interpreted as an omen for the future, or, as we did, be rotated in a candlelight to create shadows, whose shapes we then interpreted. The interpretations are very vague, however. Apparently I need to be more careful not to trip – which is a good enough piece of advice, but being as clumsy as I am, it‘s not a very unique one!

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We ended up being in a bit of a hurry towards midnight when we were supposed to meet another friend in the city centre. When am I ever not in a hurry on a holiday, huh? In the end, we were stood right on the bridge that leads into town when Midnight happened. It was perfect. We popped our prosecco and put on our party popper hats and watched the fireworks all around us.

I think the new year can‘t be half bad if the first face you look at is that of someone you love. We just stood there and took it all in, and everybody passing by shouted their new year‘s blessings, and we were a little tipsy when we finally got a move on, but the new year already felt good.

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We met up with our friend way past midnight and stepped inside some club and whipped in the rhythm of bad music for the better part of an hour before we decided to go home. I always love January 1st. I have a sore throat and a runny nose and every movement hurts, but I just put on my onesie and rewatch old episodes of The Vicar of Dibley with my cat. Actually, now I‘m debating whether or not it‘s acceptable for me to watch The Empire Strikes Back again (I‘m going through one horrid Star Wars phase at the moment, bear with me!)..

Tonight I‘ll be having dinner with Anna who you may have met (in a sense) when I was doing Blogmas. She has a wonderful blog which you‘ll find on www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com and was my blogging cooperator last month. I‘m gulping down cup after cup of tea, so I‘m fit for tonight – after all, Sherlock is airing, and we‘re both crazy excited (as in, I‘m crazy and Anna‘s excited).

The new year is going to be good, and I wish you all good luck and much love for every day to come!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Blogmas (Day 16) – «It’s Going To Be Okay»

Today I was initially going to write about my Christmas shopping, but alas I left my purse at home this afternoon, and although the Swiss are very generous, not even my boss would let me have stuff for free. But that’s okay, because this time last year I was feeling a bit nostalgic and I wrote a poem about Honduras and the book shop I’m working at. Maybe it’s being around books that always makes me miss things, but I’m in that same sort of state at the moment, and I hope you like my poem.

I miss a lot of things.

I miss going to work for that first time last year.
I miss the smell of smoke and sweat and cardboard boxes in the hallway.
I miss the way my feet hurt every night.

I’m still working there now.

But it’s not the same.
It’s not the «I never want to leave this place.»
It’s more.
It’s less.

My feet still hurt.

I miss seeing Honduras from above.
For the first time.
I miss the feeling of «It’s going to be okay.»
Because it really was, you know?

I miss the song
Chim-Chim-Chiminike!
All day long.
I wanted to listen to it forever.
I didn’t want to lose it.
That song.
It was mine.

I miss the voices.
«Hola Gringa!»
The way they could carress my name.
Every Hello came with a hug.
Every hug lasted a lifetime.
Like the song.

Everybody hated the song btw.

I miss the dancing.
I hate dancing
But I was taught to love it.
Hands touching hands.
Lips touching lips.
It was a fairy tale.

But a slutty one.

I miss that side of me.
The «It’s going to be okay» side.
Because it really was, you know?

«One day I’m going to marry you.»
«Okay.»
It’s a promise
That we’ll never keep.
But we mean it
Nevertheless.

I miss eating
Until I need new pants.

«When are you leaving?»
«Never.»

I miss
Myself.

Just a little.
The me that knew
That it was going to be okay.

Because it really was, you know?

Lots of Love from the Roots of my Heart!
xxx

Again, I lost track of what Anna’ll be writing about tonight. Let’s have a look together, shall we? Her blog is right here under http://www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com

 

Blogmas (Day 15) – Christmas Lights in Bern

Hello my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious friends!

If I had to choose one single favourite place in the entire world, I would always say it’s Bern. I loved Auckland and its beaches and I adored Tegucigalpa with all the delicious foods, there’s so many amazing cultural events and parties in Berlin and Hamburg, fantastic Afternoon Tea in London – but I’m nowhere as comfortable and happy as I am in Bern. I always think it’s a tiny bit magical, so tonight I would like to share some of that magic with you lovely folks!
I was initially going to take the photos myself but haven’t really had the time. So instead I chose a few lovely pictures from @bern_pictures which you can easily find on Instagram.

 

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© by Jonathan Liechti
@ilove_Bern (Instagram)
Source: @ilove_bern (Instagram)

I hope you enjoyed that and I’m wishing you happy 10 days until Christmas (Whoop Whoop!).
Lots of Love from the Roots of my Heart!
xxx

And of course you should have look at Anna’s blog, too! Anna is cooperating with me this Blogmas season, and I seriously have no idea what she’ll be talking about tonight! Hang out on her blog for a while (as will I) on http://www.tinytrinket.wordpress.com. She’s better than me! (but don’t leave me, ‘k?)