With our Sexy Feminism book tour in full swing, I’ve been ODing on Gloria Steinem books. If you may find yourself answering a lot of on-the-spot tough questions about feminism, there’s obviously no better person to channel. I like to think, “What would Gloria do?” when I’m in a pinch. (Or, at least, a pinch that requires more Gloria and less Beyonce.) If you’ve ever seen her speak in public, you know we can all stand to emulate her style a little more: She clearly spent a lot of time practicing her no-bullshit, all-confidence delivery.
I know she must have spent a lot of time practicing this now that I’ve read two of her books, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions and Revolution from Within. In them, she refers often to her troubled childhood and her lack of self-esteem early on. For me, Outrageous Acts was more fun (remembering that my idea of “fun” is reading about radical ’70s feminists). I have the original 1983 version of the book, which I swiped from my boyfriend’s grandmother’s basement book stash. Just looking at the cover makes me smile goofy like the big pic of Steinem on the cover. But this collection of Steinem pieces also traces her evolution as a journalist and a feminist, something I can relate to. It’s worth the price of admission just for her epic, famous piece about going undercover as a Playboy Bunny. But it doesn’t stop there: The heartfelt essay about her mother’s mental illness, and how that shaped Steinem’s own feminist consciousness, will make you cry. Another piece gives readers one of the first serious glimpses at transsexualism. I loved her Marilyn Monroe piece because it took the famous woman, and the topic of pop culture, seriously as a feminist issue. I learned a ton about Alice Walker. The book also includes her infamous humor piece “If Men Could Menstruate.”
Revolution from Within comes a decade later and is a more cohesive work. It is, in essence, a self-help book about the important work of boosting your own self-esteem as part of feminism. I love that concept, and she reliably stays away from getting too, you know, fluffy. For her, self-esteem is about understanding your childhood as well as the erroneous messages fed to us throughout standard education.
But what can I say? For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than living the Second Wave of feminism through this extraordinary woman, who could put on a Playboy Bunny outfit to show us its absurdity one minute, cover a presidential campaign the next, and finish up with serious explorations of pornography, Marilyn Monroe, and genital mutilation. If you’re looking for the Gloria Steinem book, pick up Outrageous Acts right away.