Emma Watson is one of the women I admire the most. Like, in the whole planet. She found a way to live her passion, which is acting, since she was a child. Then, with what must have been a crazy schedule of filming and studying, she managed to graduate in English Literature at Brown University. Then she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and launched the HeForShe campaign. She represents more or less what I aim to achieve in my life: success doing what I love, work with something that helps the world, and all of that while being stylish and well dressed.
So it was not a surprise that when she announced she would be starting a book club called Our Shared Shelf at Goodreads, I rushed to the website to guarantee a place in it. Especially since her book club would be focused on feminism, one of the causes that are closest to my heart.
The first book assigned was My Life on the Road, by North-American journalist Gloria Steinem (2015, Random House Publishing Group). Emma Watson designates one book per month, leading discussion sessions at the end of the 30 days.
Suffice to say, it took me four months to read My Life on the Road. I finished it today, and, boy. I have another woman to profoundly admire now. Gloria Steinem had –and still has– such a full life. But what stayed in my heart from all those pages were not her successes, but her failures. Her insecurities. Her “almosts” that she so humbly describes. Moments when she should have said or done something and couldn’t (either because she didn’t know how or because she was too intimidated to act), and moments when she did say or did what she thought was necessary – and failed, either because of unconscious self-sabotage or because she forced herself to do something when the moment wasn’t right.
Reading the book was such a comfort. She did incredible things, affected so many people in a positive way, but she didn’t always succeed, and knowing that, reading her admissions of failure, made me believe that it’s ok if I stumble along the way. It’s normal, it’s expected and, to a certain degree, acceptable.
But that was not the only thing that affected me on the book. I – and I believe a lot of people out there, maybe even you – have this internal goal to be different from the generations that preceded me; to be better. To be wiser. Gloria talks about that in the beginning of her book:
“Until that moment, I would have sworn that I had rebelled against my father’s way of life. I created a home that I love and can retreat to, though he wanted no home at all. I’ve never borrowed a penny, though he was constantly in debt. I take planes and trains to group adventures, though he would spend a week driving cross-country alone rather than board a plane. Yet in the way that we rebel, only to find ourselves in the midst of the familiar, I realized there was a reason why the road felt like home. It had been exactly that for the evocative first decade of my life. I was my father’s daughter.”
This alone was enough to leave me breathless because it forced me to admit that even though I tend to act in the opposite of how my parents would react to certain situations, sometimes I find myself being exactly like them.
As much as we want to avoid it or ignore it, where we came from will always have some sort of influence in how we think and react. Infancy leaves a great impression in our character and denying it is only delaying the inevitable moment when you’ll have to face yourself and admit that, yes, you were affected by it. That was a big epiphany for me, and helped me accept a lot of things about myself.
Gloria’s book is not genius only because of those two aspects, though. It’s fantastic because – goodness, there are so many reasons. Her writing is great, and the little pieces of life philosophy that she drops around are like water in the desert. (Although I would like to enjoy this opportunity to point out that the long chapters were one of the reasons for why it took me so long to read it.)
Then there’s the feminist content, that kind of was the anchor that drove the book to be written in the first place. She tells stories, present distinctive personalities to the reader and says things that make you think about the whole cause in an entirely new level. Like:
“…the most reliable predictor of whether a country is violent within itself –or will use military violence against another country– is not poverty, natural resources, religion or even degree of democracy; it’s violence against females. It normalizes all other violence.”
On February 25th, Emma Watson interviewed Gloria Steinem. It was like seeing two idols conversing; it left me in an almost embarrassing level of excitement. They talked about a lot of things but, again, the most impactful aspect was realizing that Emma also has insecurities and often feels intimidated by people and situations. It made me feel stronger to understand that the women I admire and aspire to become also have moments when they feel just like me. It made me think that I, too, can impact the world in powerful ways some day, because I am just like them, and if they did it, I can do it, too.
I don’t hesitate when I say that My Life on the Road changed how I thought about a LOT of things. I suppose that was Gloria’s objective when writing, and Emma’s when recommending it. Well, girls, you accomplished that with me. Congratulations.
PS: Emma, if you ever read this, know that I may not be able to follow the book club schedule on time, but I am staying loyal to the reading list! Thank you for the awesome recommendations =)