Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions

By Gloria Steinem

4,183 ratings - 4.16* vote

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions—a phenomenal success that sold nearly half a million copies since its original publication in 1983—is Gloria Steinem's most diverse and timeless collection of essays. Both male and female readers have acclaimed it as a witty, warm, and life-changing view of the world—"as if women mattered." Steinem's truly personal writing is here, f Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions—a phenomenal success that sold nearly half a million

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Book details

Paperback, 432 pages
October 15th 1995 by Holt McDougal

(first published January 1st 1983)

Original Title
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions
ISBN
0805042024 (ISBN13: 9780805042023)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Jerome Baladad

I bought my copy from a thrift shop because I was curious to know how Ms Steinem did a gig as a Playboy bunny in order to come up with an article that has at least 43 pages of this book. I was way more than satisfied by that article, and learned a lot from her. Imagine her doing the gig, and living to tell the story to all curious readers like myself. And continuing with the reading of book after putting it down in the meantime, so as to focus on my other readings, I rediscovered my copy again. I decided I have to complete reading her book. And it was certainly worth the continuation. Imagine also what the late Linda Lovelace of the "deep throat" notoriety had to undergo just to be paid attention that she was a slave by her handler-husband then when those 70s vids were being shot. Well, I read all about these from Ms Steinem's book.

Writing as a way of life, she goes on to share a lot of her ideas and stories from a perspective of someone who has done a lot of research works, and did active participation in events that would have certainly eaten so much of her time just as to come up with articles as clearly written and included in this book. I told myself, "If only all writers would just write like her, or at least, be inspired by her, there would be better writing in the world these days." I meant, Ms Steinem's a writer who writes solidly from her experiences. She's never a boring writer, based on what I read in her book. These are all non-fiction works that she added in the book (except for the article on "Campaigning" which took me a while to appreciate---maybe because it's kinda dated, the rest of articles read marvelously before my eyes).

I remember tears welling in my eyes while reading her ode to her dear Mom Ruth (which is one of the best short memoirs I've read todate). "Erotica and Pornography" was certainly another one, that got me into thinking why I myself is pretty excited when I see subtle and in-your-face depiction of violence and humiliation in all kinds of pornography in the usual media around us----it's simply really dehumanizing, but nothing much being done against it, as it's really big business. Also, it functions as a money generating venue for the very structure that continues to advocate inequality among the sexes, in all realms out there. And on the other hand, things Erotica, indeed, actually soars! Know why after reading this book.

Whew! I'm convinced I must have turned into a feminist myself after reading this book.

Kendra

I grew up with a lot of choices. I was able to decide what to do with my life, who to love, and how to act day-to-day. It wasn't all that long ago, however, when I would not have had those rights as a woman in America.

Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions is a great reflection on the struggles many before me have had to bear in order to make my liberties a reality. As interesting for me as the historical context of this book is the realization that many women, even in today's society, still do not enjoy equality.

Feminism is often treated as a bad word and used to evoke images of bra-burning radical women who shout loudly about reproductive rights and sexual freedom. Steinem eloquently points out with her essays that feminism is about much more. A feminist cares and will speak up about a wide range of issues dealing with equality. How does humankind treat each other? Is work valued equally (including work done inside the home) regardless of gender? Are those without means being treated fairly or being taken advantage of by those who are wealthy or powerful? These are just a few of the questions explored in Steinem's collection of essays.

This can be an emotional read. While I don't agree with everything Steinem had to say or all the methods she used in getting her points across, I'm glad I read this book. One point I agree with Steinem completely about is that the history of feminism needs to be taught widely. Women and men alike need to know the past and how we tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over again--especially in regards to how we as humans treat each other. Equality will never happen if there aren't people like Steinem to champion those who don't have a voice.

NOLaBookish aka blue-collared mind

I read this book around 1986; picked up while working as a community organizer in Ohio, trying to to fill my lack of radical education as quickly as possible. It was probably my first feminist reading in long form and I kept it with me for the better part of a decade, re-reading parts when I felt like I needed a reminder. After reading it the first time, I remember that I felt clearer and sadder, clearer because of the no-nonsense and practical way that Steinem wrote, and sadder because I could find few examples of activists writing about women in the late 80s that were as good. More strikingly though it was because many of the younger women I worked with were beginning to pooh-pooh the term of feminist and when I brought it up, told me they had never read her work and would probably never read her.

If you had asked me at any time in my life past the age of 9 or so (around 1972) if I was a feminist, I would have firmly answered yes, supported by my love of Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur television and my awareness that I would, like my mother, work for a living. Let me tell you in case you think my early feminist statement was meant to be precious or funny, it was not; I had plenty of childhood pals who when asked what they were going to do when they "grew up", answered matter-of-factly to get married or have kids. Career was always in my plans. Kids only maybe. Marriage seemed unlikely if men were to continue to react to strong women like the men I saw in the 1970s around my mom and around my town.
However, if you would have asked me WHY I was a feminist up to the age 22, that answer might have been a little fuzzier. I didn't really know the things I was up against and it never occurred to me why all but one of my bosses had been men. I got along well, never examining if it was because I knew how to do their bidding, to speak their language rather than my own. I was too busy working at being indispensable to visualize myself as a leader back then; I only hoped to be a solid blue-collar girl Friday. As a matter of fact, the only woman I had as a boss prior to 22 was one who was known as a bitch around the workplace. Whether she meant to be one or was assigned it by virtue of being the only executive, I cannot tell you now but I knew I didn't want to be called that and largely dismissed her. I wish I could ask her about it now.
After the age of 22 however, I began to work with empowered women and to delight in the diversity of opinions and approaches they had. To see that these women did not resort to uptalk or to placate with flattery to get their point across or ever say they were "sorry" when they took charge of the room. I was mentored by some of them, including Steinem through her writing and speaking, all of which helped take me to the next level of leadership and purpose in my life. Freed of the last shreds of guilt. Driven by my own ambitions and desires just like my male counterparts, yet still also a dutiful daughter, a loyal sister, a smart accomplice, a funny girlfriend and so on when I wanted to be. How sweet it still is when I function on all or most of these fronts well. I contain multitudes after all.
All of this is necessary to say because I still meet women and men who mock the term feminist and women who tell me that they 'don't hate men' so they couldn't be a feminist. I think if they would just read Steinem or her second-wave peers when they were really rolling (as seen in some essays in here), they may wonder how and why they ramped up that anger towards her and might finally see her as she is: a prototype second wave humanist who has stayed on the front lines and used popular media and organizing campaigns to continue the work to make a more equitable, less violent world step by step, person by person. Some of the reviews on here point out some the dated language in some of the essays but this work (and Ms. magazine) represented the forefront of progressive movement gender politics at that point.

So read this seminal book, then go read her newer stuff too which is partly why I am posting this now (her new book is my nighttime reading and I realized that I had never reviewed that first important book of mine. By the way, the new one is so far, excellent. Review soon.) Not that it really matters, but you might catch a prism that lights your understanding. Or, you might just like her.

Julia

It's still unclear to me how I made it through four years of Smith Colleage without ever reading "Outrageous Acts and Everday Rebellions," probably Gloria Steinem's most well known book. I'm glad that I finally got around to it, and I strongly encourage all of my fellow equality-minde sisters (and brothers) to pick this up.

"Outrageous Acts" is not really one book, but a collection of essays and articles by Steinem stretching over most of her career. From her famous/infamous "I was a Playboy Bunny" expose, which revealed the exploitative truth behind the glamourous exterior of the Playboy club (fun fact of the day: being a Playboy Bunny is exactly like being a regular waitress, only about a million times worse), to "Far from the Opposite Shore," an essay about how far we have to go to realize full humanity for women and full equality for everyone, each essay is worth the read. My personal favorite was probably "Sisterhood" which reminds us why it is important to have strong networks with our fellow women. The first thing people will do when you start asking why you live an unequal life is ridicule you, Steinem writes, so you need other women around you to confirm for you every day that you are not crazy. "You will need your sisters." I think any working woman, whether she works in a home, office, or factory, can tell you how true that is.

There is also some great and fascinating political writing in here, taken from Steinem's years on the McGovern, McCarthy, and Nixon campaigns, where she labored as a journalist and organizer. Priceless is the description of the NY Times' all-male editorial board's confusion at the presence of two women (!!!) in their meeting with McGovern. Do they still serve the cigar and whiskey? Do they stand? Can they make their usual jokes. More heartbreaking are the stories of Steinem's treatment on the campaign trail. The mistrust of the men on her own team (convinced that having a woman around will make people think she's sleeping with the candidate and tarnish his reputation), her exclusion from key meetings despite her centrality to campaign operations (McGovern would never let his staff say a meeting should have "no blacks" or "no Jews", but he just shrugs when told the meeting can have "no broads"). I wish I could say campaigns have changed a lot, but somehow, I can't be sure.

Many of the essays in here were written in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, so inevitably a few topics seem outdated or less urgent. But, unfortunately, so much of this book remains both relevant and revelatory. We are still so far from the opposite shore, but thanks to Steinem and her contemporaries, the current wave of feminist young women (the third wave salutes the second!), at least realizes that the shore exists, and has a rudimentary way of knowing how to get there. I can only hope that we'll reach the other side someday, together.

Jess

My girlfriend wished to read this book, and since it was at my local library I picked it up. After she finished it I went ahead and decided to read it myself.

The book itself is a little dated, most of the articles are anywhere from 1960-1985, so some articles were a little uninteresting. Oh the flip side, because of the age of some of the articles, it made it very interesting to see how much has changed in the last few decades.

I am very new to feminism myself and a lot of things were shocking and new to me. The Hitler article gave me so much new information about the time in history of which I had previously had no knowledge of… I have been to Germany, visited the concentration camps, museums, even Eagles nest! None of these things had ever mentioned any of the feminism angle of the Holocaust. Of course we focus on the Jewish angle the most, with good reason, but it is super enlightening to see a new angle to it.

All in all I learned a lot about the past of Feminism which is good, as a basis in the history of any subject you wish to learn of is requirement to understand it well. Gloria Steinem explores her own understanding and discovery of Feminism, and it's intriguing to see her discussing when she came to many of the realizations dealing with gender and Feminism that I myself am, as I learn more and read more.

Jackie

It was really depressing to read the essays in this book with quotes that are so similar to the ones all over the news currently - and then see the essay dated 1973. Regardless, read this book.

Christine

What Steinmem would say would violate terms of service and make my laptop blow up.

Erica Clou

2016 was a rough year for the equality of women, and 2017 isn't off to a great start either. Lots of people are rereading relevant fiction such as Atwood's Handmaid's Tale, or the more generally dystopian (as opposed to feminist) 1984 by Orwell. But we need to revisit nonfiction works as well. This book is educational about the history and current reality of sexism in America, but it's also a bit of a how-to manual on achieving more progress.

I strongly recommend this book. Even if you flip through to only read the essays you're most interested in, you will find something valuable.

Eva

Interesting to read a broad swath of Steinem's work. I didn't know she was originally a journalist, so this book had essays ranging from political profiles to her undercover expose titled "I was a Playboy Bunny".

Some things I found interesting:

- Some of the issues she mentions strike me as being in the past, happily -- like women being preferentially let go since they are perceived as not needing their jobs as much as men.

- "Ms." wasn't really used until the 70s. From Wikipedia: "In February 1972, the US Government Printing Office approved using "Ms." in official government documents."

- Her essay on transsexuals, which was written ~1980, reads as seriously dated. For instance, she interprets transsexuals in a feminist light, saying it's a shame that our gender roles are so black and white that they can't accept themselves as they are, but feel compelled to "mutilate" (!) their bodies to conform. I don't think that's how doctors, psychologists, and transsexuals themselves would frame their experience!

I guess "progressive" is always relative to your time. Reminds me of Lincoln's claim that slavery was bad...but that said, Blacks aren't equals and shouldn't mix with Whites, duh. See also the discussion of homosexuality in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.

Her essay on porn vs. erotica is similarly dated. It basically claims that women who engage in S&M are exploited and lack self esteem. I feel like she probably wouldn't make such a sweeping statement today. I'm not sure how much that says about the evolution of feminism vs. the evolution of our sexual culture and status quo.


Kindle quotes:

At The Ladies’ Home Journal where I was an occasional consultant and writer, one of its two top editors (both men, of course) was so convinced that I was nothing like its readers (whom he described as “mental defectives with curlers in their hair”) that he used to hand me a manuscript and say, “Pretend you’re a woman and read this.” - location 270

The New York Times Magazine seemed to be continuing its usual practice of allowing women, minorities, and homosexuals to write first-person confessional pieces, but, in the name of objectivity, assigning white male heterosexual “authorities” to write definitive articles on these groups. - location 276

Reporters at press conferences who routinely assumed I could answer questions about all women but Dorothy could answer only about black women, or perhaps only about the few black male leaders whose names were the only ones they knew. Just as male was universal but female was limited, white was universal but black was limited. (We tried to turn this into a learning experience by letting the questions go on for a while—and then pointing out the problem.) - location 340

Talking with Flo about her first book, Abortion Rap, in a Boston taxi and hearing its elderly Irish woman driver say the much-to-be-quoted words: “Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” - location 362

Most of all, learning from Flo’s example that you didn’t have to accept the terms of the opposition. For instance, when a hostile man asked if we were lesbians (as frequently happened; why else would a white and black woman be colleagues?), Flo would just look him in the eye and ask, “Are you my alternative?” - location 370

One of the most helpful things ever said to me came from poet Sandra Hochman: “Don’t think about it. Just pretend you’re Eleanor Roosevelt and you have to do this idiotic television show before you can go on to do something really important.” Perhaps this is the Art of Zen Speaking. - location 402

“I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” - location 422

Women whose identity depends more on their outsides than their insides are dangerous when they begin to age. - location 429

an early feminist group had asked women to talk about their real life experiences with illegal abortion. I sat in a church basement listening to women stand before an audience and talk about desperately trying to find someone who would help them, about enduring pre-abortion rapes from doctors, being asked to accept sterilization as the price of an abortion, and endangering their lives in an illegal, unsafe medical underground. - location 526

For the first time, I began to question the honor of being the only “girl reporter” among men, however talented and benevolent they might be. All the suppressed anger of past experiences I had denied or tried to ignore came flooding back: the apartments I couldn’t rent because landlords assumed a single woman couldn’t afford it (or if she could, she must be a hooker); the political assignments lost to younger and less-experienced male writers; the assumption that any work I did get was the result of my being a “pretty girl” (even at a time, I suddenly realized, when all of my editors had been women); the lowered payments because women didn’t really need the money; the innuendo’s that came along with any recognition (“easier than you think,” was how Newsweek had captioned my photograph as a young writer - location 544

Giving a speech in Texas and finding dozens of people outside the amphitheater with signs: GLORIA STEINEM IS A HUMANIST. I thought, How nice, they must be friends. But as I got closer and saw the hatred in their faces, I realized they were rightwing pickets to whom humanist—or any other word that means a belief in people instead of an authoritarian god—is the worst thing you can be. - location 623

There is also the great reward of working full time at something I care about so much that I would do it for no money at all, plus the problems of making far less money than would be possible outside a social movement. The last would be okay if “rich and famous” weren’t so often one phrase that it’s hard to separate them. Being resented for having money that doesn’t exist is not a great combination. - location 643

Being stopped in the street by a truck driver who tells me that the woman he loves and has been living with for three years wouldn’t marry him and have children because he didn’t want her to go on working—until then he heard some interview in which I asked men to consider how they would feel if they were exactly the same people but had been born female. He tried this exercise for a while, and changed so much that he and his friend were now happily married. He is thanking me—but the miracle of empathy is his own. - location 651

The wardrobe mistress told me to take off my clothes and began to search for an old Bunny costume in my size. A girl rushed in with her costume in her hand, calling for the wardrobe mistress as a wounded soldier might yell, “Medic!” “I’ve broken my zipper,” she wailed, “I sneezed!” - location 786

I went back to the Bunny Room, turned in my costume, and sat motionless, too tired to move. The stays had made vertical indentations around my rib cage and the zipper had left a welt over my spine. I complained about the costume’s tightness to the Bunny who was sitting next to me, also motionless. “Yeah,” she said, “a lot of girls say their legs get numb from the knee up. I think it presses on a nerve or something.” - location 1076

I asked what she had done before becoming a Bunny. “Nothing much, a little modeling once in a while.” And what did she hope working as a Bunny would lead to? “I thought maybe I could save enough money to get some test shots and a composite and I could be a real model,” she said. “But after three months of this, I want to get married. Guys I wouldn’t look at before, now I think they aren’t so bad.” - location 1158

Many Bunnies regard plastic dry cleaner’s bags as dangerous for bosom stuffing because they make you perspire, thereby causing a weight loss where you least want it. Kleenex and absorbent cotton are preferred. - location 1230

The young student was shocked and confused as the march moved into a world lit by the revolving red lights of the police vehicles, rising smoke, and screaming fire engines. “He didn’t approve of violence,” she said about King, “and it isn’t right to do this.” - location 1483

“That’s it for me,” a neatly dressed young man said. “They do something like that to a man like King … a man like King.” For the leaders, the activist heroes, the dilemma was worse. Privately, most of them—even Rap Brown—had admitted they hoped in their hearts that King was right. “Now,” explained black militant author Addison Gayle, “we’re all a little scared. Because we have to believe our own rhetoric.” - location 1487

Though Smith was proud of the fact that men greatly outnumbered women on its faculty—a proof of seriousness still highlighted in the college catalogue even when I was there in the 1950s - location 2211

But even as the reporter and I discussed those interesting reasons why Smith had produced more than its share of independent achievers, we knew that all of them put together were less newsworthy than one Nancy Reagan. Any First Lady, no matter what she does or doesn’t do, is still more likely to top the lists of Most Admired Women than any woman who has succeeded on her own. - location 2215

When she admitted that, when first married, she assumed she had to clean bathrooms—until her husband stopped her by saying he hadn’t married her to clean bathrooms—there was the silence of envy. - location 2257

(I remember with gratitude the banner carried by some very old and bawdy women who led the parade while I was a student: hardly a man is now alive, who remembers the girls of ’95.) - location 2280

Only with the 1960s do the groups begin to show much racial diversity. My class, for instance, included not one black student, no Hispanic women, and only one Asian who wasn’t a foreign student. (As a freshman, I had asked a professor why none of the black applicants from my town had been admitted. His answer was a classic mix of racism and sexism: one had to be very careful about educating Negro girls because there weren’t enough educated Negro men to go around.) - location 2282

When she visited me in New York during her sixties and seventies, she always told taxi drivers that she was eighty years old (“so they will tell me how young I look”), - location 2563

we are becoming the men we wanted to marry. - location 2682

Art used to be definable as what men created. Crafts were made by women and natives. - location 2692

Until the 1970s, women had to choose between Miss or Mrs., thus identifying themselves by marital status in a way men did not. Now, more than a third of American women support Ms. as an alternative, an exact parallel of Mr., and so do government publications, business, and the media. - location 2698

“Did you ever hear the story about Judy Holliday?” asked a woman peeling off a sweaty leotard. “When she went for a movie interview, the head of the studio started chasing her around the desk. So she just reached into her dress, pulled out her falsies, and handed them to him. ‘Here,’ she said, ‘I think this is what you want.’” - location 2932

Raymond understands the crushing societal forces that make transsexuals choose this self-punishment, but she mourns the loss of individuals who might have acted as critics and rebels in this sexually stereotyped society. Instead of accepting the idea of “a female mind in a male body” by mutilating their physical selves, they might have challenged the very idea that there is such a thing as a female or male mind. They might have demonstrated that sex is only one of many elements that makes up each unique individual. - location 3657

For that reason, she is also critical of the medical establishment that has grown up around the demand (and the big payments) for transsexual surgery, plus long-term hormonal treatments. Instead of serving more lifesaving but often less lucrative needs for their surgical and hormone-therapy skills, some physicians are aiding individuals who are desperately trying to conform to an unjust society. It’s a small group of successful physicians she names “the transsexual empire.” - location 3661

Feminists are right to feel uncomfortable about the need for and the uses of transsexualism. Even while we protect the right of an informed individual to make that decision, and to be identified as he or she wishes, we have to make clear that this is not a long-term feminist goal. The point is to transform society so that a female can “go out for basketball” and a male doesn’t have to be “the strong one.” Better to turn anger outward toward changing the world than inward toward mutilating our bodies into conformity. - location 3674

On porn vs. erotica:
This confusion of sex with violence is most obvious in any form of sadomasochism. The inability to empathize with the “opposite sex” has become so great that a torturer or even murderer may actually believe pain or loss of life to be the natural fate of the victim; and the victim may have been so deprived of self-respect or positive human contact that she expects pain or loss of freedom as the price of any intimacy or attention at all. - location 3836

Over the years, I heard other clues to her character. When Ella Fitzgerald, a black artist and perhaps the greatest singer of popular songs, hadn’t been able to get a booking at an important Los Angeles nightclub in the fifties, it was Marilyn who called the owner and promised to sit at a front table every night if he allowed Ella to sing. The owner hired Ella, Marilyn was faithful to her promise each night, the press went wild, and, as Ella remembered with gratitude, “After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again.” - location 4104

On female genital mutilation:
The pain of intercourse often leads mutilated women to seek pregnancy as a temporary relief from sexual demands. - location 5047

Someone once asked me why women don’t gamble as much as men do. I gave the commonsensical reply that we don’t have as much money. That was a true but incomplete answer. In fact, women’s total instinct for gambling has been satisfied by marriage. If men doubt the magnitude of the gamble, consider just how tough it is to know that someone you are about to marry, who may be, by tradition and by lack of economic alternative, your lifetime identity and meal ticket, is going to have the law career or foreman’s job or political office that you want for yourself and for your security. Not so easy, right? In the fifties, I remember college friends taking their fiancé’s poems, architectural drawings, or senior thesis to the appropriate professor and asking, “Is this guy any good?” - location 5631

Fifi

This was great but I do have a few issues with some of the arguments Steinem was trying to make.

For instance, in "The Politics of Food", Steinem states that "women buy the notion that males need more protein and more strength" (214). I am not a dietician nor a nutritionist but even I know that men and women have different calorie intakes for a reason. Men consume more calories because they are bigger, both in height and weight, have greater muscle mass and exert more energy than women and therefore they need to consume more calories on a daily basis to sustain themselves (1500-2000 for women and 2500-2800 for men). This is simply a biological fact and one that Steinem doesn't consider. While it is sexist for women to sacrifice "the choice piece of mean for the man of the house or growing boys" at the expense of her own meal or because her status as a woman renders her undeserving of it, it is not sexist for a man to eat 2 steaks while a woman eats 1.

Moreover, Steinem's commentary on the porn industry came across a little condescending to me for women who may actually enjoy and profit off of porn. Yes porn has undeniably put some women through extreme emotional, mental physical and psychological abuse (and Steinem mentions Linda Lovelace as she should) this does not mean that ALL women experience this behaviour. If this was the case porn as an industry would collapse. Steinem doesn't take the time to say that women in porn may enjoy their work which was a little disappointing.

Overall,

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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