The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off by Gloria Steinem: Top 11 Takeaways

Terri Hanson Mead
Terri Hanson Mead
Published in
6 min readApr 16, 2024


I’m preparing for week three of the Stanford Continuing Studies course I am presenting on Navigating Midlife for Women and realized that I hadn’t written my top takeaways from this book, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off by Gloria Steinem. I’m not sure how I have two copies of the book, but it doesn’t surprise me; I am sure both were gifts because I am a vocal feminist.

This is a quick read and worthy your time, regardless of what gender you identify as. Since I’ve been an active feminist for well over a decade, I was already pissed off. As a result, I was inspired, resolved, and comforted by this book, knowing that I am on the right path as a vocal feminist, advocating for a more balanced society that benefits all, regardless of gender, skin color, cultural background, and beliefs.

I’ve taken the time to summarize what resonated with me in hopes that you too will feel inspired and resolved. Please don’t feel discouraged. You can have a momentary pity party, and then it’s back to doing the big and hard work. You can do this.

Note: all bolded, italicized quotes are from the book. As with all of my ‘takeaway’ blog posts, I may have taken the liberty of making some minor changes for ease of communication and have kept the integrity of the author’s intent.

— “We need to make chosen families of small groups of women who support each other, talk to each other regularly, can speak their truths and their experiences, and find they’re not alone in them. It makes all the difference. Laughing together creates instant community. There’s safety and comfort in numbers, and in knowing we are not alone. While having friends of all genders is important, as women, we have a different lived experience. When we share our stories and concerns, we allow others to share in the burden, and the joy, associated with our existence. We also increase our overall power.

— “Women can’t have it all if that means doing it all.” As a GenX girl/woman who was told that I could have it all, as I say in my book Piloting Your Life, I feel like I was sold a bill of goods. We were told we could have it all, but the rest of society didn’t get the same message so we were expected to go after our dreams and continue to carry the same load / burden as the women who came before us. Fortunately, this is changing with our kids’ generation. GenZ is not standing for this.

— “Mother as a verb: to be able, to think, to love, to do. Mothering is about free will. One can be forced to become a mother, but one cannot be forced to mother.In light of the archaic and oppressive laws in the US meant to keep women in check and white men in power, this brings up images from The Handmaid’s Tale. While we can’t be forced to mother, many women may choose not to abandon helpless babies and children, leaving us with an impossible decision about who gets punished under these laws. The patriarchy knows this and uses it to their advantage.

— “Female human beings may be more ourselves before we are ten or so, before gender expectations begin to kick in. We don’t grow better or worse with age, just more like the unique selves we were born to be before made-up gender roles took over our central years. Don’t change women to fit the world; change the world to fit women.Initially I was sad when I read the first sentence because it’s true. And then I was mad. As I reflect on all of those years I tried so hard to be something that I wasn’t, to fit into a world that wasn’t designed by or for me, and all the work I’ve been doing over the last decade to ‘find’ myself, I am really angry. And tired. Imagine what could have been if it weren’t for all the time, money, and wasted emotions on trying to be something or someone to fit in and not rock the boat. I am doing the work now to make the world a place where women don’t have to adapt to fit into it.

— “A woman may become a completely different person after fifty. That’s because she is at last free to be the grown-up version of the little girl she once was, climbing trees and saying, I know what I want, I know what I think.” This is the positive spin on the previous point. I am happy that I am in my ‘fuck it fifties’ as I am working on fully embracing who I am and who I want to be. But I want this for all women; I don’t want any girl or woman to wait forty years.

— “Needing approval is a female cultural disease and so it is often a sign that we are doing the wrong thing. Women have been trained to measure our effectiveness in love and approval.” “ If any female feels she needs anything beyond herself to legitimate and validate her existence, she is already giving away her power. — Bell Hooks.Now more young women are also questioning the old ways and figuring out how to withstand the tyranny of expectations.” While not perfect, I am heartened to see GenZ reject the standard societal expectations but we can’t leave it all up to them. We women have to be bold and do the work to throw off the chains of the expectations of being ‘good girls.’ And men need to stop holding us to these ridiculous standards.

“Dear Goddess: I pray for the courage to walk naked at any age. What our bodies can do is way more important than how they look. If we bless our bodies, our bodies will bless us.” As my body continues to change and be totally unrecognizable from my younger self, I need to have this as a mantra: your value is not defined by your appearance.

— “Women have always been an equal part of the past, just not an equal part of history.” We are seeing some in the United States attempting to whitewash and rewrite history books (and education) to avoid the ‘bad’ feelings that go with recognizing that we have done some seriously bad shit as a country. If they can rewrite history to support their narrative, why can’t we? If women aren’t included in what you read or watch, ask why? Women existed; many of our stories have been lost, but not all of them. We too can demand to have women become more than a sidenote / sidebar in a history book.

— “Women are required to be strong, then are punished for our strength.” Oh, the joys of this one. Not only are we punished, we are diminished so men don’t feel ‘less than.’ I think about this regarding pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, and so much more. Those of us who give birth manage to produce a child with our bodies, nourish said child, and often go about our business pretending that our lives and bodies are not significantly impacted, and not always for the better.

— “Law and justice are not always the same. When they aren’t, disobeying the law may be the first step toward justice.” I think about this often as a privileged, cis-gendered, heterosexual white woman in a blue state. I see others risking everything when pressing for justice and equality. Am I doing enough? How can I better step up? Would I be willing to put everything on the line in the name of justice? I’m embarrassed by my answer.

— “Whatever you want to do, just do it. Making a damn fool of yourself is absolutely essential.” Enough said.


Did any of these resonate with you? Are you mad? Sad? Inspired? Comforted? Something else? Let me know in the comments or drop me a line at

This is not an endorsement for Bird scooters, especially since they filed for bankruptcy in 2023. Such a waste of good VC money!

About the Author

Terri Hanson Mead is the multi-award winning author of Piloting Your Life, Managing Partner of Solutions2Projects, LLC, travel journalist and vlogger with her husband Zeke (Zeke and Terri), Stanford Continuing Studies Instructor (Navigating Midlife for Women), and an advocate for women through all of her platforms including YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and this blog. Terri, the mother of a college sophomore and recent college graduate, is based in Redwood City, CA and in her spare time, loves to travel, cook, play tennis, and fly helicopters around the San Francisco Bay Area, especially under the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh, and she loves a good craft cocktail!



Terri Hanson Mead
Terri Hanson Mead

Tiara wearing, champagne drinking troublemaker, making the world a better place for women. Award winning author of Piloting Your Life.