This week we were asked to read Virginia Woolf’s Essay: “A Room of One’s Own”. This is the third time I’ve read the text over the past 4 years, but the first time I have actually enjoyed the reading and felt as though I could follow along with Woolf’s thoughts. I think that part of the reason could be that I am more comfortable with English Literature at this point. I’ve taken many English courses since the last time I was assigned to read this text, and am now able to identify many of the writers, both male and female, of whom she speaks. Having the background knowledge of these writers makes it so much easier to get the sarcasm, humor and truth of Woolf’s words.
In this essay, Woolf clearly points out the difficulties women have faced throughout the centuries leading up to 1929 in terms of struggling to overcome the restraints placed upon them while living in a patriarchal society. There is no pomp added to this piece of work, just the facts and reality of the situations she speaks of. In the early pages, she starts off with the many “what if’s”. What if their mothers and grandmothers and women before them had lived their lives differently? Would women find themselves in the same suffocating position, living for her man?
She also questions the reason why men treat women the way that they do. Are they jealous of women? Do they secretly believe that, if given the opportunity, women have the capability to succeed and possibly fend for themselves, without the help of their husbands? GASP!
Virginia Woolf hints that women from earlier years allowed the men to succeed – that without women standing at their side, men would be nothing. They needed the love and support of their wives, mothers, daughters etc. to reach their full potential. In current times, men and women should be equal. She acknowledges that in the past, men had all of the privileges and therefore nothing held them back from expressing their thoughts through writing. Women lived in the shadows of their men, and were only encouraged to write while men were otherwise engaged.
To me, this is the “You Go, Girl” motivational speech of the 20th century. Woolf encourages women to embrace their femininity and tell the story of a woman, not do as those have done before her and hide behind the (pen)name of a man.