Needs of Women

Over the last two weeks or so, my feminism class read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. As wonderfully written as this book is, I could not understand why Woolf mainly focused on the five hundred pounds that a women should have. She says that women need their own privacy to write, but is it only women writers? “Give her a room and five hundred a year.” She wants everyone to have an androgynous mind, but she seems to be contradicting her own statement.

Woolf considers an androgynous mind, a mind that does not differentiate between the sexes, that does not challenge quality based on the gender of the individiual. However, what is she doing? I know that at that

A pile of money wrongly used.

time period, things were a little harder on women. They could not express themselves as freely as they can now or make a choice of their own. However, I found it unfair that she expects everything to be given to the women; at least that is what she had led me to believe while reading.

She talks a number of times about those five hundred pounds, but never talks about how a woman should go about finding that sort of money in that time period. It seems to me that Woolf had wonderful ideas, but she did not take the time to explain the road to achieving them.

The issue of money is still current. Courtney E. Martin wrote an article centered on the existence of online activism and the need for financial support. The difference between Martin and Woolf is that Martin gives examples of how online activists can go about finding the money they need while Woolf only states that women need the money.
I understand what Woolf was trying to do. She was trying to give women a push, to show them that they can become someone. However, it is sometimes good to have an outside view. bell hooks writes, “But simply being the victim of an exploitative or oppressive system and even resisting it does not mean we understand why it’s in place or how to change it.”

When I read first this, I thought of the  victims of CSEC or commercial sexual exploitation of children that cannot understand the ugliness of the world in which they are leaving in, until someone or something such as GEMS from the outside opens their eyes. Then, I went on thinking that even if Woolf is trying to help her gender, maybe someone from the outside, should step in to guide her along the way. It is for the same reason they do not allow doctors to give surgery to a loved one. Your emotions are involved. Woolf is a woman, fighting for the rights of women, things can get crazy and sometimes done without too much reasoning.
I am not saying that she should have had the opinion of the opposite sex; I personally don’t think that at that time men were ready to get involved. But while I was reading the book and she was bringing me step by step on how her thoughts came to life, not once had she said something such as, “and I ran into Sarah, who gave me this marvelous idea. We went on talking about it in further details until night separated us.”  It is always better to always have the opinion of others, what you do with it, is something else.

What enrages me is how Woolf had so much hope for the future. But even now women are still unconsciously considered lesser than men. It is as if, we have not evolved. “In the man’s brain, the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain the woman predominates over the man.” The years keep on getting bigger, but we are still mentally leaving in the past. If we are not, why is it that a women’ pay is 77 cents less than that of men’, why do we always see in a book critique “women writer”?  It is as if a woman writes something powerful, it is a miracle. She is one in a million and that the rest do not have the capability. We are not equal in the real world, we are equal in our mind.

At least, we have progressed in certain areas. If a woman in the 21st century does not get married, it will no longer “hurt or shame” a parent, like Judith, Shakespeare fictional sister might have shamed her dad over the matter of her marriage. We can resist, we can say no. A modern woman knows that life does not end, because one is pregnant. There are associations to help women with whatever direction she wants to take.

Going back on the matter of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own she only talks about white women

Let's make her proud

that do not come from low-income areas. Actually, her book was directed to a specific group, since it was an essay read at Cambridge, which means that she is only attracting an elite group.  And for all I know, feminism is for everyone.

Why didn’t she stop? Why didn’t she take the time to include those she had left behind? Or at least take the time to realize that she left others behind. I believe that she could have. bell hooks writes, “Feminist theory began to be housed in an academic ghetto with little connection to a world outside.” Did hooks have a different reaction because she knew how it felt to be a minority? hooks came from the working class, and I believe that this was already an experience. In no way could Woolf know how that felt. So she would not have been able to fight with that same fire for feminism in the low-income class.

This goes back again to my main point, outside opinions, influences always come in handy. If one is fighting for the rights of women, she cannot only find solutions to a specific class and leave out the others. That would be called rights of “the class you are fighting for.”  They should find a way to incorporate everyone. If feminists had done it since the beginning, there would have never been such thing as a feminist bourgeoisie and people such as Sojourner Truth would have never been verbally harassed as she moved to the podium at the Akron conference.

5 thoughts on “Needs of Women

  1. I completely agree that Courtney Martin and Virginia Woolf seem to be on the same wave length with this issue. Martin’s blog seems to be a contemporary continuation of Woolf’s arguments. I love your how you connected bell hook’s statement “But simply being the victim of an exploitative or oppressive system and even resisting it does not mean we understand why it’s in place or how to change it” with GEMS. I didn’t originally catch that parallel, but thanks to you I definitely see it. I also love how you point out how Virginia Woolf left out massive sections of the population in her thesis, an extremely important thing to keep in mind as one reads the book.

  2. The part of the blog where you talk about Virginia Woolf not offering a way for women to get this money that she said we needed was very interesting. I’ve always focused more on what she gave us rather than what she left out of her book. To be honest, I don’t think she could have possibly given a path for women to take to success because frankly, at that time, there weren’t that many options for women to have a job, let alone a successful one. It seems that the only “acceptable” pathways for women for most of history were jobs like housewife, maid, teacher, nurse and so on. Although she would never admit it, I believe that Woolf just didn’t know.

  3. I like the quote that you used, “But simply being the victim of an exploitative or oppressive system and even resisting it does not mean we understand why it’s in place or how to change it.”

    I feel like a lot of the time people have a problem with a specific person or even an entire system set up and are so quick to react, but don’t know how to eliminate the problem permanently. Sometimes problems are so overwhelming that the only feelings we have are anger and frustration because we feel that we don’t have any power over the situation. These times are times where we especially need to rethink our society.

    In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne says that in order to solve the problems in society we must all change – both men and women – and rebuild society. This was written in 19th century and we still haven’t taken into consideration that our society is beyond repair and we must start from scratch in order to make our society better for everyone.

  4. I absolutely share your frustration at Virginia Woolf’s impracticality in discussing money. She had her money handed to her out of nowhere, and it was hers and hers alone. Only a select few women at her time enjoyed the luxury of the former, and almost none the latter. It’s upsetting to see a woman talk about how women have been shut out of writing when she herself shuts out the majority of women in her consideration of the topic.

  5. You really offered a totally different view on Woolf’s whole argument. I definitely share your same feelings that her exclusion of large groups of people of different races or of a different class was very disappointing and that the inclusion of these groups of people is very necessary, like hooks mentions in her book “Feminism Is For Everybody” for the expansion of the feminism movement. I also agree with you when you say that maybe hooks had these ideas of feminism being for everybody because she pertained to those groups which were left out of “A Room of One’s Own.” I think your critique of Woolf is very accurate.

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