Virginia Woolf, a member of the artistic Bloomsbury Group, was a revolutionary essayist and one of the most prominent figures of the modernist style. Her voice and philosophies are still being heard today. The message in A Room of One’s Own is still applicable today, although the book was published in 1929. Her call to action in A Room Of One’s Own is that a woman needs money and independence in order produce her most intellectual and talented work. This argument cannot be stressed enough in the present day.
Woolf uses the idea of “a room of one’s own” both literally and metaphorically. Woolf writes that women need independence to think, speak, and, of course, write by herself. She believes that the greatest work can be accomplished without the disturbances of others. Woolf describes a scene in which she is “fishing for an idea” on the grass lawn on of Oxbridge (a fictional university combining the names of Oxford and Cambridge). She is told she must leave because “women are not allowed to sit on the lawn” and her idea gets lost in the disturbance.
In this sense, she refers to a physical state of isolation where there are no interruptions between the women and her writing. However, in other parts of the book, she refers to a deeper sense of independence. A space of a woman’s own is also an independence from the many formal responsibilities women have in our culture. Woolf calls for independence to think in a free environment – free from taking care of children and free from doing chores for a husband.
Woolf also uses a hypothetical situation of “Shakespear’s sister.” She argues that if Shakespeare had a sister who was just as talented as Shakespeare himself, she would not be nearly as recognized because of her responsibilities and limitations as a woman. Woolf makes clear that Shakespeare’s sister does not become recognized because “she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil” and “her parents told her to mend the stocking or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers.” She further describes the life of Shakespeare’s sister, and how she never got the chance to work on writing independently because of her role as a woman.
Sexual freedom also plays into a space or room of one’s own and the absence of a husband can also create time and space to further work on one’s writing. Throughout her book Woolf makes clear how crucial independence is.
Independence, however, is just one variable to the equation of how a woman can produce the best fiction writing. She starts by pondering the circumstances of “why men drink wine and women water.” Why, throughout history, have men been richer and more wealthy than women? She speaks about the “safety and prosperity of one sex and the poverty and insecurity of the other and of the effect of tradition and lack of tradition on the mind of a writer.” Woolf argues that a writer must be financially stable in order to write. If she is not well off, then she will have to spend her time working instead of writing. Or, in many cases, she will have to marry a wealthy man, but then will have to devote time and have the responsibilities of a wife instead of writing. So, ultimately, a women needs cash and a job of her own.
This situation for women writers is no different today, and one of the most common ways to get your voice heard in the “age of the internet” is through blogging. “The Future of Online Feminism”, an article published by Courtney Martin in The Nation, shows just how “these financial struggles reveal a fundamental problem for the future of feminism.” Blogs need money in order to pay off the website hosting costs, along with paying all of the writers and tech support. People tend to not like to think about the money behind a cause, because it tends to make that cause seem “greedy” or “dirty.” The truth is that feminism is connected to money, just as everything is. Feminist literature cannot be produced without income and finance. That is just the way it works.
After establishing the fact that money and independence are the fuels for great works of literature, it is important at the same time to look at why must woman write? It seems like a rather unintelligent question at first. Why does anyone write? To get points of view out in the open. Woman must write in order to fight for equality. Woman’s ideas must be put out in the open to spread awareness. bell hooks makes this very clear in Feminism Is For Everybody. hooks states the importance of wideining the audience of feminist literature. Her call for action, differently from Woolf’s, is that feminist literature should not just be for the “higher educated and intellectuals.” Feminism effects all women of all education levels so why should the writing be focused at just one demographic. Now that the issue of independence and income have been addressed, it is time to start asking how can feminist literature create change?