“A Room Of One’s Own” and The Advancement of Feminism

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?

6 thoughts on ““A Room Of One’s Own” and The Advancement of Feminism

  1. She really focuses on the independence that she want s women to have. I think it is also shown even when Shakespeare’s sister leaves her home to become an artist. Even though, she did not end up achieving what she wanted. However, Virginia Woolf does not necessarily want us to reach our goals( not saying that she want us to lose). She wants us to give it a try rather than going with the flow and accepting, whatever is handed to you.
    How can feminist literature create a change? I write to let my thoughts out in the world in the open, so that others can know t hey are not the only ones going through this. And maybe why a lot kids write, but maybe it’s time to write to make a change.

  2. Your analysis of the scene in Room of One’s own where the woman is sitting by the banks of a river thinking, and loses her train of thought due to the man interrupting and banning her from the grass is very interesting. I love when you said “In this sense, she is referring 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 of women.” This is so relevant today. In our current society, many women are trying very hard to break free of these stereotypical “women roles” and pursue other things. Unfortunately, some women are never able to break free, a travesty in women’s fight for equality.

  3. The fact that if Shakespeare had a sister she wouldn’t be nearly as successful as him just shows how discriminatory our society is. It seems as if men are always given the benefit of the doubt. If a man has multiple partners he is a player, but if a girl has multiple partners she is a slut. If a man is assertive he is a boss, but if a woman is assertive she is a bitch. A man can run for president, but when a woman runs for president there are constantly jokes about women being emotional and getting their periods and so on.

    I am appalled by the fact that a man can do something and it is called one thing, but then if a woman does something, it is considered something so much worse. There are too many double standards for me to keep up with.

  4. The question that you ended with really got me thinking about what’s the next step. What do we do next in order to further bring women’s literature onto the same pedestal that contains men’s literature? Do we merge the two literatures as Woolf says with androgynous mind theory? And what I think is that we should start with the classroom, as you began to mention in your last paragraph. If we start giving women’s voice in the form of literature/writing more respect in the classroom, then we can begin to develop a society where a woman’s voice in ANY shape or form can be respected.

  5. You ask a question here that is so important, but that no one ever thinks of: why does a woman need money and a room of her own in the first place? What’s interesting as well is that due, I think, to bell hooks, one immediately says “oh, for the advancement of feminism”. Virginia Woolf would have disagreed; she makes clear throughout A Room of One’s Own her dismissal of art for political purpose. I would definitely have been interested to see her response to our class!

  6. When I was writing my blog post I struggled to express what you just put so clearly and simply. I think you explained Woolf’s theories in a very eloquent and understandable way. I think it was important for you to include your last paragraph because feminism isn’t going to grow and expand if we are only exposing the theory to only a very limited and exclusive group of people. Everyone deserves to understand feminism because I truly believe it is a life changing movement and if everyone is taught to view the world through feminist eyes, I feel like the world would be a much better place. It would give me hope for future generations.

Leave a Reply to latinacarina Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s