The Freedom of Having Your Own Space and Your Own Income

A picture of Virginia Woolf. (Photo by Paul Walker, used with permission).

The issues that Courtney Martin expresses in her article, “‘You Are the NOW of Now!’ The Future of (Online) Feminism”, are closely related to Virginia Woolf’s own theories in her book, A Room of One’s Own. Martin gets straight to the point in her article as she states in her opening paragraphs, “The belief that online activism isn’t ‘real’ or deserving of financial support isn’t just an insult to entrepreneurial bloggers and organizers; it’s creating a crisis in the feminist movement.”

Though she was not necessarily talking about online activism through blogging or the feminist movement, Woolf would definitely agree with Martin.

In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf’s thesis is simply that in order for women to be able to produce literature, they need their own space and their own source of income. There is no question that women’s literature in Woolf’s time was not given the attention and respect it rightfully deserved. More importantly, they did not have any financial help to nourish their  work and as a result, the production of women’s literature suffered greatly.

Today, Martin and other feminist bloggers are experiencing the same financial problem women writers faced in Woolf’s time. Just like female authors back then were not supported financially because they were not taken seriously, feminist bloggers today aren’t supported financially either because their online activist work isn’t recognized as an important contribution to the feminist movement.

Martin goes on in her article to quote Shelby Knox, who says, “We, as feminist organizers, have to give up the martyr complex and start building financially stable and even profitable activist enterprises on our terms, infused with our values.” What Knox means is that the notion that in order to make change one has to be a martyr has to be abolished. The idea that making a profit from your online activist work in some ways makes  your work have less value or makes your intentions impure needs to be abolished.

The reality is that in order to be truly committed to your work as an online activist, whether it be for the feminist movement or for any other issue that is important to you, you need to be financially stable. Everyone needs a flowing income to sustain their daily lives. They need money so they can eat, clothe themselves, and have somewhere to live. There is no question about it: money is absolutely necessary for everyday life.

Martin puts this financial issue in context when she uses Racialicious’ editor, Latoya Peterson, as an example. She quotes Peterson saying, “Simply put, a good blog take a lot of time. It’s really easy to spend so much time on Racialicious and then realize you haven’t pulled in any paid work for that week, so rent is going to be rough next month.” These bloggers, just like many women authors, have to have jobs in order to support their writings (their blogs and other forms of literature) as well as to support their daily lives. Their jobs serve as a distraction that pushes their blogging and other works to the side, whereas, if they were supported financially, they would be able to focus all their time, passion, and energy into their writing.

Woolf’s argument is that without these distractions, women can have a room of their own where they will be able to produce these writings. Having their own space is just as important as having their own source of income because once they are free of all distractions, they will be able to focus solely on producing their literature.

Nicki Minaj performing in her concert at Bank Atlantic Center on April 6, 2011. (Photo used with permission).

Using the same notion, I can relate this to the women in the hip hop industry today. One female rapper especially stands out in my mind, Nicki Minaj. Before being signed to her label, Young Money Records, Nicki Minaj was an independent underground rapper whose raps had some substance and meaning. Then she went through a blatant transformation after being signed.

Besides the physical, (she got butt implants, not to mention many other plastic surgeries), Nicki Minaj’s raps are now more superficial and conform to society’s ideal of what female rappers should be: sexual objects submissive to their male rapper counterparts.

I say I can relate this to Woolf’s theories about personal space and income because Young Money Records is run by men and it is those men that govern and control everything Nicki Minaj does. It is those men that give her the financial support she needs to produce her music and because of that she has to abide with their vision of what she should be doing.

My belief is that if Nicki Minaj had a room of her own, she would not be rapping about what she is rapping about now. If she did not have these male and societal influences that serve as a distraction and she had her own space and her own income, she would at least have the choice to diverge from these limiting and degrading expectations of female rappers.

13 thoughts on “The Freedom of Having Your Own Space and Your Own Income

  1. I totally agree with your observation of Nicki Minaj. I listened to and enjoyed her earlier mixtapes, but I found that her lyrics have become more and more meaningless.

    Also in the recently released “Dance” by Big Sean video, out of the 2 minutes that she was present in the video, a minute and 40 seconds were filled with her booty-popping. If Nicki Minaj is the only female rapper for girls to luck up to, what will girls grow up to become? Will they grow up calling each other “bad bitches” and thinking that they have to look like a barbie in order to be successful in the hip-hop industry?

    Minaj’s transformation was rapid, but how long would it take to reverse that image of her?… to reverse the image of an “ideal woman”?

  2. I wonder also, would have women’ literature been viewed differently, accepted if women had the financial support before. sometimes I think that it would not have made such a difference, because most of society was not ready for such a big step.
    I love the comparison to Nicki Minaj, it shows that money is not always the main issue, but what society expects from women, who we have to be. And even if are now in the 21st century and women can study what ever they want, they can go where ever the wind blows them. They will still feel restricted, because society’s expectations from women are still alive, just more quiet than they were before

  3. Your connection to Nicki Minaj when you say “Nicki Minaj’s raps are now more superficial and conforming to society’s ideal of what female rappers should be: sexual objects submissive to their male rapper counterparts” is both heartbreaking and true. It is so sad that some females see only two options for their sexuality: either transforming themselves into a sex object or not having a sexuality at all. This is one reason why feminism is so important today, to inspire females to have a healthy, comfortable sexuality that they create for themselves, rather than one they feel like they have to emulate.

  4. I was so interested by your comments on Nicki Minaj. I’m not much of a rap fan, but I’m certainly exposed to the genre and I have great respect for it. While I only know a few of her songs, I always had a positive image of Minaj because she is a woman succeeding at what is almost always a man’s game in what is certainly a man’s world, and because those in that world, and those who know about rap in general, seem to have a lot of respect for her. I did not, however, know how much she has changed since getting signed. It’s an excellent point in your argument, as well as a disheartening situation in general.

  5. Word the Nicki Minaj connections were very interesting. I like how you included how she transformed her lyrics to fit her male bosses at Young Money Records. Really good connections to Woolf as well. I really like this line “My belief is that if Nicki Minaj had a room of her own, she would not be rapping about what she is now”

    PS Queen Latifah was the realest rapper in the game-

  6. I loved the Nicki Minaj connections as well. It is the perfect example of how we live in a world where there is this constant need to fit in, whether it be in the corporate world or in middle school, trying to choose what clique you’re going to be a part of for the next 3 years. The “clique” that you choose ultimately shapes who you’re going to be and that’s what happened with Nicki Minaj. I have always said that I think she’s extremely talented but its so watered down by her crazy dressing and that “blah blah blah” voice she has sometimes when she raps. But, if she wants to be part of that celebrity world, she has to change herself to what the people are into–which are the Lady Gaga’s of the music industry. It’s sad but it’s true. People, especially women, don’t have the freedom to be unique anymore (assuming that that freedom has ever actually existed).

  7. Keep up the blogging!

    I’m a huge fan of Nicki, and I would like to offer a counter-perspective to your thoughts on Nicki … despite the misogyny and sexism in Young Money, she maintains a room of her own (literally in the video Bedrock.) To me, she IS the Virginia Woolf of rap music. She stands defiantly tall, with personality(ies) as a counterargument to all the womyn who are degraded in music videos otherwise. I don’t know if I really buy your argument that her lyrics have become more vapid since she signed. Have you listend to “Fly” or “I’m the Best?” Those are two hellah empowering songs. …I think the industry just isn’t ready (YET) for what she has to say in her mixtapes (like in Freaky Girl).

    Also, I don’t know if it’s necessary to stigmatize supposed plastic surgery as a reason to why she has sold out or lost the opportunity to be herself. It produces more hate towards womyn for making decisions about their bodies. And, if you want to make the comparison, you should document it with what Nicki has to say about her decisions. …I thought it was just rumors.

    Also, check out and comment on a post I wrote awhile ago:

    Thanks for writing!

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