Over the years, I’ve heard much of A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. I agreed with oft-quoted passages. I thought the idea of Shakespeare’s literary sister Judith intriguing. But I never took the time to read it. I was a bit put off by the very feminists quoting dear ol’ Virginia. I didn’t consider myself THAT radical.
Now that I’ve entered middle-age, I decided that I was that radical after all and reading it proved that I was indeed without a doubt.
Ms. Woolf wrote this extended essay in 1929 and the thoughts contained herein were undoubtedly shocking at the time. She maintained that women didn’t have the means nor the time to be able to pursue writing of any kind with a few notable anomalies. She mentions the Bronte sisters, Dorothy Osborne, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Lady Winchilsea as exceptions having both the education and means to become writers.
She also proposed that the best writers were androngynous, although I wasn’t entirely convinced by her argument on that topic. I believe that a talented female writer is better able to write about experiences unique to women than an equally talented androngynous male writer.
So how much of what Ms. Woolf wrote is true today? Certainly we’ve progressed to the point where women have the time and income to devote themselves to writing books, haven’t we?
It seems there are still some gender bias when it comes to publishing. (See Bias, She Wrote:The Gender Balance of The New York Times Best Seller list) Books about women win fewer literary awards. (See BOOKS ABOUT WOMEN DON’T WIN BIG AWARDS: SOME DATA) The majority of literature studied in high school was not written by women. (See Here’s The Problem with White-Male-Centric School Reading Lists)
So even though there are more women writers, I can’t say that all things are equal yet. Would you?
Whether you consider yourself radical or not-so-radical, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf is well-worth a read.
How many of the women writers on this list have you read? (See 50 Great Women Writers) I’ve read 21.