Book of da Week: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
A Room of One’s Own. Indeed.

It’s feminism this week and why not? Genius British writer Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) penned A Room of One’s Own for release in 1928 at a pivotal moment in the history of the woman.

As this essay lays bare, in olden days women were forced to endure subservient roles in life. For many ages this blocked many hugely talented women from making cultural achievements, whilst men had immediate access to the latest educational standards and the right to create. Women had bugger all.

In this fiercely written polemic, Woolf astutely argues the case for women’s liberation and how idiotic this former state of affairs was. Indeed, the only thing it did was rob us of genius over the ages – women with great talent blocked from contributing anything to society because of stupid men and their stupid big man feet. Bastards. Join us, then, in today’s blog post of hate!

A Room of One’s Own

In this essay of just over 100 pages (which the writer developed out of a lecture she’d given in Cambridge), we find Woolf deliver her verdict on the cultural norms at the time, which included disastrously embarrassing sexism and the belief women were physically and mentally inferior to men.

This, unfortunately, had blocked women over the centuries from contributing to culture, which is why you’ll find most great writers, composers, philosophers and what not were men from over the last several hundred years. Women simply were denied the right to advance through education and have a voice through something such as writing.

Horrible, right? Humanity has come a long way since then! As explained in segments of the essay, Woolf writes wonderfully and eloquently about women writers and how, for centuries, they were blocked from having this basic right. Women’s education is also considered, but ultimately it’s the contemplation of historical and contextual achievements in the literary world.

As a result, here we have a concise little wonder which fought the cause for women’s rights and now, if anything, stands as a glorious coda to the success of feminism in the 20th century.

The fact it is so enjoyable has kept it relevant to this day – it’s not bogged down by prolixity or self-righteous nonsense. It’s short, sharp, straight to the point, and it delivers one almighty, tenable argument for why women are ace and should be writing. Innit.

Modern Feminism

It’s fair to say you’re going to be treated with general contempt if you announce loudly in public something such as: “Women are pretty stupid and their only real purpose is to stand around looking pretty whilst generating children for the far superior gender. So there.” The subsequent thunderous onslaught of criticism would be astonishing to behold.

Rightly so. Feminism in the 20th century paved the way for women to lead society as politicians (prevalent to this day – come on Hilary, you can do it!), as the head honcho at major businesses (Yahoo!’s Marissa Meyer springs to mind), and across plenty of cultural and sporting arenas. Glorious!

More recently, with the advent of the internet, feminism hit the mainstream which has, if anything, been counterproductive. The internet is now awash with hypocritical websites such as BuzzFeed, a media outlet which goes out of its way to take the moral high ground by promoting endless body positive articles about women, defends feminist issues vociferously, and yet runs a Hot Guys downloadable calendar and numerous other articles which often objectify or ridicule men.

Considering there are still many caustic opponents of the feminist movement out there (mainly far right imbeciles – read, if you dare, Return of Kings for some hilariously embarrassing manosphere stupidity), well-meaning but dimwitted sites such as BuzzFeed offer anti-feminists easy cannon fodder to support their anachronistic ways.

Enter Mansplaining

Exasperating the matter, in our opinion, is how many feminists are picking up on innocuous bloke things and turning them into huge international points of discussion where women rave about their problems with men.

Mansplaining is one point which hits a raw nerve – we recently read a 3,000+ word article which really went off on one about how some men can be condescending.

There are a lot of feminist articles about this (and manspreading, where men sit on public transport in a manner which occupies too much room). So much so this has given rise to a counter criticism called femsplaining. Massive publications like Time have waded into the debate. In late 2014, Cathy Young wrote in Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right:

“The charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists — but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.”

Here we have genders locking horns, but it makes us think people have forgotten what feminism is about – gender equality. It’s not about launching an irritable tirade against an entire sex as you’re a bit cross some random man or woman you met was a tad annoying.

Yet with access to the internet, people can voice their irritations online, have them amplified for free, and find individuals concurring with them across the world in a matter of seconds, fostering a sense of purpose and the belief they absolutely have to be right. This unity turns relatively innocuous incidences of mansplaining, as an example, into an international pandemic of misogynistic proportions.

Conclusion

From our perspective, this is a bit stupid. Feminism (or humanism, as we prefer it) is about doing one’s best to live a morally sound life as a harmonious human being – this includes being grown up and shouldering slight annoyances you may have for the sake of positive social progress.

What’s the antidote? Cripes, read A Room of One’s Own – it’s a work from an extremely gifted writer and a woman with a great mind who led a trailblazing path towards an enlightened society. It may be heading towards its 90th year since publication, but it’s crammed full of wisdom and serves as a timely reminder about what equality can achieve in this world.

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