This title may look very familiar, as you’ve seen it in the essay of feminist author Virginia Woolf, who elaborated the need for privacy, leisure time and financial independence that women had in the twentieth century. Read to find out how accurate her essay still is.
‘A Room of One’s Own’ is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf, first published in September 1929.
Considered as a breakthrough of 20th century feminism, Woolf unfolds many social injustices and comments on women’s lack of possibilities to become authors and participate in shaping world literature.
Woolf considered that the literary tradition was dominated by men, as a consequence of the patriarchal mindset of the time, that did now allow women their own time and space to be creative.
“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.As the woman starts to think of an idea, a guard enforces a rule whereby women are not allowed to walk on the grass. Abiding by the rule, the woman loses her idea.”
Woolf uses metaphors and elaborates on many analogies to describe the social expectations which considered women to be mere domestic child bearers and ignorant.
Their lack of time and lack of space, Woolf adds, keeps them out of literature, as women are deprived of the fundamental, basic needs for privacy and quality time of their own.
To illustrate her point, she also uses hypothetical situations, for instance, she creates Judith, an imaginary sister of the playwright Shakespeare.
Woolf asks and wonders: What if such a woman had shared her brother’s talents and was as adventurous, as agog to see the world as he was (Shakespeare)?
Would she have had the freedom, support and confidence to write plays?
Tragically, she argues, such a woman would likely have been silenced — ultimately choosing suicide over an unfulfilled life of domestic servitude and abuse.
How Accurate Is This Analysis in 2021?
Although there is still progress, we can tell that women around the world are still severely poor and unable to perform the same activities or do the same jobs as men.
Their burden of care is still loaded, and their careers are hindered as they continue sharing individual responsibilities over their children, and have to give up on their professional lives so that they can take on their role as mothers.
Virginia’s essay was published 92 years earlier, and yet, women struggle to explore their identities because of a lack of privacy and control that is exercised upon their most fundamental rights.
But further than the regress on gender equality and women’s rights, the concept of having ‘a room of one’s own’ is relevant and much needed for both men and women.
We can all relate to the comfort, freedom and peace that we get from our rooms, as we are able to be fully ourselves.
Imagine the position of individuals that do not possess this freedom, and live in circumstances that do not allow them this space.
How can creativity and peace of mind be present, when you are constantly asked to keep your guard up, as other people are observing your behaviour?
On Cherishing Our Spaces
It is crucial that we invest hard in making a space like this happen, by all means, if circumstances allow.
It is not materialistic to want to live in a house, room or space that has basic living elements to induce a sense of tranquility and well-being.
I’m not saying you should go all Feng-Shui on your room, and buy expensive furniture. There are even cheap recycling methods you can use to make coziness a characteristic of your room. Grow some plants and make time to clean.
Get some books and a table. That should be enough for you to have time to develop your imagination and be with yourself from time to time, regardless of whether you want to get into literature in the future or not.
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