If you already know who Virginia Woolf is and you have read her spectacular works like Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), you would be familiar with her independent, empowering thoughts that were way ahead of her time. Her thoughts about literary history, women’s writing, and the politics of power created ripples throughout history across the world.
But what you should really read is the work A Room of One’s Own (1929), which is a wake-up call for women to stop being absent from history. It is thought-provoking for us as millennial women who don’t have to go through the same constraints that women of her time had to go through. She advocates that women are absent not because of their lack of intelligence or talent but because of their financial status.
Our society at the moment is at its most progressive of periods, as women can access education and obtain employment anywhere at a higher position based on their experience and skills. So it is quite evident that unequal opportunities for women negatively affected all of society back then. But the fight for acknowledgment and compensation without being compared to the abilities of a male counterpart is still sometimes what a woman faces. On Women’s Day, in a progressive society like ours, we still need to address and fight against unequal pay at our workplaces.
Woolf talked about women in creative industries vastly, with an example of a hypothetical sister of Shakespeare in particular. She might have equal talent as her brother, but she was required to fulfill the mundane domestic duties and eventually, meets her fate in demise. But she doesn’t fail to celebrate those women who overcame these traditions and embraced their creative gifts like Jane Austen, Aphra Behn, etc.
The solution for a woman in those days, according to Woolf, to break free of such traditions was to earn something of her own and have a room of her own. Only a woman can write and represent the struggles of a woman, which lacked immensely in the literary works of those days. A man’s representation of a woman would always reaffirm the gender roles assigned to her by the male ego.
But in modern times, when a woman is earning her own money and is leading a life of her own independently of a man, is she still able to creatively express herself? Is a woman given her privacy to express her true self to the world? I would say, we are getting there but we still have a long way to go. But can following Virginia Woolf’s advice as a modern woman help you get you there faster?
Well, having your own room with a lock on it is not such an odd concept anymore. Most women even live alone, but is that taking them to where they want to be? I reckon it is; I watch many creative women on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, etc., trying to create their own brands and eventually starting up their own businesses. Creative expression in any form should be encouraged, and all women should strive to have something to themselves that will aid in this expression. Because we won that fight after centuries-long struggles, using this freedom is not only for our own good, but can result in positive influences for generations to come.