Division of Labor According to Gender in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own
Virginia Woolf, in her treatise A Room of One's Own, identified a gendered division of labor. For her, men work in the market place and make the money while the women, the upper class women at least, attend to the social pleasantries and household management. While she lamented this state of affairs, she did not present, as Gilman did, a model for existence that would allow men and women to operate on the same level. However, a direct comparison to Gilman is somewhat unfair as she was not focused on the status of women in the economy so much as the status of women as writers.
The eighteenth-century British society was divided along social classes and gender roles. Males were considered to be better in exercising leadership,while women were believed to be better at nurturing and at managing domestic matters. During this period women were deprived from exercising their rights and had limited roles in society. Women were not allowed to vote, own property and most important were denied the right to receive an equal education as men did during this time. Women were deprived from the ability to acquire knowledge and exercise their reason. Marriage was the primary goal in their lives. Not everyone agreed how society had been underestimating the capabilities of women. Wollstonecraft, did not agree on how women were perceived and wanted to make change. she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women,where she stated the reasons why women have been perceived as objects. She felt parents and schools have contributed the neglection of education for women. As result, women were portrayed as weak. Mary Wollstonecraft had very unique opinions about the role that education played in the lives of women and argued powerfully how disadvantaged they were in society.
Mary Wollstonecraft was as revolutionary in her writings as Thomas Paine. They were both very effective writers and conveyed the messages of their ideas quite well even though both only had only the most basic education. Wollstonecraft was a woman writing about women's rights at a time when these rights were simply non-existent and this made her different from Paine because she was breaking new ground, thus making her unique. Throughout her lifetime, Wollstonecraft wrote about the misconception that women did not need an education, but were only meant to be submissive to man. Women were treated like a decoration that had no real function except to amuse and beguile. Wollstonecraft was the true leader in women's rights, advocating a partnership in relationships and marriage rather than a dictatorship. She was firm in her conviction that education would give women the ability to take a more active role in life itself.
Virginia Woolf is often categorized as being an aesthetic writer. Most of her works played largely on the concept of suggestion. They addressed many social issues especially those regarding feminine problems. Woolf was acutely aware of her identity as a woman and she used many of writings as outlets for her frustrations. According to her doctrine, the subjugation of women is a central fact of history, a key to most of our social and psychological disorders (Marder 3). The two works I will focus on is A Room of One's Own and "A Society" from Monday or Tuesday. They are both works that challenge the roles of men and women.
Professor Pete Chidester
English 222, Essay 2
28 April 2014
Feminism: The Ongoing Debate
The roles of women in society have constantly changed over time. The rights to be granted to both men and women have been a controversial subject often with the focuses on feminism and the cry from women to be equal to men. Over time we have seen a change in the way that women’s voices have been heard, each declaring their rights of what they should be entitled to. Literature gave women a way to express their feelings and concerns on this topic, and we see this with the emergence of Mary Wollstonecraft during the Romantic Era, and later on with Virginia Woolf in the early Twentieth Century.
In Mary Wollstonecraft 's A Vindication of the Rights of Women, she contemplates the subordinate role of women in society and the many factors, natural and artificial, that contributes to this inequality of power among the sexes. She advocates for the equal playing field of education. Women are only educated to the degree of what is seen as useful to what is considered their natural, sexual character. She says virtue cannot be held to different standards or criteria because that would make virtue relative. Although there are obvious differences and physical inequalities between the sexes, these cannot make one sex superior to the other because what truly sets mankind apart from other brute creatures is our ability to reason. All of mankind
Men were thought to be more powerful and smart. This limited the rights of women compared to men. Women did not have a voice. In The Solitude of Self, Elizabeth Cady Stanton first wrote, “The point I wish plainly to bring before you on this occasion is the individuality of each human soul. In discussing the rights of women, we are to consider first, what belongs to her as an individual in a world of her own” (……). Elizabeth did not think women were treated as equals. She felt as if women were belittled, and men ruled over women. Elizabeth then continued to state, “Seeing then that the responsibilities of life rests equally on man and woman, that their destiny is the same, they need the same preparation for time and eternity” (…..). Elizabeth wanted everyone to see that women are equal to men, and cannot keep being discriminated. The debates on women rights soon had an impact on the world, and women slowly started to gain the same rights and freedom as men. Just like women were not being treated well, neither were
Rights of Man. She was a true believer that education for women would not only allow women to
Mary Wollstonecraft lived in a time where women had no right to vote, no right to education beyond what their mother or governess taught them, and basically no right to individuality or an opinion. They were considered possessions and virtually had no mind of their own. She realized that this was a problem of society and openly voiced her opinions on the matter. She wrote the book A Vindication of the Rights of Women in response to a literary response to the society's so-called proper behavior of a woman and what her rights should be. But her opinions were brought on by more that the ability to think for herself; she suffered much during her childhood and throughout the years to come. Wollstonecraft dealt with the beating of her mother and sister, death of a close friend, and even a nervous breakdown of her sister. Her own experiences in her life inspired her to write a book that would cause her to be criticized harshly for her radical views.
In the years of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s women’s rights were unheard of. Women didn’t get a higher education like the men did. They would mostly learn about etiquette and how to cook and clean. The father of the daughter would choose who she would marry, it would always be based on money, and family tithes. Women were treated as property and she was owned by her father and mother tells she was wedded, and then her husband would own her. But in theses years is when women started to more or less rebel and come out with new and radical ideas. In the article by Jone Lewis she states, “Mary Wollstonecraft has been called the "first feminist" or "mother of feminism." Two authors we looked at were Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft, the more radical of the authors was Wollstonecraft.