Division of Labor According to Gender in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own

Division of Labor According to Gender in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own

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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. Like Gilman, Woolf saw this division between a man's work and a woman's work as a socially constructed conceit. Unlike Gilman, Woolf advocated a further break between the world of men and women.

Woolf saw the status of women as a socially constructed situation. She certainly does blame the patriarchy for this, however, blame also falls on the women. "At the thought of all those women working year after year and finding it hard to get two thousand pounds together...we burst out in scorn at the reprehensible poverty of our sex" (Woolf 21). It is not that Woolf pitied the situation of British women, she scorned it. She declared that women were responsible for their own "reprehensible" state (21). She lamented: "If only Mrs. Seton and her mother and her mother before her had learnt the great art of making money and had left their money...to the use of their own sex...we might have looked forward...to a pleasant and honourable lifetime spent in the shelter of one of the liberally endowed professions" (21). The fact that it was "their fathers and their grandfathers bef...


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...the broader situation of the implicit implications of the sexual divisions of labor. While certainly women in academic positions will mitigate the misogyny of Professor von X, it proposes little to change women's attitude towards making money for their own descendants. We are left to assume that a change in the intellectual elite will percolate down into the ranks of the working class.

Whatever the problematic implications, Woolf called for a new era where "[women] have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what [they] think" (Woolf 113). She closed her treatise on a comment pointed at the female writers of her age: "I maintain that she [Shakespeare's sister] would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while" (114).

References
Woolf, V. A Room of One's Own. London: Harcourt, 1929.
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