Monday, August 10

12x12: A Room of One's Own

A Room of One's Own
by Virginia Woolf

This is actually one of J's books that he read for one of his English classes this past year. Around Christmas of this past year, he gave me a bunch of books that he thought I would love, and when he found out about my 12x12 project this year, he suggested (once again) that I read this. One of the new things about this year was that I didn't have set books already picked out. In a way, it was easier last year because I had them all picked out and then could just choose from the 12 books. This time, after I finished one, I had a huge number of books to choose from, and J didn't stop suggested I read this... so I finally gave in and promised I would!

What I Loved:

  • The best parts of the book were when the narrator was making observations about women and men, which were completely on point. I had really struggled to get through the first twenty pages or so, but then I hit this part in the book where she's reading all these books by male authors on women. All these authors are saying stuff like, "Yeah, women are just so dumb, it's a shame," and "Yep, their brains are just so small," and to the narrator, all these men sound so angry. She starts talking about why men would be angry about their opinions - because really, a logical opinion doesn't require you to get pissy about it (unless someone is illogically arguing against it, and in that case, get angry). So she delves into why men would be angry about women, and without giving it all away, she makes some very, very good points about percieved superiority versus inferiority.
  • The narrator also talks a lot about privilege in ways that are spot on. For example, she laments how there aren't any women "Shakespeare's", but how even if there had been, there's no way that women in that time could have had the same kind of life, upbringing, education, freedom, or reception that Shakespeare did - and it's true. There have undoubtedly been thousands, if not millions, of brilliant women who had the potential to be poets, writers, scientists, etc., but who never had the kind of privileges to be able to even be on the same level educationally as men, let alone have their opinions, thoughts, and works listened to - unless they went under a male name, of course.
  • One of the narrator's biggest points was that even the women who did have relative freedom, education, and support weren't on the same page as men doing similar things - because something was holding them back. That something, she suggests, was the fact that they had to be trailblazers and worry about equality and respect, while men in their same time and place would never dream of having to overcome gender biases, or overlooked or dismissed because they were men. The subject matters open to men were so much wider (you know, like, they could leave the house alone), while even the women who could write sometimes had hints of bitterness in their writing because of what they were still denied.
What I Wasn't Crazy About:
  • Personally, I'm not a philosopher or much of a theologian (if at all). I had a hard time reading some of this book. It was dense in places, it was diffcult to read and understand, and sometimes I just didn't get why parts of the book were even there except for a tiny bit of social commentary about her current position in life. To be fair though, it picked up really well after the first twenty or so pages.
Would I Recommend This Book?
  • Ultimately, although it was difficult for me to get through, there were some absolutely brilliant points about gender, sexism, and privilege that I think everyone really needs to acknowledge and think about. It's not long - only about 80 pages altogether, and it's a classic, so there's no excuse for not reading it! Even though I am and have always been about the equality of the sexes, this book brought up ideas for me that I had never considered, and I was really excited about that prospect! I hope you are too. :)

Have you ever read this book? Did you find it difficult to read at times?

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