Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Room of One's Own?

Logging into Facebook has become a daily part of my routine. I don’t know what I did in the mornings before it existed. Now over tea I find myself rummaging through the news feed searching out snippets of info, crazy observations and funny musings. There can be real diamonds in the rough, for every update that goes along the lines of ‘3 DAYS to go before my WEDDING!!!’ or ‘OMG cannae believe I drank SO much last night ...’ or ‘Lady Gaga WTF’, there are moments of sheer brilliance. This one comes courtesy of one of my friends, who shall remain nameless (you’ll understand why when you read it)

‘Gordon Brown does have a sexy voice’

Not sure I’ll be closing my eyes during the next televised debate. Should this person’s observation prove to be in fact correct it could create the existential crisis to end all existential crises, and I just don’t need this when my soul is already wavering, and we are so close to a general election.

In other news I am acutely aware that this blog might just be a tiny bit lame. ‘Feminism’ is in my title yet I have to admit I’ve let it slide over the past month. This is not because the cause has fallen by the wayside, only last night I was having a discussion with a friend about what I will call, the ontological problems related to being a feminist in the world at large. But it is sometimes difficult to maintain the momentum, especially when despite what some broadsheet newspapers would lead us to believe and the recent BBC Four documentary series ‘Women’ discussed, I do believe that there is a massive gulf between my feminism and any sort of real activism. And it is impossible for one person to address this, let alone rectify the situation.

Earlier this year the Reclaim the Night march was cancelled in Edinburgh and before that, the only murmur of discontent was the lovely Gude Cause Procession which to be fair displayed no discontent at all. The procession to mark the centenary of the Suffragettes movement was very much a celebratory affair, certainly not one riddled with anger. Indeed despite a call for women to bare banners with slogans calling for action on the work that still needs to be done with regards to equality, there were very few young participants willing to stick their necks on the line.

I don’t think this means feminism is dead. Perhaps young people have just become more self conscious and feminism seems a bit old fashioned. I do think there is an argument to be had about how much the older female generation are actually doing to promote empowerment, selfhood and women’s rights amongst their daughters. For its all very well to argue that they’ve done their bit and the baton must be passed on, but this doesn’t hold up if our young women don’t feel a part of the re-lay race let alone inclined to pick up the baton. And womanhood carries its own set of burdens. While manhood for me at least conjures images of ego and individualism, womanhood seems so intermingled in every aspect of that which makes up the bare bones of society; birth, marriage, child-rearing, domesticity, cooking, the home and the hearth. We’ve still got a long way to go before this is a realm of equality. And this is the generation who are most spoiled by their choices, for we can now choose our careers, choose to have or not have children and whether to get married. But all these choices merely mask my fear that there really is no choice at all. For my experience of being female is that there is always a compromise to be made.

In a very small and insignificant way I want to see this blog as my own act of feminism. In literary circles this term is often bandied about – it certainly was when I was at university – but it does hold up - that is the ‘room of one’s own’. On feminist literature courses we were taught that the very act of putting pen to paper, or tapping keys on the board, was the act of writing oneself into existence. This is especially significant for those who feel marginalised. And this argument holds up today. Is it any coincidence that these election debates are headed by three men, that the hyperbole, jargon and sound-bites are uttered mostly from the mouths of politicians? The whole thing leaves me not only confused, but utterly isolated. So I suppose that’s why I write. Well that, and my propensity towards introspection. But that’s for another blog post ...

To finish and if only to revitalise myself – why not a quote or three from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own -

Image courtesy of guardian.co.uk. Photograph.AP.

‘All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point – a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.’

‘The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.’

‘The news of my legacy reached me one night about the same time that the act was passed that gave votes to women. A solicitor’s letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she [her aunt, Mary Beton] had left me five hundred pounds a year for ever. Of the two – the vote and the money – the money, I own, seemed infinitely more important.’

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