As we continue our discussion of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, I want to turn to the issue of families. I first want to fully acknowledge that this isn't an issue for every women nor should it have to be. I completely respect the multitude of ways women choose to live and work in this world and the reasons why many desire to not have kids. I don't want anyone to feel excluded from this conversation either, but the issue of the ability of women to have children and do something like write surfaces in Woolf's writing and is a huge issue for some women.
In her questioning the lack of resources of a women's college, Woolf (writing in the 1920s) wonders how things would be different if our foremothers had been out making money and receiving an education instead of bearing and raising child after child. What different memories and opportunities would women now have? But then she surmises that such questions are meaningless because we then wouldn't exist at all. The assumption is that one can't be a mother and write (or teach, or make money, or be intellectual). These days (amidst much controversy still) women have far more opportunities to work and some men are (rightly imho) stepping up to their fair share of parenting responsibility, but nevertheless women still bear the majority of the childrearing load. As Woolf would say, it's hard to have the time, privacy, and money to write with children underfoot. And it is a choice that women still struggle with. Family or career? Or both? Woolf saw the choice basically as an either/or, but others obviously have challenged that dichotomy.
My favorite challenge came from the writer Margaret Atwood in her poem Spelling
(I blogged through it regarding these issues here
, and here
). In the poem she addresses the very issue of women choosing between children and writing. She choose to do both and saw both as a way for women to have a voice and participate in the act of creation. While she acknowledged the intense struggles of choosing both, she also thought that to deny women either creative outlet was an act of violence. As a working and writing mother I tend to agree - even though I face struggles every day. This is what is working for my life, but I know each of us faces something different.
So where do you fall on these issues? How have you made both work? Or why did you choose one path over another? I'd love to hear your stories.
Labels: A Room of One's Own, Book Discussions, Gender Issues