February 19   A Woman’s World

Posted by

107 comments

Virginia Woolf said famously in 1928 at Girton when addressing a group of those first women to attend Cambridge University in Cambridge, England, the hallowed sanctum of male intellectual and creative life that helped to ensure male hegemony for the eight hundred preceding years, both in Great Britain and indeed the far-flung British Empire, (and that largely continues today) that if we have “five hundred [pounds] a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think…and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.”

I was reminded of this sterling essay from one of my favorite thinkers and authors the other night when I attended a showing of a documentary Who Does She Think She is? This is hard-hitting, factual reportage of several outstanding women artists—potters, ceramists, painters, singers, film makers—to honor their creativity while juggling the raising of children, relating to spouses and partners, washing dishes and car pooling, in other words quilting a patchwork life.

The greatest toll on these artists is in relating to their spouses or partners, specifically male, whose expectations are shaped by society and familial expectations that the woman partner support their endeavors artistic or otherwise, and while they support their female counterparts—it is only to a point. Now of course there are variants on these themes but that is the general pattern. Surprisingly male children of these struggling artists—who generate their livelihood from their work primarily to feed their children—support, admire and honor their mothers.

The venue for this showing was a meeting room at a retreat center in suburban Philadelphia where thirty women writers (who are also teachers) were meeting for a weekend retreat of writing, sharing and networking. It was striking to me that the film- maker interviewing a male physician, an ardent feminist himself went on record reminding us that the great women writers and artists of the last one hundred and fifty years—ranging from Emily Dickinson, Colette, Georgia O’Keefe and Woolf herself—did not have children.

In discussion after the showing many participants shared that the struggles we had just witnessed on film still speak strongly to the patterns and events of their current lives. I thought of my life, the first woman in my family to attend university, my two wonderful sons, my political career in South Africa that included elected public office at a young age, my publishing career that began when I was an adolescent and fortunately continues, my love of teaching—but also of my divorce after twenty six years of marriage. I thought of my mother and the women of her generation and the generations that came before her without these opportunities and those women all over the world who struggle daily with this reality. It is my profound belief that we cannot create a “whole” world while more than half of humanity is barely valued and even more rarely acknowledged in public domains—such as that of artistic expression.

I will blog again on my thoughts of this retreat weekend, but now it is time for me to return after a many month hiatus to grapple with my current writing project that is requiring more “freedom and the courage to write exactly what [I] think” than I have experienced before.

Share


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

107 Comments

  • By Samuela on 23 March 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Hi there We’re so satisfied We identified the blog, I actually located u by error, although We was browsing inside of Aol regarding anything unique, Even so I am here and We would unquestionably prefer to state cheers for the awesome submitting additionally a over-all entertaining site

  • By Madie Yuk on 23 March 2012 at 7:06 pm

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me dinner due to the fact that I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your blog.

  • By Leatha Zaneski on 26 March 2012 at 10:46 am

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Spending some time and actual effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don’t manage to get anything done.

  • By Awwal on 26 March 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I just prefer to inform you that I am really new to blogging and honestly savored you are web page. Very likely I’m likely to bookmark your web site . You absolutely include incredible articles. Thanks a bunch for sharing with us your webpage.

  • By Google on 12 August 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Google

    very couple of sites that take place to become detailed beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly very well worth checking out

  • By Google on 21 August 2013 at 1:15 am

    Google

    Very couple of sites that come about to become detailed below, from our point of view are undoubtedly properly really worth checking out.

  • By Vilma D. Platner on 21 September 2014 at 10:32 am

    Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to tears
    at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during
    lunch break. I really like the knowledge you present here and can’t wait
    to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my phone ..

    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, very good blog!

    My weblog :: Vilma D. Platner

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment