Virginia Woolf – It is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple.

A pointed queVirginia_Woolf_by_Gisele_Freund_Tavistock_1939_IIstion usually demands a thought out response and in this particular case it was an answer three years in the making. And the question sure was pointed and age old: »How can we make war a thing of the past? « And in a response to a question that seems to summarize the woes of the human race, Virginia Woolf served up an answer worthy of the subject: a lengthy novel-essay titled Three Guineas that dissects the patriarchal system of British society at the turn of the nineteenth century. As well as being credited as one of the most influential works on the subject matter of feminism, it is also a very fine example of a personal protest against oppression. Not just the oppression of women, but also the oppression that men have to suffer for being primary breadwinners for their families and the sacrifices they make fighting their countries’ wars. The main influence on the book was a tragic loss of Woolf´s nephew, who fell fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Compared to Woolf´s other writing, like Orlando and A Room of One´s Own, the tone of Three Guineas is much less playful, but then again so is the subject matter.

The social group in question are the “daughters of educated men” and what can be their influence in making sure that war becomes a thing of the past. The role that women played in Victorian society can´t be denied, they represented the private life that every gentleman lived in contrast to his public persona. The segregation of women and their confinement to the family home created a chasm between the sexes that seemed too deep to bridge. The main reason for this abyss between the thinking of men and women seemed to stem from the fact that up until the year 1919, marriage was the only profession in which a woman could participate. A woman’s life was devoted to the family home and to keeping her husband and children happy. The differences that this way of living brought on, were undeniable. Men, for the most part, seemed to view war as a thing of necessity, it was a way for them to prove their worth as man and to prove their loyalty to their country. But women on the other hand, had a different point of view, for it was their sons being sent to fight someone else’s battles. But it was a point of view they were unable to express. Being unable to make a living for themselves, they had to accept the beliefs of their fathers and their husbands. That changed in the year 1919 when women were given the right to participate in the professional world. The influence of women grew, but unfortunately so did society´s thirst for war and blood.

The question that arises in light of Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, and in light of our modern day society, isn´t “What is the influence of the daughters of educated men?” but “What is the influence of the sons and daughters of educated men?”. With almost 74% of today´s younger generation working under unreliable and unsteady terms of employment, that influence can´t be very great. With a steady pay check comes a certain freedom that the younger generation of today knows very little about. And with this freedom comes the ability to express views and beliefs different from our providers’. The situation is not perfect either way. No one can argue with the fact that a good chunk of modern day jobs falls very closely to some of history’s forms of slavery, but: “…you will admit from your own experience that to depend upon a profession is a less odious form of slavery than to depend upon a father.”

Jerica Šemerl-Harmel


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