In light of finals this week, I’ve been thinking about the semester that has passed ever so quickly. What have I learned? What do I want to do better? What am I still thinking about long after my professor has put the material back on the shelf?
All these questions, for some reason, lead to Virginia Woolf. And maybe that has to do with the simple fact that Brit Lit is my first final on Monday morning, but mostly I think it’s because it’s Virginia Woolf. As a woman, she speaks specifically to me and I have learned so much from her writing. In A Room of One’s Own, she creates Shakespeare’s fictional sister; Woolf calls her Judith. Now Judith liked to write plays, just as William did, but she had a harder go at it; she ultimately ends up killing herself because of all the difficulty surrounding becoming a female writer during that time period.
Woolf writes, “Cats do not go to heaven. Women cannot write the plays of Shakespeare.” If a woman wanted to write, it wasn’t uncommon for people to assume that she desired to be a man. The pen served as a phallic symbol and the white paper the virgin the pen was about to deflower. If a woman wanted to write, she wanted a penis.
I keep thinking about the validity of this argument. As a female writer, I keep questioning whether I would want to be a man. If you’re curious at all, the answer to that is no. I enjoy being a woman, but I also enjoy the power the pen gives me. Judith wasn’t able to have a voice. Because writing was condemned by her family, she didn’t have power. That was the fear; with a pen, females had an equal opportunity, the same voice.
I’m thankful for my predecessors, my sisters in literature. While I’m no Virginia Woolf or Elizabeth Barrett Browning (who, by the way, is also fantastic), I thank these women for paving the way for female writers today. As females, we have a lot to offer the world. We have a voice to be heard.
We just need a pen.