A Room of One’s Own — Virginia Woolf

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

I took this down off the shelf as part of my coping strategy for this latest period of fury at the patriarchy (other elements of this strategy included going on many stompy walks listening to Alanis Morissette).

I know it’s the most fundamental observation about progress towards sex equality, but the nonetheless consistently striking thing about reading a seminal feminist text is that part of you thinks: “Wow! What progress we have made!” — while your brain simultaneously rages: “Still? We’re putting us with this STILL?”

Of course, the first half (for me at least) ultimately triumphs, in its way. For all that I despair, I would still, without hesitation, always choose to live now rather than at any other point in history. But it doesn’t actually make the experience of patriarchy that much easier — when you think it’s basically about being grateful for having a slightly more elevated second-class-citizen experience. And isn’t the whole point actually about comparing our status and treatment to that of men?

Anyway, the book itself is, of course, a joy. Funny, as well as passionate and erudite, which was the tone of indignation I needed right now. As well as A Room of One’s Own, it includes Three Guineas, which I enjoyed though it doesn’t rattle along with the same levity.

(Part of the joy of the whole book, naturally, is this most beautiful Vintage Classics edition, with cover illustration by Aino-Maija Metsola.)

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