Virginia Woolf: Professions for Women.

When Virginia Woolf wrote Professions for Women, she had an urge to satisfy, a will to explain, and to be understood by men, and especially women. She had a message of urgent importance that she needed to transmit. Her words tell of a story behind the story. Women and writing seemed harmless enough, even in times of male dominated literature, for as Woolf put it herself: "Writing was a reputable and harmless occupation. The family peace was not broken by the scratching of a pen. No demand was made upon the family purse."

In other words, some women succeeded as writers among other professions due to the relative cheapness associated with the work. In Professions for Women, the character realizes that before she can accept herself as a professional woman, however, she must first confront her demons. She believes in the necessity of destroying what she calls "The Angel in the House". "The Angel in the House" is an ideal. She is the woman writer's subconscious, a subconscious brought on by generations of an oppressive Victorian society. This woman is the creation of men. She is the charming, quiet, unselfish, and "pure" woman of the house. In other words, she did not have or want to have a mind or wish of her own, much less "a room of her own".

The only way for the character to be able to write honestly about novels written by men was to kill the "Angel in the House", to get rid of this submissive image of a woman who never disputes anything, and goes along with everything. "…I took my pen in my hand to review that novel by a famous man, she slipped behind me and whispered: My dear, you are a young woman. You are writing about a book that has been written by a man. Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all of the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure." The character's only way out was the vanquishing of this mindless Victorian product. "Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer." The character, much like the author, could not accept that the only way for a woman to succeed in life was to charm, conciliate, and lie her way through the maze of male dominated social structures.

The author concludes with questions future generations of women writers must inevitably ask themselves: "You have won rooms of your own in the house hitherto exclusively owned by men. You are able, though not without great labor and effort, to pay the rent. But this freedom is only a beginning; the room is your own, but it is still bare. It has to be furnished; it has to be decorated; it has to be shared." What will those women do with their freedom? Who will they want to share it with? For the first time in history these women will ask themselves these questions, and be free to answer them as they please…

By Max Valence

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