Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Men’s Writing vs. Reality

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Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882. She was educated by her parents in her own home. This led her to be an English author, feminist, essayist,  and publisher. As a feminist, Woolf created an extended essay, “A Room of One’s Own“, based on lectures she gave to women who attended Cambridge University. In this extended essay she begins to talk about men in relation to women.

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In Woolf’s extended essay, she talks about men’s views on women. Woolf quotes Mr. Oscar Browning saying, “the best woman was intellectually the inferior of the worst man.” (41) This is stating that even the most intellectual women is still subordinate to the lowest man.

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However, when looking at other works of literature from around this time or from before, men wrote stories which had women in them, yet these women are not inferior to men, but are actually the opposite. This can be seen in many of Shakespeare’s plays. In chapter three of  A Room of Ones Own, Woolf states,

“Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband”.

If men saw women as inferior to them, then why did they write such powerful things about women if they didn’t believe them to be true. One reason that I believe that they created these fictional strong women was because of men’s fantasies. Since women could hardly read, according to Woolf’s quote, men were the main target in selling books. Would they really want to read stories about women that they see in daily life. Or would they like to experience something different, and more compelling to read. This can also be seen in today’s society. One can just look at different movies and video games, and see how the strong and sexy women in them instantly can attract a man’s eye.

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Another reason in which I believe men created these empowering fictional women was because it made the men stronger.  By creating these characters, they are creating something that is greater than a normal non-fictional women. They are creating something that has not been seen. They have the imagination and the mind power to create something new.

One last reason why I believe that men created such dominate women in their stories was because it helped them to regain and control their superiority. When reading these stories men might feel the need to regain their dominance based on how the women act in these tales. An example of this is Macbeth by William Shakespeare. In this play the Lady Macbeth pushes Macbeth to murder their king, by questioning his masculinity. In the end they both end up dying. When reading this, men might feel that they need to become more dominant in order to not let their women come close to controlling them  and making them less empowered.

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All in all, you can see why men would create such strong independent women in their fictional stories, when in reality they didn’t see it to be true.

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