As I read Virginia Woolf's "A room of one's own" I've been thinking about what she wrote in 1928 and how relevant this is today. Virginia had been asked to speak about women and fiction and the book begins with her reflections about the topic.
She ponders about what the audience would expect her to do - to pay homage to female writers perhaps. Instead she reflects on what it takes for women to write. Famously she said that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. She said therein lies the problem as she tried to explain the nature of women and the nature of fiction and how they combined. She struggled to find simple explanations for the challenges women of her time faced in writing fiction. She cites women being faced with the responsibility of childrearing, noticing that some children died very young. She said it would be hard for a woman to write when faced with that.
She said that women had less freedom than men. She also explores the idea that women and men have different ways of writing and that a woman could not turn to literary male writers because they would be of no help.
She describes her experience of being shuffled out of a library with the advice that women are not allowed to enter the library when not in the company of a fellow or scholar - a male in other words. She was sent back to the gravel outside, barred from the world of literature quite literally.
We might expect that women in the 21st century would be able to write more freely than women in Virginia's day. However for women today the idea of needing money and a room of their own still applies. Having young children and juggling work with home responsibilities leaves little time and brain space to allow women to be creative and able to sit with ideas long enough to write fictional pieces.
Women can attend libraries freely and can access courses and training. They are free to read and form their own views and develop ideas, but their capacity to write still comes back to money and a room of one's own, all these years later.