Women's History Month!
March is a very special month for me, my Women Fellow Writers and Readers and the Bunky Princess - not only is March the promise of a newly born spring, but also it is Women's Month - therefore, the month of hope, creativity, sensitivity and inner beauty! It is the month to finally reflect upon women's creativity, their literary skills and artistic sensitivity, as well as on their irreplaceable role in society, culture and history and their contribution to these three aspects of our world. The world would not be the same place without women or, to put it on other words, the world would not be here. What shall be done to ensure that Women's Month is not only a once-a -year slogan and what can be done so that women's creativity shall not be thwarted by the so-called "daily life"?
In her essay "A Room of One's Own", published in September 1929, Virginia Woolf states that, in order to develop artistically and grow as an individual, a woman needs a place of her own - her invidual space - and, what follows, her own finances. Economical freedom would be the key aspect of this self-growth and development in Virginia Woolf's essay, as it directly triggers spacial freedom which, in turn, would enable a temporal freedom from daily duties and obligations - the freedom to work in peace in one's own space, undisturbed by the concerns of daily, demanding life - demanding especially in women's case.
Let's think for a while about amazing Victorian writers whose works I cherish too - let me think about Anthony Trollope, whose patient and caring wife, Rose Heseltine Trollope, would help him with his manuscripts, would take care of Trollope's domestic affairs and would take care of their house. Without a doubt, what Rose performed was more than one "job" - she was able to work on Trollope's manuscripts and she was able to take care of her family's daily affairs, so that Trollope and their children would be living in comfort. Without a doubt, she was one of these women who did not receive a full credit for their intellectual involvement in cultural and artistic life and who were stuck in a place without a "room of their own." Yet, think about Frances Trollope - Anthony Trollope's revolutionary mother who, triggered by a difficult financial situation at home and Trollope's father reluctance to take care of their family affairs, embarked not only on a challenging quest to the United States, but also on a brilliant literary career. To succeed, she left behind her home and, as much as young Anthony Trollope admired his mother, he felt deprived of her presence at this period of time. Thus, Frances Trollope's move signified both liberation in terms of her professional career and sacrifice in terms of the relationship with her son. The question which arises is the following: are women always facing the unsolvable dilemma to sacrifice one thing in order to obtain another? Is it a constant choice between a quiet yet creatively uneventful family life or gratifying and fulfilling career?
Years later, in 1978, Doris Lessing argues in "To Room Nineteen" that no financial freedom, no spacial freedom and no temporal freedom can offer her heroine any solace: in her telling short story richly filled with symbolic imagery, Susan is caught up in a "sensible" married life which, in truth, proves to be a miserable, unrewarding existence strewn with constant feelings of losing her true self. What Susan misses is, in my opinion, a true conversation - words with meanings and sentences which would make sense of her life - also in the eyes of her family and husband. Susan lives in the world where everything is taken for granted - her role as a wife is taken for granted, her life - from her youth to her last day - is taken for granted. She is thrown into a pattern which she inwardly fights, yet never outwardly criticizes. There are no words and no conversations to liberate her, as she is held by what George Herbert once, in the 17th century, so aptly called "the ropes of sands" - invisible social expectations. Renting the titular Room Nineteen does not help the heroine to rediscover her peace. Thus, Virginia Woolf's "room of one's own" no longer works for the modern women. One of the most telling scenes in "To Room Nineteen" is when Susan remains in her hotel room and gazes through the window - in this moment, she feels that she loves every passer-by. Why? Because they don't know her. Her past and the way in which her relationships with family and friends shaped her are no longer here and this is so liberating as, finally, she is just herself, as she knew herself to be in her youth. She would love to embrace the novelty and freshness of starting anew, without being judged or placed in a tight framework in which so many women had found themselves before. Yet, for Susan, the choice of personal freedom is eventually the choice of not existing at all. It is, in truth, no choice at all.
Hence, is there any light at the end of the tunnel for women in similar situations, with both domestic and professional aspirations? I argue that there is plenty of light. I started thinking about the solution after reading Anthony Trollope's "Can You Forgive Her?" (1864-1865). It was in 2018. Books often inspire us to discover so-far unknown solutions and, in Trollope's novel, I discovered Alice Vavasor who also remains torn between private and professional choices. Yet, it is much more difficult for her than for us, the modern women: living in the 19th century, Alice has to make a choice between married life and professional career which, most probably, would not be fully appreciated anyway. The novel poses an interesting question: is it possible to connect these two choices?
After reading "Can You Forgive Her?" and thinking about women's placement and their situation in the modern world, I decided that women no longer need merely "the room of their own" but, mostly and primarily, they need their true friends - "the men of their own" - that is, the men who would offer them understanding and empathy and sincerely allow them to thrive in their professional and private lives while being proud of them; the men who would also offer themselves this new possibility of actively sharing women's domestic lives; the ones who would applaud them and support them; the ones who would be their fully-fledged partners and not expect them to perform numerous jobs and tasks as if it was their constant and absolute duty, as Rose Trollope surely did. Thankfully, there are many such men nowadays and, hopefully, this number will keep growing. With this hope and with this positive belief, I would like to wish All the women a very happy Women's History Month and, also, I share the best wishes with men too, as their role is equally vital - for both men and women, the above-described situation signifies looking together at the same direction. May there be empathy, understanding and kindness on both sides!