Reading Virginia Woolf’s “A Room Of Her Own”, a woman, as a writer can easily decipher and even relate to the pain points that Ms. Woolf had raised. Yes, she made everyone realise that a fictional character, say, Shakespeare’s sister, wouldn’t make it in this world with her writing talents, as great as Shakespeare, because she does not have “A Room Of Her Own”.
She argues about the importance of women having a room and money of their own, if they are to write fiction. What she really points at, is the fact that we women are not given even a space as small as a room of our own in this society. Having a space and a hold on the economy are two very important factors whether women are to write fiction or do whatever else they wish.
In this age and time, it is safe to say that what Virginia Woolf wanted women to have, in order to be writers, is what women need to have for their mere existence and survival. However, when we talk about agency of women in India, Feminist movement in India, and the space that women are to have in this country, do we look at the fact that the majority of Indian women do not even have a room of their own?
When a woman is unmarried and resides with her parents, she is often discouraged to go out and live on her own, even if she has all she needs to earn her living. At the same time, she is often reminded of the fact that “this entire home” is not her own, that when she marries and goes away with her husband, that will be her ‘real’ home. She is very easily denied, not just a room, but a home of her own.
And no matter how much of a rebel boils inside her vein, she doesn’t challenge the notion, because at the end of the day, she does not have a place to call her own and if she challenges the notions, the thought itself (of this home not being hers) provokes an anxiety of being casted out of her parent’s home. She rather settles for whatever space she is given in a patriarchy, overpowering her with no metaphorical or literal room that she has of her own.
Freedom for a woman, who by her own family has been told about not thinking of her home as her own, her room as her own, often comes with the dreams of marriage. She albeit thinks in herself, marriage may bring the freedom of having her own space, that she so dearly craves, that all her hopes at times get placed on a ‘perfect marriage’.
Once she finds a suitor to marry, she is told all sorts of lies about what marriage is going to bring to her and for once, she very dearly thinks of the room of her own that marriage might bring. However, once she marries, she often shares the room with her husband and the entire household with her husband’s family. Loaded with patriarchal influences, the room becomes suffocating for her, since she sees her husband’s presence at all times, and expectations of in-laws in the house.
She, time and again, is reminded of the fact that she begets this room and can call it her own only because of her association as a wife to her husband. This often strips away all the hopes she had had from marriage, of having her own room, her own freedom, her own space for her thoughts and emotions. She rather wakes up to a betrayed feeling that she has been handed over from one home that didn’t let herself her own room to another that doesn’t even give her an agency to exist as independent inside the family unit.
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Psychologists often suggest that for us to remain mentally and physically healthy, we need to have our own space where we can sit, introspect, think, feel our own emotions, keep all of them in check, understand what is causing us distress, and hence a space that we own for ourselves, keep us healthy. A study revealed a shocking fact that 40% of all female suicide in this world happen in India! Most of these women are married women.
Does that mean not having a space of our own, is a human right, women are denied, and along with that, when domestic violence, marital rapes, and all kinds of abuse happen, the trauma-stricken women do not even have a space to grieve? Are we even given a room to just be, just exist? These questions in the present day Indian society are enough to make one realise that the whole idea of a woman, who has a room and her own money to write a fiction, is albeit a luxurious one as we are not even given the bare minimum to exist.
For most women in India, the concept of having this space, a place where they can relax, flourish, listen to their inner voice in, form strong sisterhood in, is never a given. This is rather a political and cultural move, as a woman is to be conditioned to servitude and having her own space would result in her having her own realisations, thoughts, her own talents, and expression.
Realising the power of a room scares patriarchy as it knows it won’t be able to survive if women have a room of their own, think through things, and achieve the epiphany that it is the domination of men, channeled through men and women (who have to share space with men), that imprison them forever and smash their hopes & dreams. After reaching the point of this realisation, women would rather choose to break-free.
At the end of the day, when we talk about women gaining space, their own agency and empowerment outside the home, are we also asking whether the majority of us have a room of our own? It is because of not having a room to themselves, that even strong and independent women, earning a salary, find themselves slowly evolving into a pawn of patriarchy, but they cannot figure out why.
And hence, it is the time that we understand this very basic need for space, as a human right and curb the practice of women being told that they don’t belong to their own home!
Nimisha has been working in the field of content creation and content marketing for over 5 years. She is also a published author of a feminist poetry book called “Of Reflections and Society”. She is very passionate about Feminist Politics, Politics of Gender, Caste, Class and Sexuality. You can find her on LinkedIn and Facebook.
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