Both Virginia Woolf, in a speech addressing a graduating all women class,
and Naomi Wolf, in her text The Beauty Myth, contemplate feminism from an
economic viewpoint. While Woolf believes women need money and a room of their
own to have economic independence, Wolf gives credence to the fact that the
beauty industry is hindering the independence of women. Through male
pomposity, the conventional lives of women, obsession with physical
appearance, and the reality that beauty is diverse, both Woolf and Wolf
explain the significance of our world\'s economy.
Women have always been economically dependent on men. Any land or money
that was in a woman\'s possession was given to her father or husband. Women
have stayed at home working as housewives, cleaning house, and taking care of
children. Of course, there have been women who have worked outside of the
house, but Woolf sees that kind of work as enslavement. Not much money was
made, and not many occupations were open to women. ". what still remains with
me. was the poison of fear and bitterness which those days bred in me. To
begin with, always to be doing work that one did not wish to do, and to do it
like a slave," (Woolf 348). Therefore Woolf concludes that women need to be
independent from men, and in order to do so women need to have money of their
own. This statement is without a doubt biased, as Woolf is limiting her
thesis to those women who have an income without working. Consequently,
working women can never really be liberated.
One may ask why women have been the poor ones. Why have women been
dependent on men, and not men on women? Why haven\'t women been able to thrive
and prosper like men have? The answer lies in the fact that men blow
themselves out of proportion. Woolf\'s theory is that women have been seen as
mirrors. "Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing
the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its
natural size," (Woolf 346). Because men see women as inferior, men feel
superior. If a woman were to stand up for herself and lessen the power of the
looking glass, men wouldn\'t have the feeling of predominance that they occupy
now. "The looking-glass vision is of supreme importance because it charges
the vitality; it stimulates the nervous system. Take it away and man may
die," (Woolf 347). Without the mirrors to boost a man\'s self-assurance, he
won\'t have anything to compare himself to, and his blossoming ego will
In her speech, Woolf was asked to talk about women and fiction. She
resolved that without money nor education, women would not be able to create
fiction. Which is why, in the Elizabethan era, women did not generate any
sort of poetry. Woolf pondered over this for a while, and hypothesized that
Shakespeare had an ingenious sister, Judith. Judith had the imagination and
ability to produce creative works just like her brother. However, Judith
never had any education so she wasn\'t able to thrive. In short, the story
goes like this: Judith\'s father arranges a marriage for her, Judith runs away
from home and goes to the city, she tries to live out her dream and act, she
gets laughed at, she has an affair, and then Judith kills herself at the
crossroads. The fact that Judith kills herself at the crossroads has great
symbolism. The crossroads represents choice. The choice is that one can go
along with her potential and be who she wants to be, or she can go along with
the flow.
Even though this choice is existent, it is extremely improbable. As Woolf
states, "it is unthinkable that any woman in Shakespeare\'s day had had
Shakespeare\'s genius. For genius like Shakespeare\'s is not born among
labouring, uneducated, servile people," (Woolf 353). Women have never had the
opportunity to produce poetry because they have never been given the freedom
they need to do so. Because women have always been poor and reliant on men
they are lacking the two things needed to bring about such creative writing.
"Women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves.
Women, then, have not had a dog\'s