A rich uncle and a room of one’s own
Women and fiction, women and child, women and a room of one’s own - three statements that many a person has mulled over for centuries. It feels redundant, even to a degree laughable, to be thinking about these issues still. Virginia has been dead for 78 years and nevertheless, here I am, here we are. A lot has changed since 'A Room of One's Own' was published in September 1929. In a way, the lecture-essay became a representation of victory written on the brink of the Women's suffrage movement in the United Kingdom, passing its second and final law in 1928. Women could finally vote, and that was only the beginning. In 2018, just 100 years later, a statue of Millicent Fawcett was erected in Parliament Square in London, to commemorate a women's right to vote. I wonder, what kind of woman would I be if I was alive 100 years ago. Ideally, I'd be Virginia or a lesser-known colleague, an artist perhaps, or maybe even one of her students. I would love to write, you see. If this scenario continued as planned, and my past self was lucky, I would even attempt to publish a few poems scrawled in a chequebook. Did they have chequebooks back then? When I lived in London from 2012 to 2016, I was given a chequebook by my bank. I didn't know what to do with it, so I kept it hidden in my underwear drawer as instructed in the chequebook itself. I used it only once when I had to order a certificate of sorts, to be honest, my memory fails me. Presumably, my past self got more use out of her chequebook. I hope she wore trousers. I hope she wrote and danced, and smoked and swore, angering her parents in the process. How can you be so unmarried and childless at 24? It is funny to be met with a coy smile whenever someone whispers "you've got time, you don't need to do these things now" to my present self as if wanting a child someday is wicked. Formerly, we were required to have children and not an occupation. In the best case scenario, my past self would find employment at a local newspaper for measly pay, in the worst, she would get pneumonia after getting drenched in the rain on her morning walk and die, bringing an end to her fruitful vocation as a writer. She would be buried somewhere in a remote, little cemetery with her old cat and we would never hear of her again. On the other hand, she could have bumped into a prosperous gentleman or lady who would invite her under their umbrella, saving her from pneumonia and possibly a life of hardship. She could stop going to work and focus solely on her writing. She could have babies and make stew. Maybe this is the moment she would get the desired room of one’s own? The children would be taken care of by the nurse, the spouse would be off with a lover, and the house would be empty. Now she is free to write. Of course, my past self required financial aid to have a fulfilling life as a writer, like Virginia did. She had a wealthy aunt. The pages upon which Virginia describes the privilege that befell her following her aunt Mary Beton’s passing reminded me of the inspired stories of start-up wunderkinder. What do Virginia Woolf and Walt Disney have in common? They both received capital from a rich aunt or uncle. Of course, it would be unwise to discredit the ‘talent’ of these people completely, their drive and creativity. After all, they achieved greatness and became a part of our cultural canon, although it is noteworthy to remark that Walt too, had a room of his own in the form of his uncle’s garage. In fact, a number of prominent entrepreneurs used a garage to propel their business. Here are a few: Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and Wozniak, Susan Wojcicki, Will Hewlett and Dave Packard. Finally, I became curious and turned to Google, which started in Wojcicki's garage. I wondered about my past self and her difficult way to a room of her own. I allowed my thoughts to come back to my present self. How do I obtain a place, a room without disturbances in the 21st century? I open my laptop and type ‘CEOs and starting capital’. After some hours of browsing articles and Reddit forums, I came to the resolution that a lot of success stories share one variable, a rich uncle. Personally, I don’t have one. Maybe you do. I then remembered a conversation that arose in one of my classes on Tuesday. A friend mentioned an elite society that awards artists with a prestigious fellowship that exists someplace in the void between the world’s ‘Royal’ academies. The reason this particular conversation struck me was that most of those fellows were men. I plucked myself from the room and visualised the old man’s club. The walls are made of expensive mahogany panelling with a gold plated flower motif. Chandeliers are dangling from the shaded ceiling. Cobwebs and grime lighted flawlessly, who has time to clean chandeliers? Below, a select number of elegant, worn-in sheepskin armchairs. Each chair is paired with a man. Are we still in 1886, I wonder. Indeed, I am no longer startled at the shortage of female representation at such a fellowship - the art world should try harder. Somehow this whole situation reminded me of the Diogenes Club, and I imagined what it would be like to sit in silence in the company of misanthropic men. I laughed. The first law was passed in 1918.
Julia Karpova: A rich uncle and a room of one's own. 2019fictionTime of production: I don't remember, a week of thinking and writingProduction costs: food to keep my brain alive... 50 Euro?References / Inspiration: Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, women.Description: A stream-of-consciousness text dealing with the subject of women of the past and present. A bit of history, a few modern facts and a lot of fiction. Can women write fiction? I think I just did. This piece highlights that women today are still dealing with issues that our ancestors were dealing with by emphasizing, in a humorous way, that men still rule the art world and that it sucks. I hope we can laugh about it and continue supporting each other. Yay women!