a philosophy blog

The view from her room

Notes on:
Virginia Woolf, A Room’s of Our Own.

[Paragraph, not page, numbers appear in brackets.]

Chapter One

[1]
All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved. I have shirked the duty of coming to a conclusion upon these two questions—women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems…

At any rate, when a subject is highly controversial—and any question about sex is that—one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold.

Weininger tried, too, and we see how much success he had. A century on and people still think he hated women, Jews, and himself. One may well try to get to the bottom of this subject, but, it is true, one cannot hope in the wake to be understood.

[23]
Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction—so we are told.

[26]
The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk.

Integration versus compartmentalization: It is not that this isn’t true. It is that we cannot imagine the masculine principle confessing any such thing. They are “mixed together,” indeed; but this is salt on a wound for him.

[31]
…and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in; and, thinking of the safety and prosperity of the one sex and of the poverty and insecurity of the other and of the effect of tradition and of the lack of tradition upon the mind of a writer,…

The subject is melancholy, yes.

Chapter Two

[2]
Have you any notion of how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe? … Women do not write books about men

When men write about women, more often it happens they write about themselves, something they have a peculiar need to do—as in the case of Weininger, though none has done it better. And as Woolf, herself, later points out, she, woman, comes in handy as his best mirror.

[3]
Why are women, judging from this catalogue, so much more interesting to men than men are to women?

In substance, she does not need him. He, for her, if he is anything, is icing on her cake.

[5]
Why does Samuel Butler say, ‘Wise men never say what they think of women’? Wise men never say anything else apparently.

Weininger, then, was that rarest of men, an unwise one. Why he went off and killed himself in consequence.

[10]
And if I could not grasp the truth about W. (as for brevity’s sake I had come to call her)…

Perhaps this usage may have come down second or third hand to Woolf from Weininger… (Editor’s note: But Desmond MacCarthy (“Affable Hawk”) does use this shorthand, citing Weininger, in the New Statesman review read by Woolf. See also this post.)

[11]
But while I pondered I had unconsciously, in my listlessness, in my desperation, been drawing a picture where I should, like my neighbour [a fellow researcher in the British Museum], have been writing a conclusion. I had been drawing a face, a figure. It was the face and the figure of Professor von X engaged in writing his monumental work entitled THE MENTAL, MORAL, AND PHYSICAL INFERIORITY OF THE FEMALE SEX. He was not in my picture a man attractive to women. He was heavily built; he had a great jowl; to balance that he had very small eyes; he was very red in the face. His expression suggested that he was labouring under some emotion that made him jab his pen on the paper as if he were killing some noxious insect as he wrote, but even when he had killed it that did not satisfy him; he must go on killing it; and even so, some cause for anger and irritation remained. Could it be his wife, I asked, looking at my picture? Was she in love with a cavalry officer? Was the cavalry officer slim and elegant and dressed in astrakhan? Had he been laughed at, to adopt the Freudian theory, in his cradle by a pretty girl? For even in his cradle the professor, I thought, could not have been an attractive child. Whatever the reason, the professor was made to look very angry and very ugly in my sketch, as he wrote his great book upon the mental, moral and physical inferiority of women.

On first reading this, the allusion to Professor von X suggested to me, notwithstanding the physical dissonances, Otto Weininger and his book, Sex and Character. Sure enough, in her recent annotated edition of A Room of One’s Own (Harvest Books; Reprint edition, August 1, 2005), Susan Gubar points out that others have also made the connection. (“The German ‘von’ does not appear in the draft. Some scholars consider his book a reference to Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character (1903), an influential treatise on bisexuality that has been criticized for its misogyny and anti-Semitism.” This led me to track down Susan Dick’s article.) Even more striking evidence of Weininger’s wake is the reference below in Chapter Six to persons as compounded of masculine and feminine parts. Although discussion of androgyny, at least since Coleridge, was common in British literary circles, the language here is redolent of Weininger. There is no reference by name to Weininger in any of Woolf’s writings that I am aware of. If she had read him directly, she likely would have had something to say about it in one of her many reviews of contemporary literature. But others in her circle at Bloomsbury certainly had and, most importantly, her friend and sometime lover, Vita Sackville-West had. The latter’s heavily marked copy of Weininger’s book is known to have had effect on her personal life. So Woolf, no doubt, got wind of Weininger second-hand. (For some proof of this, see Susan Dick.) In this passage, of course, there is only a sparest kernel of Weininger around which she cobbled a strawman for the occasion.

[12]
Yet it seemed absurd, I thought, turning over the evening paper, that a man with all this power should be angry….

Does it explain my astonishment of the other day when Z, most humane, most modest of men, taking up some book by Rebecca West and reading a passage in it, exclaimed, ‘The arrant feminist! She says that men are snobs!’ The exclamation, to me so surprising—for why was Miss West an arrant feminist for making a possibly true if uncomplimentary statement about the other sex?—was not merely the cry of wounded vanity; it was a protest against some infringement of his power to believe in himself. 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.

A side effect, admittedly rare, of being so magnified is that the image may serve up flaws that hint at darker, more serious failures than any he would have seen left to his default self-image.

Chapter Three

[3]
…What were the conditions in which women lived? I asked myself; for fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible; Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, seem to hang there complete by themselves. But when the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.

So it is with philosophy, too, notwithstanding its every impulse to suppress these attachments. Which is not to say this determines its destiny, only its heritage. Philosophy, if it is anything, is exactly about consciously severing the connection with the disheveled particulars of its genesis—a Herculean, if not quixotic, task. And in this, perhaps, it is different from the other arts.

[4]
[Of the image of woman in the writing of men:]
…A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. [Both points are also made in Weininger.] She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.

The suggestion ought to be that both pictures are significantly exaggerated. Women play large roles—even larger-than-life ones—in men’s consciousness. But the material, thoroughly flesh and blood, cosmic woman to his consciousness is another matter. As immediate representative of an intransigent world and an eternal source of disquiet for him, she will be abused in the manner she is because she can be abused… And for her part she has made a science and art of being, of all his properties, the one that he becomes most possessed by—all his pretenses to dignified autonomy aside.

[5]
It was certainly an odd monster that one made up by reading the historians first and the poets afterwards a worm winged like an eagle; the spirit of life and beauty in a kitchen chopping up suet. But these monsters, however amusing to the imagination, have no existence in fact. What one must do to bring her to life was to think poetically and prosaically at one and the same moment, thus keeping in touch with fact—that she is Mrs Martin, aged thirty-six, dressed in blue, wearing a black hat and brown shoes; but not losing sight of fiction either—that she is a vessel in which all sorts of spirits and forces are coursing and flashing perpetually.

But he distrusts this integration of fancy and function. It threatens to reconcile him to grubby reality, a history, and a mortality, which he cannot accept because they spell defeat for his heterocosmic ambitions. His children, unlike hers, are supposed to be immortal.

Chapter Four

[21]
But to return. Aphra Behn proved that money could be made by writing at the sacrifice, perhaps, of certain agreeable qualities; and so by degrees writing became not merely a sign of folly and a distracted mind, but was of practical importance. A husband might die, or some disaster overtake the family. Hundreds of women began as the eighteenth century drew on to add to their pin money, or to come to the rescue of their families by making translations or writing the innumerable bad novels which have ceased to be recorded even in text-books, but are to be picked up in the fourpenny boxes in the Charing Cross Road.

Brings to mind Schopenhauer’s mother, Johanna (1766–1838), who, after her husband died, supplemented her income with the writing of light travel literature and such novels… In one of their many rows, she referred to Arthur’s dissertation, The Fourfold Root, as something of use to pharmacists, whose sales would excite accordingly. He replied that her books, in a few years time, would gather dust in the lumber room. (His biographer remarks that they were both right.) A long string of disappointments with the women in his life pushed Arthur, already predisposed, toward heterocosmic nihility with a vengeance. All the same, in his last years, the “misogynist” intimated that there was nothing intrinsically lame about feminine cultural creativity: indeed, though perhaps perennially rare, when one among her sex did rise above the masses, in the face of all that nature and culture places in her path, she might do so spectacularly. (We may add, matter-of-factly—all the while happy with less fanfare than men seem to require for comparable results.) Schopenhauer’s reputation notwithstanding, we gather he might well have agreed with Woolf about the 500 pounds and the room with a lock on the door. (Editor’s note: See Rüdiger Safranski, Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, trans. by Ewald Osers, (Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 169, 376.)

The extreme activity of mind which showed itself in the later eighteenth century among women—the talking, and the meeting, the writing of essays on Shakespeare, the translating of the classics—was founded on the solid fact that women could make money by writing. Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.

Nearly all serious philosophy, then, is forced to strain its credibility in arrogating what gravitas it may to compensate for being almost never paid for—Weininger’s phenomenally successful, Sex and Character, was no great exception, since its posthumous fortune presupposed his operatic death.

[23]
That, perhaps, was the chief miracle about it. Here was a woman about the year 1800 writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without protest, without preaching. That was how Shakespeare wrote, I thought, looking at ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA; and when people compare Shakespeare and Jane Austen, they may mean that the minds of both had consumed all impediments; and for that reason we do not know Jane Austen and we do not know Shakespeare, and for that reason Jane Austen pervades every word that she wrote, and so does Shakespeare. If Jane Austen suffered in any way from her circumstances it was in the narrowness of life that was imposed upon her. It was impossible for a woman to go about alone. She never travelled; she never drove through London in an omnibus or had luncheon in a shop by herself. But perhaps it was the nature of Jane Austen not to want what she had not. Her gift and her circumstances matched each other completely. But I doubt whether that was true of Charlotte Brontë, I said, opening JANE EYRE and laying it beside PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

[32]
And since a novel has this correspondence to real life, its values are to some extent those of real life. But it is obvious that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex; naturally, this is so. Yet it is the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial’. And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room.

And this is exactly why “equality of the sexes” in any but some distorted sense can never serve to remedy the injustice done to her. In the distribution of power and goods, he can never represent her interests because his values are not hers, his experience is not hers, her being is never his. There cannot be cross gender representation… It is wrong to speak of “empowering women”. That suggests she needs somehow to catch up to where he is. The correct approach requires his being “disempowered”, brought to her level—his level already inflated beyond all proportion and reality, because it would be good for all concerned for this to happen. Because he simply has not shown himself to wield material power responsibly. There is good reason to believe he never shall. (Editor’s note: Luno is alluding to the argument for parity, his own and in part that found in Agacinski. And for the line about material power and responsibility, see Woolf’s own Three Guineas.)

[34]
The weight, the pace, the stride of a man’s mind are too unlike her own for her to lift anything substantial from him successfully. The ape is too distant to be sedulous. …The sentence that was current at the beginning of the nineteenth century ran something like this perhaps: ‘The grandeur of their works was an argument with them, not to stop short, but to proceed. They could have no higher excitement or satisfaction than in the exercise of their art and endless generations of truth and beauty. Success prompts to exertion; and habit facilitates success.’ That is a man’s sentence;…

As mine are… The linear rhythm plods along to a full stop or off into the empyrean via ellipses. It does not circle and envelope and linger as hers do.

Moreover, a book is not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes. And this shape too has been made by men out of their own needs for their own uses…. [“out of their own needs for their own uses”: the phrase bears repetition.] The novel alone was young enough to be soft in her hands another reason, perhaps, why she wrote novels.

[35]
The book has somehow to be adapted to the body, and at a venture one would say that women’s books should be shorter, more concentrated, than those of men, and framed so that they do not need long hours of steady and uninterrupted work. For interruptions there will always be. Again, the nerves that feed the brain would seem to differ in men and women, and if you are going to make them work their best and hardest, you must find out what treatment suits them…

It’s not that the nerves are that different as that he has another set that are immaterial and pick up wireless, even abstract frequencies, more concerned with mind than brain. And there is a good deal of interference between the two. She may suffer, no doubt, from a surfeit of connection, a miredness in relationship, that often impedes her development, but her reception of ground reality is always clearer. “A woman is never so stupid as a man can be.” (Weininger).

Chapter Five

[5]
It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that; and how little can a man know even of that when he observes it through the black or rosy spectacles which sex puts upon his nose…. Even so it remains obvious, even in the writing of Proust, that a man is terribly hampered and partial in his knowledge of women, as a woman in her knowledge of men.

Yes, Proust pins his subjects, his moments down with a view to making each immortal. He has fully harnessed the feminine in him for the service of the masculine. His elegiac butterfly collection will haunt us forever.

[6]
Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques—literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.

[11]
And without being Dr Johnson or Goethe or Carlyle or Voltaire, one may feel, though very differently from these great men, the nature of this intricacy and the power of this highly developed creative faculty among women. One goes into the room—but the resources of the English language would be much put to the stretch, and whole flights of words would need to wing their way illegitimately into existence before a woman could say what happens when she goes into a room. The rooms differ so completely; they are calm or thunderous; open on to the sea, or, on the contrary, give on to a prison yard; are hung with washing; or alive with opals and silks; are hard as horsehair or soft as feathers—one has only to go into any room in any street for the whole of that extremely complex force of femininity to fly in one’s face. How should it be otherwise? For women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics. But this creative power differs greatly from the creative power of men. And one must conclude that it would be a thousand pities if it were hindered or wasted, for it was won by centuries of the most drastic discipline, and there is nothing to take its place. [The proper masculine vocation is to enhance the view from her room though he cannot hope to see what she sees.] It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? [Again, an echo of Weininger.] For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity; and we should have the immense pleasure into the bargain of watching Professor X rush for his measuring-rods to prove himself ‘superior’.

Professor X (notice the “von” was dropped) needs his field circumscribed so that the objects he subjects to measure are worthy of his ambitions. (Of course, here I don’t mean Weininger—who did an overfine job of sky-scraping—as much as his two-bit followers, such of Woolf’s friends as Desmond MacCarthy, for example.)

[14]
For there is a spot the size of a shilling at the back of the head which one can never see for oneself. It is one of the good offices that sex can discharge for sex—to describe that spot the size of a shilling at the back of the head. Think how much women have profited by the comments of Juvenal; by the criticism of Strindberg. Think with what humanity and brilliancy men, from the earliest ages, have pointed out to women that dark place at the back of the head!

Margaret Duras, for one, gently, devastatingly returns the favor in writing of men in The Malady of Death and elsewhere. Consider the reaction of Peter Handke and others…

Strindberg’s vitriol at women engaged him at a more revealing level than is common. Misogyny has varieties, a point it impoverishes to pass over. And though Strindberg read and admired Weininger, even writing a funeral oration for him, Weininger’s case is different altogether. Something much more subversive, not of women, but of men was afoot.

Chapter Six

[3]
Perhaps to think, as I had been thinking these two days, of one sex as distinct from the other is an effort. It interferes with the unity of the mind…. What does one mean by ‘the unity of the mind’? I pondered, for clearly the mind has so great a power of concentrating at any point at any moment that it seems to have no single state of being…. Again if one is a woman one is often surprised by a sudden splitting off of consciousness, say in walking down Whitehall, when from being the natural inheritor of that civilization, she becomes, on the contrary, outside of it, alien and critical…. The obvious reason would be that it is natural for the sexes to co-operate. One has a profound, if irrational, instinct in favour of the theory that the union of man and woman makes for the greatest satisfaction, the most complete happiness. [And the greatest strife…but unavoidable since the other is internal to each, as she is about to suggest.] But the sight of the two people getting into the taxi and the satisfaction it gave me made me also ask whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness? And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain the woman predominates over the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of his brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine, I thought.

Woolf, in this expansive moment, is hopeful. But I fear, as I think she later did too, the harmony she envisions has so much standing in its way. It is not enough to wish it, or to grasp momentary flashes of it, these are born—we have painfully good reasons believe—more of fatigue than of genuine understanding.

Are we not manifesting his embarrassment, even resentment, at being so compounded? Where her first impulse, as Woolf here illustrates, is to accommodate?

[4]
Being honest as the day and logical as the sun, there is only one thing he can do. And that he does, to do him justice, over and over (I said turning the pages) and over again. And that, I added, aware of the awful nature of the confession, seems somehow dull. Shakespeare’s indecency uproots a thousand other things in one’s mind, and is far from being dull. But Shakespeare does it for pleasure; Mr A, as the nurses say, does it on purpose. He does it in protest. He is protesting against the equality of the other sex by asserting his own superiority.

“Honest as the day and logical as the sun,” Arnold Bennett, Desmond MacCarthy and company might state their case with the cleanest consciences. (A full faith in reason indulging the substitution of honesty for sincerity, of evidence for seriousness, as though our best efforts could suffice, as though having pointed out what any reasonable person may we might rest our case… in philosophy this attitude must have galled Wittgenstein when confronted by Russell and various members of the Vienna Circle who valued more the formal appearance of clarity than its moral pursuit.) The problem is that one could concede the “superiority” of men and it would still carry no moral water for his cause. Because the kind of fluid his bucket carries is of use only to him.

The mistake of many equality feminists and their male sympathizers is not to notice this. (But in the case of the male sympathizers, there may be more than error but something akin to subversion.) Value across gender is incommensurable.

[5]
It is the power of suggestion that one most misses, …

When men write with that cocksureness characteristic of an impugned status, all nuance goes out the window. She must either imitate him or concede defeat and hoard resentment… His positioned secured enough not to need shoring up, he may cross-dress for fun or even play at humiliation: beware the “sensitive man” who defers too easily.

[6]
It is not only that they celebrate male virtues, enforce male values and describe the world of men; it is that the emotion with which these books are permeated is to a woman incomprehensible. It is coming, it is gathering, it is about to burst on one’s head, one begins saying long before the end. That picture will fall on old Jolyon’s head; he will die of the shock; the old clerk will speak over him two or three obituary words; and all the swans on the Thames will simultaneously burst out singing. But one will rush away before that happens and hide in the gooseberry bushes, for the emotion which is so deep, so subtle, so symbolical to a man moves a woman to wonder. So with Mr Kipling’s officers who turn their Backs; and his Sowers who sow the Seed; and his Men who are alone with their Work; and the Flag—one blushes at all these capital letters as if one had been caught eavesdropping at some purely masculine orgy. The fact is that neither Mr Galsworthy nor Mr Kipling has a spark of the woman in him. Thus all their qualities seem to a woman, if one may generalize, crude and immature. They lack suggestive power. And when a book lacks suggestive power, however hard it hits the surface of the mind it cannot penetrate within.

Weininger’s friend, Maurice Rappaport recounted: “At the time of his [Weininger’s] funeral a partial eclipse of the moon took place that was visible from Vienna, and ended exactly at that moment when his body was lowered into the earth. As is well-known, Schopenhauer told how on the day of Immanuel Kant’s death a white cloud rose up into the sky, whereupon the sky shone clearer and purer than ever before.” From the introduction to the first edition of Über die letzten Dinge (On Last Things) (Editor’s note: quoted here from Otto Weininger: Collected Aphorisms, Notebook and Letters to a Friend). The swans on the Thames, the clouds, the moon even—what will not be enlisted to express his orgiastic transcendence? His skyward obsession?

Death finally sorts him out, dissolving his admixture into wormward and skyward parts. She—and this is why she is so inferior—has only a wormward part… Now, I will probably be thought here to be ridiculing his aspirations. No, I am not. His metaphysics is just not the same as hers. If you disagree with me, this, let’s be clear, is what we disagree about.

[8]
One must turn back to Shakespeare then, for Shakespeare was androgynous; and so were Keats and Sterne and Cowper and Lamb and Coleridge. Shelley perhaps was sexless. Milton and Ben Jonson had a dash too much of the male in them. So had Wordsworth and Tolstoi. In our time Proust was wholly androgynous, if not perhaps a little too much of a woman. But that failing is too rare for one to complain of it, since without some mixture of the kind the intellect seems to predominate and the other faculties of the mind harden and become barren.

It is not so much that they become barren as that they excuse themselves from relevance. We may still imagine them fecund in another world.

[9]
Even so, the very first sentence that I would write here, I said, crossing over to the writing-table and taking up the page headed Women and Fiction, is that it is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly.

Notice one cannot write as a generic “human being”. There are none such.

It is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to plead even with justice any cause; in any way to speak consciously as a woman. And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death. It ceases to be fertilized. Brilliant and effective, powerful and masterly, as it may appear for a day or two, it must wither at nightfall; it cannot grow in the minds of others.


It is fatal but for different reasons for men than for women. She is psychically bound to, ultimately, find accommodation—her cardinal virtue. She is not permitted to end on this note on aesthetic grounds. He more often does end on the note—and if he does not manage to transcend it, if only by making himself a spectacle, hence, vulnerable (Strindberg), he is a moral failure.

Woolf’s last point suggests to me why we cannot let Weininger be accused of misogyny without a fight. The fact of the breadth, depth, and duration of his wake is witness to how much he could “grow in the minds of others”. Common resentment cannot engender extended reaction without tedium. Weininger’s approach to his moral problem was classically “ill-advised” if conveying the correct impression to the widest audience was the object. Harnessing clichés about women and Jews to make a finer point was his grand “mistake.” The clichés were, and are still, too loaded for the finer point to be heard. But then wasn’t their destruction precisely his object? History conspired against him even as it spread his word. A speeding comet, he underestimated how long it would take, how much intellectual housekeeping would have to happen first, and—I don’t mind repeating it since others have reputations and careers to tend and I have fewer expectations for success than the poor earnest Weininger—the sheer depth of human stupidity. (Editor’s note: Luno has made a refrain of this last charge. He once said it does him good to harp on it. “I don’t pretend it enlightens or furthers any cause.”)

[19]
I have referred to Professor X and given prominence to his statement that women are intellectually, morally and physically inferior to men. I have handed on all that has come my way without going in search of it, and here is a final warning—from Mr John Langdon Davies.12 Mr John Langdon Davies warns women ‘that when children cease to be altogether desirable, women cease to be altogether necessary’. I hope you will make a note of it.

12 A SHORT HISTORY OF WOMEN, by John Langdon Davies.

Agacinski expresses related fears in reference to looming technological obviations of what has become “conventional” childbirth. (Formerly, there was no question that reproduction was exclusively and organically biological. Now this option is threatened with being listed on a menu. The move is a barely disguised masculine arrogation of reproductive power.)

Posted by luno in Woolf, misogyny, wake, philosophy and sex, feminism, Weininger (Wednesday September 20, 2006 at 1:27 pm)
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