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Virginia Woolf and doughnuts

A Room of One's Own

Consider this...The doughnut hole is an integral part of the doughnut. It has a designation (doughnut hole) and a function (it allows the dough to cook evenly inside and out). Many, though, perceive the doughnut hole as meaningless empty space.

Consider now the doughnut hole as a representation of women in Elizabethan times. The dough portion constitutes patriarchal society, racists, misogynists, idiots, unjust laws and the like. And as the power of these groups increases, so, proportionally, does the dough portion, thereby forcing the hole to become ever smaller until it disappears altogether.

With the doughnut hole's apparent annihilation, we need to consider two things. Firstly, the hole, though not visible to the naked eye, does in fact continue to exist AND the original doughnut can no longer be a doughnut (or called a doughnut) without the hole to make it so.

Why on earth am I going on about doughnuts?

Because of Virginia Wolfe's, A Room of One's Own which I decided to reread last week.

Woolf's extended essay on social injustices (specifically with regards to women and literature) explains and explores woman's identity created and managed by a patriarchal society. And although given as a speech in 1929 whilst referencing the 16th and 17th century (and not only) the many issues are still relevant today in homes, communities and countries where not just women, but also minorities in general are being suffocated by dictatorships, domineering partners or parents, stigmas, stereotypes, religion, false expectations and so on... with the sole purpose of curbing or altogether blocking potential advancement, invention and general creativity.

Woolf explains how women were identified as child bearers, ignorant and chaste. The below quote from her essay paints the clear and hopeless picture of what it meant to be a woman:

She was locked up, beaten and flung about the room...practically she is completely insignificant... she is all but absent from history... in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger... in real life she could hardly read; scarcely spell; and was the property of her husband.

Once individuals are flogged into submission/silence, it is easy to make statements such as: they don't have the capacity, aren't smart enough, lack the fundamental qualities to produce anything or contribute anything meaningful to society. And in this absurd vicious cycle, wherein due to their lowly state women could not and therefore did not produce or contribute anything, they were essentially, through their own non-action, confirming their lowliness.

To this, Woolf counters with the suggestion that "... the absence of female fiction is a result of lack of opportunity rather than a distinct absence of talent."

To the point, you can replace women, from Woolf's 1929 discourse, with any minority or misrepresented individual or group as it will fittingly suit the model of suppression into seeming worthlessness.

The lack/absence of opportunity to receive a formal education, the inability to escape an unsafe environment, living under the deprivation of basic human rights must not be confused with a lack/absence of capability, intellect and inventiveness.

As public officials, teachers, managers, mentors, parents we could possibly look further at (investigate as Virginia Woolf did) the WHY something is missing instead of accepting its absence as a foregone conclusion.

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