A Room of One’s Own
‘A Room of One’s Own’ is a famous book by writer and feminist Virginia Woolf in which she declares ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’
One of the reasons I decided to study a Masters away from home is so that I could have a room of my own. Encouraged by others to learn the basic essentials like cooking, cleaning and washing, I felt the need to partake on a journey in which I could experience life on my own, gain independence and ‘become’ a woman.
My plain room in my university house lacked any colour so I dressed it chicly. A picture of the Eiffel Tower hangs above my bed because, as Audrey Hepburn said, ‘Paris is always a good idea.’ My bed covers mirror the Parisian theme and chic elegance and add to the pink that is poignantly plotted in various places of my room; my pink hair straightners, pink folders, pink accessories. However, I felt conscious about the ‘girliness’ of my room and decided that I needed to remove all of the pink now that I ‘should’ be mature and especially because I am conducting a Masters in Philosophy which is heavily male-dominated. I am one of the few females and fewer Asian females on the MA Philosophy course so I did not want my ‘girliness’ to be a sign of weakness and inferiority.
After settling in, I began to question: where has this fervent need for independence arisen from? Where is the definition of what a ‘woman’ should be? And why do we consider some actions and opinions to be ‘womanly’ and some not? Understandably, in an age of globalisation, people are becoming worldly and have the resources to explore the world. Women have always wanted to prove their independence against men and have therefore tried to assert themselves. However, I have realised that being worldly does not mean that you cannot love your roots. Love for family and community are not absent from independence and strength of character.
I can say that I have become wiser whilst living away from home in that I have had a room in which to think. I have learnt how to use a washing machine and have actually begun to enjoy cooking.Cooking has always been an activity that I have not wished to partake in especially when I have been asked by so many: ‘how will you cook for your husband?’ If my horrified expression did not portray my thoughts, I always ironically replied: ‘my husband will cook for me, or we will eat out, or starve’ just to get the message across that I do not agree with prejudices against women. However, I have realised that the kitchen is a space in which I can enter, not because I am conforming to prejudices, but because my mind is outside of those prejudices and am cooking for my own desire to learn. But the strings constantly pulling me back to my place of birth and to my family have not loosened – and I believe that this is okay. Women are constantly connected to the familial space. It is not for this reason that I believe this pull is okay. It is okay because one does not necessarily have to come in to them selves without other people – for ‘no man is an island.’
I have also realised that it is not necessary to ‘grow out of’ my love for the colour pink. The colour pink is a part of me and represents my personality. I feel at home in myself with the colour pink. And I love the fact that great philosophical thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Frederick Nietzsche lie between my bright pink folder covers (much to their dismay I am sure!)
I always remember an email from my lecturer advising me to have DVD Mean Girls on hand with my pyjamas and popcorn for when work gets heavy. Higher education, independence and ‘being’ a woman is not about losing sight of your personality but rather the wisdom that, whilst learning, one can remain one’s self in any situation that they are placed in. Living away from home has been an invaluable learning curve but nonetheless, there is nothing wrong with loving home.