What was Virginia Woolf Wearing?

“Could she even seek her dinner in a tavern or roam the streets at midnight?” -“Shakespeare’s Sister,” from A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

[Helpful links to learn more: wiki page /spark notes / full text]

Woolf is pointing out the dangers of living alone in the city as a woman. Even in 1929 (which, honestly, is paradoxically early and late), women were raising awareness for the rape culture that surrounds us. Woolf is referring to a hypothetical sister of William Shakespeare’s, which puts her in, roughly, the 1580-90 time period, which shows how old this problem is. She goes on to describe how Shakespeare’s sister–equipped with the same brains and talent as her brother–is mocked for her ambition and forced to take up a dalliance with the stage manager in order to make a place for herself in London. She then becomes pregnant and, in despair, commits suicide. This tale is not new, but neither is it outdated.

Even then the question was whether or not she could roam the streets, but whether or not the menfolk could keep their hands to themselves. Because, obviously, “boys will be boys.” It was the female’s responsibility not to put herself in the power of men, specifically not to tempt them, as opposed to the male’s responsibility to restrain himself from taking advantage of a woman and treating her body as an object.

Sounds familiar, no?

Here is a selfie from a woman who works in a theme park and was harassed in her uniform. This is her story:


I work at a theme park. These are my uniforms. Weekly, men of all ages walking by will call, “Hey girl, how you doin’? I like your dress” and other things along those lines.

The worst time was when a forty-something man introduced himself, and shook my hand. Fine, be polite. But he wouldn’t let go, he rubbed it and said, “What’s your name, baby? You’re the prettiest girl here. I can’t have a bad day if I get to see you. Can I have your number?” I couldn’t walk away because he trapped me at my desk, so after saying “no” several times, I just started ignoring him. He finally walked away, but not before saying “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

–Eryn Schlote

Notice that the modesty of her outfit is similar to what Woolf might have worn and certainly what Shakespeare’s sister would have worn. So, since it was a concern for them and since it is clearly a concern for Eryn Schlote, it cannot possibly have anything to do with what the victim was wearing, can it? I mean, logically speaking, that would be irrational.

Eryn submitted her story to Kati Heng, who has set up a Tumblr page (stopthecatcall) in order to showcase the different outfits that women have worn when they were catcalled and harassed (the two are synonymous). Eryn’s story, unfortunately, is just one of many disturbing tales out there. Please show the blog some support and go forth knowing that this is an age-old problem that needs to finally be solved.

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As seen here on Odyssey


One thought on “What was Virginia Woolf Wearing?

  1. Pingback: Restaurant Guide: The Orchard & the Green Man – Partial Disclosure

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