Representing Gender Inequality in Ortiz Cofer's 'More Room' and Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own'
The concept of the word ‘room’ is presented in both ‘A Room of One’s Own’ and ‘More Room’, authors Woolf and Ortiz Cofer display that a woman having her own ‘room’ will provide time and space allowing women to flourish and grow. In the essay, ‘A Rooms of One’s Own’, Woolf puts emphasis on larger problems such as privacy, leisure time and financial independence which are essential components that play a role in the inequality between men and women. Furthermore, Ortiz Cofer, talks about that her grandmother spending all her energy raising children and was not able to enjoy watching her children grow. For this reason, a room was built in which she exiled her husband in order for her to regain control of her body and not allowing him the chance of getting her pregnant to regain the ability to enjoy her children and grandchildren. Either it being a female artist or a domesticated traditional woman, women will be considered second-class citizens until these inequalities are eliminated. Ortiz Cofer and Woolf both show in today’s society women face limitations and struggles through privacy, leisure time and financial independence.
Privacy is the state of being free in which one is not being observed for disrupted by other people. Women not having their own room restricts them from having any kind of privacy. Virginia Woolf uses the main idea of privacy to show that women weren’t given the privacy needed to write. “Sex and its nature might well attract doctors and biologists, but what was surprising and difficult of explanation was the fact that sex—woman, that is to say—also attracts agreeable essayists, light-fingered novelists, young men who have taken the M.A. degree; men who have taken no degree; men who have no apparent qualification save that they are not women”. Throughout ‘A Room of One’s Own’ women were denied the opportunities to write about their own gender. Males were only allowed to write about women, which takes the privacy away from women being able to write about themselves.
Leisure time is defined as the time when one is not working or occupied. A woman’s leisure time is different than a man’s, women are more apparent to chores and housework. Women are frequently denied the time and space to be creative. The quote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”, this is explaining that women are more inclined to be doing household duties and are financially and legally bound to their husbands. Women are already being deprived of having their own room, there is a small percentage for women to rectify the situation. Virginia Woolf uses the example of Shakespeare’s sister Judith who isn’t give an equal opportunity as Shakespeare. “It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare”. Woolf uses this quote to show that Judith Shakespeare is just as talented as her brother, although she is a woman she isn’t the same support and opportunities as her brother.
Particularly the element ‘money’ is what particularly prevents women from having their own room, thus highlighting the important of being financial independent. In the essay, the author said, “Intellectual freedom depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. […] Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry”. This quotation explains that women are more likely to participate in the writing of novels rather than poetry, as novels are contended to have frequent interruptions. Women must contend in these interruptions as they are often deprived of their own room to write. Without money, women will be followed by male counterparts and remain in second place. Woolf explained that with financial discrepancy it showed that women were less successful as writers.
Furthermore, Woolf emphasizes that financial independent is more valuable than having the ability to votes for one’s interests. The quote, “The news of my legacy reached me one night about the same time that the act was passed that gave votes to women. A solicitor’s letter fell into the post-box and when I opened it I found that she had left me five hundred pounds a year for ever. Of the two—the vote and the money—the money, I own, seemed infinitely more important”. Woolf shows that financial independence is more valuable than having the ability to vote. Mary would rather pick the options of receiving 500 pounds every year forever than the right to vote. This also depicts that woman have never received the opportunity to support themselves as they spent their lives as properties to fathers, husbands and tending to the house and taking care of the kids. There usually was not time for jobs outside the home nor for any creative activities. Being financially independent as a woman will allow the “room” for more opportunities and the chance to be more successful.
Judith Cofers’ ‘More Room’ illustrated her grandmother’s house as it is always increasing in size. Every time the grandmother become pregnant she had to draw up a plan for a room so that her husband can build it often referring the house as “La Casa de Mama”. For this reason people may have thought she was in control. After having her eighth child, she decided it was time that she took control of her time. Spending a majority of her time watching and raising her children and grandchildren, the grandmother created a new design for a room and asked her Papa to build it. Once the room was built, she kicked him from her room in order for her to regain control of her body, by not allowing him to get her pregnant again. Not only was she able to attain privacy but has the ability to enjoy her children and grandchildren.
Having eight kids, really affects the ability of enjoying your free time. In ‘More Room’ Ortiz Cofer, the character “Mamá seems to spend her leisure time talking care of her kids and is denied the ability to being creative and having her own room to grow. The quote “Papá was the benevolent dictator of her body and her life who had been banished from her bed so that mama could better serve her family”. Cofer uses the phrase “benevolent dictator” to show Papá is a kind dictator, a person that is used to being in control. Mamá’s leisure time was cut short often because her time was spent raising the children. Ortiz Cofer uses the character Papá to take leisure time away from Mamá. “It was not his fault after all, that every year or so he planted a babyseed in Mamá’s fertile body, keeping her from leading the active life she needed and desire”. Although this quote says it is not Papá’s fault, Mamá leisure time is taken away because she has to raise a new child every year.
Throughout Ortiz Cofer’s ‘More Room’ Papá was providing the source of income for his family. As the house grew organically with the additions of each child, papá would build new rooms in the house. Grandfather was the one who kept the family stable financially. Ortiz uses the quote “He was a painter and housebuilder by trade, a poet and meditative man by nature”. This quote shows that the grandfather had many abilities to keep his family financially stable. Mamá was dependent on her husband and wasn’t able to be financially independent. Mamá wasn’t able to be financially independent because her time was spent raising children.
In today’s society women are still dealing with many gender inequalities. Women face inequalities such as; depending on the male with financial support as there is a huge pay gap between female and males. There are many jobs where women aren’t paid the same as men are payed for doing the same jobs. Women have shown they can do jobs better than men but yet men look down upon women. Within society women are usually looked down upon by men in offices or jobs. Women are treated unequally in work settings due to the fact that men want to feel superior. An obstacle many women face in the workforce is sexual harassment. In workplace environments, women face harassment both verbally, mentally, and physically. Another factor of inequalities that women face is racism. Race plays a major role in how women are treated, paid, and respected in society. In today’s society there are numerous factors that lead to the inequalities that women face every day. Although women face these inequalities, they continuously make changes which not only benefit them now but also for younger women.
Throughout the essays ‘More Room’ and ‘A Room of One’s Own’, authors Ortiz Cofer and Woolf both show the different ways that women are facing inequalities. The essays show that women face limitations and struggles through privacy, leisure time and financial independence. In the essay ‘More Room’ Ortiz Cofer talks about her grandmother, and how she spent her time raising the children. Since the grandmother spent her time raising the children, she wasn’t able to enjoy her life and wasn’t able to watch her children grow. Mamá had her husband build himself a room so she could have her own space in order for her to enjoy her life, as well her children and grandchildren’s lives. Throughout ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Woolf shows that for women to be successful they must have privacy, money, and time to write. The word ‘room’ is used in the essays ‘More Room’ and ‘A Room of One’s Own’, Cofer and Woolf to show the inequalities that women are continually facing.
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