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Switching to Virginia Woolf...

Further complicating that issue of passivity, in Three Guineas Woolf maintains a firm distinction between the ways in which women can passively or actively influence society on questions such as war. Virginia Woolf points out that through the course of history, women have been contributing quietly, influencing large matters passively, by swaying their husbands this way or that. Passive influence could also mean dashing off to serve as nurses in a war created by the patriarchal society. This kind of influence has always been real, and it has always been able to make some small difference. Living passively might be living a succeful life within a given framework, but passivity can never bring about change in societal systems. A passive being can only feed herself into the machine and wait as a conveyor belt carries her to the only possible destination. Woolf mentioned, "the weapon of independent opinion based upon independent income." Neither component has any value without the other, at least not if they are weapons to be used for social change. Woolf also expresses her reticence with regards to sending women into that procession of educated men, suggesting that perhaps it might do the world more good to start a new procession. Again, this requires action, the hard work of blazing a new trail, rather than following the well-worn one. Perhaps this notion of the "gentler sex" is one of the most dangerous for women to embrace, not only because it encourages passivity, but because it seems to suggest that passivity can produce its own silently effective results, that passivity may be a sneaky alternative when in fact buying into such an idea would only lead one into a terrible trap.


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