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The Outsiders' Society (Page 106)

lrperry's picture
I am interested in the tension in Woolf’s letters between positions of insider and outsider status in society. On the one hand, Woolf points out that women (or, as she is very explicit to specify: “daughters of educated men”) are less able to create change because they do not hold the traditional positions of power in society. She writes, “All the weapons with which an educated man can enforce his opinion are either beyond our grasp or so nearly beyond it that even if we used them we could scarcely inflict one scratch” (18). Yet, on the other hand, Woolf also suggests that it is this very outsider status that allows these women to effect more meaningful change. “We believe that we can help you most effectively by refusing to join your society; by working for our common ends – justice and equality and liberty for all men and women – outside your society, not within” (106). She repeatedly cautions against simply following in the same old patterns, and the harmful changes which arise from becoming part of such a society (66), but also advocates for more women in the professions. This dilemma reminds me of a few questions we raised in our first class, namely: Does Bryn Mawr College remain a primarily 1st wave feminism institution? Does it exist to teach women to think like men, to teach women to succeed in professional environments created for and by men? And, if it does, is this a necessary evil?