Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Room of One's Own

So here is the premier post of this new blog of mine. I have been contemplating the creation of one of these for quite some time. I really could never grasp the idea of a blog--sharing one's inner thoughts with all who would care to read (as if anyone would). I mean, who really wants to know what crazy, random things go through my head all day? In the end I realized I really did need an outlet--a place to compile my writings and wanderings, whether for others to read or just for my own self preservation and accumulation of thoughts and ideas. So, voilà. La petite Vie (the Small life) has been born.

Today, during my weekly IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program) staff meeting at IIE (Institute of International Education), we had the Empowerment of Women as our resource topic of the day. Women's issues in general have always been a hot IVLP topic. The range in the countries coming on this topic are vast, stretching from Turkey to Brazil, Indonesia to African regions. They can focus on immigration, women in business, philanthropy and NGO management, women's rights, reproductive rights, essentially anything where a "woman's struggle" can be seen.

Now, recently, or I suppose over the last two years mostly, I have been struggling to discover what one issue in life I am really, truly passionate about, above all others. This has been a daunting and frustrating task. The truth is, is that I have way too many interests and desires, I don't know which one to follow over the others. To me, women's rights and all feminist movements have always seemed to fall into categories that are so cliché and worn out. I have been hearing about women's rights from the start, especially having spent my formative years in the San Francisco Bay Area. Of course, I am a woman, so I am supportive of all things that gear towards equality for women, a woman's right to choose, etc. But I never really thought that women's empowerment would be my main focus. That was too easy, I thought. Until today.

During our IVLP staff and volunteer meeting, a colleague of mine brought up Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own as an introduction to our discussion on this topic of women. This extended essay, written by the influential English writer during her time at Cambridge University, comes from Woolf's conception that, 'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.' This goes along the same advice my mother has always told to me: that, as a woman, I must always be independent and able to support myself, no matter if I marry or have no need to work. The ability for a woman to care and support herself, both emotionally and financially, is the key to freedom and equality in this modern world.

This got me thinking. While I have never considered myself a die hard feminist, this modest yet profound statement was what I have been dedicating myself to so fervently in the last few years: trying so hard to focus on just myself and my growth, concentrating on my professional advancement and feeling the most satisfaction from my own personal successes--whether they be financial, personal or professional.

In fact, it was for this exact reason, to create a room of my own, that I have chosen to move to France again, alone. It was for me, to write my fact or fiction, and to own it, just by myself. I realized that this was the most important thing for me right now, and that this feeling of the need for independence and freedom could be compared to and shared with all of the other women's issues we discussed today. Whether it be with IIE's Women in Technology (WIT) program, bringing educational opportunities and trainings in soft business skills and internet technology to women of the Middle East and North Africa--women who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn skills or trades to help support themselves on their own--or with the various NPOs at San Francisco's Women's Building, offering programs teaching self sufficiency, leadership in female youth and many resources for advocacy against violence towards women in the city and elsewhere. All of these focus on the empowerment of the female being, the empowerment of me, my African IVLP visitors, my friends and co-workers. So I thought, "not bad. not bad at all."

Maybe I am a feminist after all. Or at least just a little bit.

1 comment:

  1. I used to ask, "What are you thinking?" as we drove to and from school or work. "Well, I am thinking MY THOUGHTS, but i don't want to talk about them...."
    I felt sad. I was missing out on treasured time, just the two of us, no interruptions....but she did not want to share. What's a mother to do? So, i talked for the both of us.

    Reading La Petite Vie is a window into my daughter's thoughts. I feel a warmth, a passion, a kindred spirit. I can share her thoughts, her musings, her flashes of insight, and her willingness to take it all on.
    And I don't even have to be in a car.
    PS you still have a room of your own here at home :)