September 17, 2011
In the essay, “Professions for Women”, Virginia Woolf examplifies women’s ability to overcome men’s dominance in professional fields through her strong use of rhetoric and metaphor. The timelessness of her words and ideas are a daunting reminder of the professional inequalities of men and women in the modern world.
Viginia Woolf was a professional woman in the 1930′s, a time when women had little indenpendance and participation in society. Woolf speaks to the Womens Service League, a majority of other professional women who would hear her opinion on a relatable level. Her ethos is established in the first paragraph when she refers to herself as an employed women, and continues in modest examplification of her professional experiences. Because of Woolf’s awareness of her relatable audience, she is able to take on a very genuine and honest persona that appeals to the pathos of her audience. She addresses the audience multiple times and directly relates them to herself and what experiences they share.
Through Woolf’s use of the two main metaphors, the Angel of the House and the rod in the lake, she appeals to the logos of her audience by describing underlying obstacles in her metaphors. The Angel of the House refers to the stereotypical attitude of the Victorian women and how this conflicts with womens ability to portray their true identities. The rock being smashed against in the bottom of the lake is comparable to the opposing sex and their ability — whether intentional or not — to discourage women from having a voice. Woolf demonstates from her own successes that although the battle to overcome these obstacles is a long and difficult one, it is achievable for the determined few women.
Although Virigina Woolf lived, fought, and died many years ago, we are reminded of her battle through the every day professional persecuation women of the 21st century continue to face. No matter the profession, men are still preferred for positions of power, and women are expected to take care of family life. In general, the Victiorian style gender roles are still subtly accepted today, even if at a less degree of severity. In Woolf’s essay she states that it will “be a long time still, … before a woman can sit down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against.” Even after all this time of growth, there is still the underlying struggle of breaking the stereotypical gender roles and speaking over the silencing affect men have on women. These struggles are so difficult to defeat because of a combination of men’s genuine inawareness of the issue, and their constant desire for power.
Virginia Woolf’s strong rhetorical strategies in addition to her use of metaphor contribute to the overall effectness in fulfilling the purpose of her essay. She addresses a timeless issue and as a result, her words will forever be acknowledged and referred to when modern societies struggle with the gender inequalities she describes.