Home » feminism » Sentencing Woolf: Do Women Write Differently From Men?

Sentencing Woolf: Do Women Write Differently From Men?

Engaging in a conversation with a customer in the charity book shop in which I volunteer to work, I touched upon a subject which demanded further exploration. For, after mentioning that the central character in, and narrative voice of, the novel I have recently had published is male, he asked if I felt that I, as a woman, could accurately represent the male perspective? I replied that I had tried to and that it was, now, incumbent upon the reader to decide to what extent I had been successful.
Ruminating about the subject, reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s assertion in her essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” that the best writers possess a form of mental androgeny which transcends the restrictions of gender and penetrates the essential consciousness of the characters, whom they have created. Arguably, the actual representation of language in a text is as relatable to the author’s gender as the plot.
Virginia Woolf cited Dorothy Richardson as the originator of the, “women’s sentence.” Richardson’s rejection of traditional linguistic structure signifying, also, a rejection of the patriarchal order, by which the novel had previously been defined. Elaborating upon Richardson’s semiotic magicianship, Woolf ventured beyond the battleground of content into the arena of form. Her defining moment, the novel, Mrs Dalloway, whose action takes place during a single day, eschewed linear causality and embraced a form of elliptical progression which was at odds with the traditional male produced novel.
Although, at first glimpse the concept of the women’s sentence may appear to be contingent on a belief in biological determinism, Woolf did not propose that gender differences were inherent. Rather, she looked outwards into a society which not only produced, but reinforced difference. Thus, men and women were not born different, society reproduced our differences. Reflective of this was the pursuit of a women’s sentence; the pursuit of a woman’s voice.



4 thoughts on “Sentencing Woolf: Do Women Write Differently From Men?

  1. You seem to be saying that men and women were not born different but that society has branded differences into us. So we should strive to have a woman’s voice or we should strive to convince others that a woman’s voice is no different from a man’s? Or an I completely misunderstanding you?

  2. Pingback: A Blog of One’s Own | A Blog of Ones Own

    • Interesting question! I think it is dangerous to ascribe gender difference to biology, for it reinforces the notion that women are more connected to nature and thereby legitimises our historically defined role as care givers etc. “Society” is a product of capitalism and patriarchy which, I believe, are interdependent and supported by divisions. Thus, it is in the interests of The State to perpetuate the belief that women and men are fundamentally different; divide and rule prohibits unity and sustains the status quo. In the contemporary world, women still struggle to be heard. The outcome of this struggle is the perception that a woman’s voice somehow differs from that of a man. My hope for the future is that someday society will evolve to the point where people are defined not by gender, but by their character and social interactions.

      • So you have based your assertion that society is the cause of gender differences because that is the only way in which you can have hope that people will not be defined by gender? Or is there a good reason why one would believe that?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s