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Virginia Woolf, “My country is the whole world”

October 4, 2012

Knowing Virginia Woolf is knowing about the interwar period in Western Europe, the cultural and political life. She was one of the first people who created our modern fiction (the stream-of-conciousness technique). She was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, where her sister Vanessa, a painter, was, too.

“My country is the whole world” is a very famous quote from her, in the cultural English-speaking world.

If you ever visit London (again), you should read a book of hers in a London park! It feels really special!

Therefore if you insist upon fighting to protect me, or “our” country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or to protect either myself or my country. “For,” the outsider will say, “in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”

Chapter 3. Quote from http://www.online-literature.com/virginia_woolf/

Virginia Woolf at Talking People (under construction)

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10 comments

  1. If that is how you feel about your country, then my question is, do you support women in combat, and if so, why?


  2. Talking to the dead? 😀

    Or is it a case of such biased view of the world that you can’t tolerate other views, and therefore can’t read well?

    A rational discussion doesn’t begin like you do begin yours.


  3. Ok, it was wrong of me to assume that you agreed with Virginia Wolfe; I made that assumption because you seem to speak of her in very glowing terms. If the assumption was incorrect, then I apologize. Was it incorrect?


    • (Notice the spelling of her name, too. It indicates lack of respect / carelessness for the subject being discussed or for the people involved in the discussion.)


  4. Yes, you seem to make up what other people think, or their intentions.
    Where are the “glowing terms”?


  5. You said that reading Virginia Woolfe’s books in a London park would be “really special”. That sounded like a glowing description to me. Also, you seem more interested in nitpicking about spelling than you are in actually answering the question, or do you only answer questions from those who never mis spell a word?


    • Thanks for anwering.

      Well, the information I present is simply factual, except for that closing comment. I do not think that I present a biased (distorted to “glowing”) brief presentation of this author, don’t you think?

      It is OK to close a presentation with a more personal comment. In this case, saying it is special to read an author where that author lived, at least when you are not from that same country, and at least for people like me, who love literature and good analyses, too. This is a personal perception, yes, but not ideological — it’s emotional, and it does not distort the factual information.

      OK, now let me read again your question. I suppose I should try to explain what it makes me think of.


  6. Question 1: NATIONALISM/MILITARISM

    From your question I understand you feel you belong to a collective identity, and that the way in which you relate to your collective identity emotion is consistent with the ideology of nationalism or patriotism. Is this correct?

    If it were so, then I would like to pose the idea that not all humans on the planet feel a sense of collective belonging, and not all of those who have this sense of belonging incarnate it in the body — so to speak — of nationalism. One can develop a sense of belonging to a community which is not a nation, and most actually do, whether they are aware of it or not.

    Going a bit beyond I would say that people whose collective identity expresses itself as patriotism, or in nationalism, necessarily accept and justify the existence of an army (mostly men, sometimes some women — but military women where they are allowed to join the military are excluded from combat positions — which is a kind of lie, really, because when you are sent to non-combatant posts in countries at war you might get killed all the same) who will be sent out or in to kill “the enemy” or its own people if there were certain kinds of “disturbances”. Accepting militarism in nationalism is necessary, I mean. But militarism is not the only option human beings have in order to solve conflicts. And people who do not share the nationalistic view, are less dangerous, actually, than people who justifiy the use of violence in conflict-solving.

    This non-nationalistic group of human beings might also disagree with the political division of human communities into countries. We live in a planet full of political (ideological) partitions and that is a fact no one can escape. But this doesn’t mean we have to understand that that is the world. I am quite able to imagine the world with no “countries”, with communities of people living in different ways, with and without collective identities.

    I mean, there is no One World. Our minds have the ability — and this is expressed in our complex and amazing language capacity — to imagine and to understand more things than just what is announced by the Systems (structures) which govern us say there exist. And we can live up to that in how we relate to other people, personally, if not as societies.

    There are a lot of issues in your first message. A lot of important issues to think about or discuss, and this is just the first one —

    Do you believe that if we don’t feel a nationalist/militarist emotion towards our “country” there is something terribly wrong with you? Wrong in what way or sense? Finally, if you do, why do you think so?


  7. QUESTION 2: MY COUNTRY IS THE WHOLE WORLD

    So what this very famous quote of Virginia Woolf’s says, and the reason why it is so important, culturally speaking, and for the human species, is that her collective identity resides in the human species, not in divisions men have created and which are based in a violent understanding of the human race. We should grant, regardless of what we are capable of feeling, that this is a far more intelligent idea than that which is more primitive of a world where people are divided into nations that consider other nations their enemies or their potential enemies.

    There is a second part to this. The fact that it is a woman who dares to say that she won’t acknowledge the world as men have designed it, and imposed on every single human being century after century. She is refuting the only existing reality is the reality presented by the patriarchal system.

    It is such a daring idea, that people who feel patriotism in their veins, feel it is violence. And we know what people like that do when they feel threatened. Justify the torture and the assassination of people who dare have a different view. Fortunately, Virginia Woolf was living in a country where men had stopped raping/torturing, oppressing, exploiting, repressing and killing just like that, just like men all over the planet had been raping/torturing, oppressing, exploiting, repressing and killing women for centuries, events that never counted as equivalent to men being exploited, tortured, repressed, oppressed or killed by other men. No honors, no dignity, no heroism in that second-class being which Woman was and is in this planet.


  8. QUESTION 3. A BIASED VIEW OF HUMAN BEINGS’ POTENTIAL

    The Patriarchal system which we know study scientifically — because after so many centuries of having it, we are able to SEE it’s actually a system, an option, mostly because we have finally understood there exist HUMAN RIGHTS (as late as 20 December 1948, when the UN General Assembly adopted them), which means women and men who are not white and from the elites directing the system are considered equally humans as the men directing the system — has ordered the world parting from a biological fallacy which is at the heart of the system, of its sex-gender system. According to this system, human beings are divided in two groups: men and women, and one of this groups is deprived of it’s human mind (women), for its only value resides in the biological capability of their wombs. This is why in Patriarchy women cannot be found in History, Literature, you name it! Their human minds were (and) are considered inferior, and this notion led (and leads) to them being excluded of all the areas where human beings can actually develop their human minds. Many men have been excluded too, of course — critical thinkers, artists, activists. But the key element in the foundation of the patriarchal system lies in how the system describes what a woman is, and what a man is. In this system, men are in charge of ruling the world, including the space women are assigned (homes, nursery schools, kitchens, brothels).

    THE SEX-GENDER ROLES AND VIOLENCE

    Parting from a physical difference related with pregnancy — that some humans have a penis and that some humans have a womb — the system constructs the two roles we know so much about, assigning certain roles and functions to each.

    – The use of violence is assigned to men and women are banned from the use of violence. Just notice social and private experiences today, and also in the past.

    – Women are perceived as transgressors if they use violence, and men are perceived as weak if they don’t use violence where the system (society) expect them to use it.

    This is just a brief presentation of a very complex issue, but if we do not discuss issues also from a feminist approach or with a feminist intelligence, we will be missing some relevant information for the issue of who we are, what we can be like, and how individual people and society as a whole in its dynamics, reproduce the sex-gender system.

    Obviously, from a feminist perspective (scientific analyses), the human mind does not have a sex. It does develop according to what people expect from it. But we have zillions of examples in our daily lives showing that even under great pressure, not everybody can or wants to comply with the system’s expectations. We know of women who can fight using violence, and of men who abhor the use of violence. We know of women who do not wish to become mothers or bear children, and of men who would love to have kids. We know of women who are amazing athletes, pilots, writers, scientists… (now that they are allowed in some places of this planet — and it’s all very recent, and it all started in Western Europe 3 centuries ago, when the first feminists were guillotined after the French Revolution because men left them out of their Declaration of the Rights of Men and Citizenship, which only considered men as citizens)

    Briefly, in the 1990s we’ve started studying the human mind using the scientific method (before this science was deeply influenced by ideologies, today this happens too, but mostly in the interpretation of the information — for a critical analysis of neurosexist interpretations, read Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender) we are realizing that the human mind can be sexless, an organ with great potential and which we can develop beyond what the sex-gender patriarchal system expects from us.



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