Virginia Woolf published A Room of One’s Own in 1929 which was based on a series of lectures she gave that included themes about making space for women in writing, in education, and even just literally, in terms of physical area. In it, she talked of lesbians, she talked of how women are idealized by male writers in fiction which mirrors or translates also to real life. She was criticized for not acknowledging class differences between women and not addressing how race affects class and access for different women. She started a topic, and through criticism, the topic was broadened and made better. It’s a difficult process and it is a crucial one.
I think of the concept “a room of one’s own” in lowercase letters when I think of things like my own college major, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Why did it exist? Because the topics we covered were not included enough, or satisfactorily, in the general lessons and books and classes throughout academia until then. The topics of women and gender and sexuality needed their own space and attention. Their own teachers. Their own classrooms. Their own degree. Within my classes and studies, I was able to look at specific groups under the umbrella term of women, but, between 1995 and 1999, we hadn’t gotten far enough into the inclusion of gender and sexuality to see just how diverse the specific groups under the umbrella are. And, since then, the field has likely been racing to keep up with the changes happening in our culture.
As an important note, I also remember seeing Lavender for the first time on stands while I was at Macalester College, since it also started in 1995. Lavender, itself, is a room of one’s own for this community. It’s closer to what Virginia Woolf may have been talking about since it’s a collection of writing about, for, and by the people of this community, the only one of its kind in the area. Each issue might only cover a few of the groups that fall in a very crowded “room” that could use some remodeling and expansion, since it’s a free publication that only prints as many pages as advertising can support. If you look at the arc of a year, though, you might see more of the “room” that this community encompasses. Yes, Lavender exists in a world outside its gender and sexuality parameters, because a room is within a larger structure. None of us exist separately from each other. But, throughout the year as the budget allows, Lavender’s room expands and takes space in the larger structure of our culture to become as large as we can make it.
In this issue, the Fall Home & Garden Issue, we feature some spaces that are literally “rooms of one’s own.” As someone who lives in an artist loft which is subsidized and is to save space for people who choose lower-income jobs as artists, I understand how novel it is to live with people who focus on the arts; it’s a unique and unifying experience. Talking about Marshall Flats by Clare Housing (pg. 28), I can only imagine how it must feel to live with other people who are struggling with HIV/AIDS, and hope that it is unique and unifying for them as it is empowering. And as the article stresses, it’s because of these actual rooms that people with HIV/AIDS are able to find more stability (and ability) in order to address their medical concerns to the points of being undetectable and untransmittable. How’s that for an actual case study for the benefit of giving someone a room of one’s own? Stupendous.
So, as we move through difficult conversations and politics, this room of ours can seem both very small and unnavigably large. There are so many people in this room with so many different issues affecting us that it’s hard to believe it’s all the same room. And sometimes it isn’t the same room. Sometimes people leave to find more space, which is part of how intersectionality works with people actually belonging to various rooms at the same time. But we all still live in the same structure together and I am so very glad for that. Let’s keep doors open and welcome mats out.
With you in the room and with thanks,