Celebrating International Women's Day


Hannah turner and her daughter smiling at trade show with trade show stalls in the background



Hello all, and happy International Women’s Day!

This is Hannah's daughter Megan writing today, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to share with you my thoughts on one of my favourite pieces of feminist literature, ‘Professions for Women’ by Virginia Woolf. I hope this resonates with a lot of you. When I first read this essay I was quite haunted by it and I think it’s still so relevant to the feelings a lot of women have about themselves and their place in the world, whatever your job or circumstances. As part of a woman-owned business, I think my mum and I can both relate hugely.

This essay by Virginia Woolf was part of a speech given to young women within the National Society for Women’s Service in 1931. She speaks about her journey to becoming a successful writer, in which she started-out reviewing books. She tells the story of the first obstacle she encountered in her profession when she wanted to review a book by a male author. As she tried to set pen to paper, she noticed “a phantom” who she named ‘The Angel in the House’ breathing down her neck as she was at her desk. This ‘Angel’ to Woolf is the stereotypical victorian woman who wants other women to “Be sympathetic; be tender; flatter; deceive; use all the arts and wiles of our sex. Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own.” instead of dare to criticise a man’s work or use authentic talent.

Virginia Woolf

 “It was she who used to come between me and my paper when I was writing reviews. It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her.”
“Though I flatter myself that I killed her in the end, the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was bound to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.”

I think what Woolf says here really is golden, and I felt it very deeply when I first read this essay. As a woman in music (and notably in two bands of all men), I’ve spent so much time trying to overcome feelings of unworthiness and incapability that I feel I have missed out on actually putting more time into BECOMING a more capable and worthy musician! On top of that, I’m sure lots of us have experienced workplace sexism which adds to this feeling of alienation. We have a lot to push back against.

Although the process of becoming more self-assured in our professions is extremely difficult, I think even just acknowledging that internalised misogyny (the Angel in the house) is very real, can help us to be more forgiving to ourselves. Knowing that we’ve been conditioned to self-sacrifice and self-flagellate in order to stay 'safe' can help us to keep course-correcting as we navigate life. 

Anecdotally, I think we can agree that we women tend to tether ourselves to the shore a bit, and be more risk-averse which can mean less opportunity for growth. Women are also more likely than men to be working part-time (or not at all) to raise children, meaning less time spent on their careers.

On a positive note, and with all that Virginia Woolf has said about our difficulties, working alongside another woman (my mum), not being told what to do by men, and setting our own targets is pretty cool! The business has survived a lot and is still here after 30 years, all under Mum’s own steam. I'm sure this would not have been achievable in the past without the progression of women's equality.

The business is operating in a very feminine world where most of our customers are women which means we can really focus in on our niche! Mum can think more about herself and what she wants to create, knowing she has a lovely following of customers, lots of whom are similar to her. Nowadays she has the confidence to know that they will keep coming back because they resonate with what she makes, and because they share her values. Having that core self-assurance is really valuable, and hard-earned over many years.

Anyway, I’m not really offering any solutions here, just ruminating on things that I know a lot of women struggle with… but I hope you enjoyed reading nonetheless! Maybe allow this to be a sign to congratulate yourself a bit more, appreciate what you're working against, and know that you're not alone with these struggles!

Megan x

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