I wrote this as a response to chocolatepot
's post here
, then realized it's way too long for a comment on someone else's journal.
The thing with Virginia Woolf is -- she had no way of knowing about all the successful female writers and artists of Shakespeare's time. History had buried them. She didn't know, and it was impossible for her to know. She was not an historian who had been working with other like-minded historians for decades, and who were building on the work historians had been doing for at least a generation. She was highly educated, incredibly intelligent -- and she could not know the truths about women of the past that she so desperately craved.( Feminist historiography ahoy )
Claiming "there is almost no evidence of the oppression" strikes me as another kind of burying of history. Of course the women who succeeded weren't the ones who were horribly "thwarted and hindered." Of course they were the ones with supportive (and well-off) men in their lives. What of all the incredibly talented women who didn't have that, and could not fulfill their dreams? To think that they didn't exist is to erase them, to pretend western culture hasn't been largely built on the oppression of anyone who wasn't a rich white man. It buys into the myth that anyone can succeed, no matter what, and we should all stop whining about inequality. I don't think that was the goal -- but the fantasy of no oppression is at least as dangerous as the fantasy of complete and utter and 100% pervasive oppression.