“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
And so this is one of the most popular lines from the famous literary giant, Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” that has since spawned many discussions for feminist texts all around the world.
Essentially, the book talks about how in order for women to write, they must have a place they call their own, a personal private area in which they can inhabit freely so as to develop their creative pursuits.
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Now hold your horses’ guys, as simple as this may sound, it isn’t easily accomplished once we look deeper and realize that it is in fact tied closely to the concept of power and women having the ability to own property.
While many might scoff and claim that such oppression is no longer the case as it is in today’s modern society, one does not have to look further to recognize that it has instead, manifest into – a more subtle yet still equally nefarious – forms of patriarchy that while different, will continue to result in gender differential in the labour market participation. Some examples include: the masculine nature of high tech workplace, pink collar ghettos, consider the spatial entrapment thesis whereby women are restricted to apply jobs near their homes so as to reduce commuting time in order to perform specific gender roles and not to mention, underreported cases of sexual harassment in offices.
That is why, I truly applaud the intention behind Michaela Anchan, founder of Singapore-based all-female co-working space, Woolf Works. Upon stumbling on the cost of renting an office space in Singapore, she encountered roadblock when she tried to join co-working spaces as well realizing that they were mostly targeted for tech-oriented business.
Thus, the idea to develop a place like Woolf Works came almost instinctively and it is described “as a haven for female small business owners, creative freelancers, writers, bloggers and work at home mothers to work, network and collaborate.”
Renovations are currently underway and Woolf Works is located at a cozy two storey shophouse at Joo Chiat with an overall sitting capacity of approximately 40 people. On top of your usual communal work tables and desks, it boost a meeting area and small lounge room on the first floor and up in the attic, also known as the Den, it operates as a workshop or meeting space for roughly 20 people.
This is the first ever dedicated-to-women area in Singapore and while it isn’t true that boys are not allowed, it certainly aims to cultivate a more female oriented community. Inspired by Woolf’s essay, Anchan expresses how she wants to provide like-minded women an opportunity to meet and harness ideas and energy through this platform.
However, because of the limited space and location, I am skeptical about the number of women this project might be able to help. Women designated spaces at times, may also tend to overlook a greater problem that is surrounding gender discrimination and simply by applying sex segregation cannot resolve this issue.
Nonetheless, it is laudable that more women (and hopefully men!) are becoming more aware about existing forms of patriarchy and hence efforts like Woolf Works definitely have my full support. It is currently open for registration now, offering a tiered membership plan for Permanent Residents, Resident Rovers, Part Time and Lite Rovers at separate prices each.
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