I never really liked Virginia Woolf, and I am a card-carrying feminist. I think she was a little bit loony and pretentious. But in her work, “A Room of One’s Own,” she gets one thing absolutely correct. She says, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I cannot ever forget this because it reminds me of something liberatory that my Grandma Odessa would say to me all the time: Make your own money.
What did my granny mean by this? She was not just speaking to me; she was speaking to all women. When you have capital in America, you have economic power. You can buy your own property, invest in your personal Roth IRA and own property that is in your name. This is important not because of the accumulation of wealth, but for its empowerment.
Power is not just the ability to buy what you want; it gives merit to your voice in a meritocracy. You can speak for yourself and other women. If more women were economically independent, perhaps we would not be so underrepresented in government.
Women are still taxed without representation. In the 111th Congress, there were large disparities between the Congress and the general citizenry in terms of sex and race.
At the national level of representation, women (and people of color) are not represented. That means their ideas and issues are not at the forefront of conversations. People are more interested in party lines than the lines that divide gender, race and class in this country. Those are the lines that matter because as this country gets browner (and it is), there will be less representation of the people who are citizens and more interests in those who have the money.
In the United States, the people with money or wealth are very few when looking at percentages. Professor William Domhoff from the University of California, Santa Cruz notes that in 2007, the top 1 percent of households (the upper class) owned 34.6 percent of all privately held wealth, and the next 19 percent (the managerial, professional and small business stratum) had 50.5 percent, which means that just 20 percent of the people owned a remarkable 85 percent.
That means 20 percent of the people in the U.S., or 61 million people, function out of 85 percent of the wealth and capital to be had.
This means the rest of us, the majority of the population, or 246 million people, live off what is left. This is unfair. Most of capitalism exists off the labor of the people who do not have the power (economic, social or political) to make decisions or be at the table when decisions are being made that continue to help the wealthy and ignore the plight of those who have not. Most people who have wealth accumulated it not from their income, but the history of what their families might have invested or been a part in making (unless you’re Bill Gates or Oprah).
Wealth is when your money makes money, not because you are just working. If women want a room to themselves, they should not be waiting for Prince Charming to get it for them. Chances are he can not afford you or himself.
So, women, make your own money. Learn to invest your money early. Get over instant gratification and be willing to save, because chances are no one is going to save you.