“She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”
Woolf writes about how women are consistently present in writing but never actually doing any of the writing. It is a contradiction of a female’s existence that she is a being to be written about but lacks the freedom to write. She critiques sexism and the oppression faced by women writers.
“For here again we come within range of that very interesting and obscure masculine influence upon the woman’s movement; that deep-seated desire, not so much that she shall be inferior as that he shall be superior, which plants him wherever one looks, not only in front of the arts, but barring the way to politics too, even when the risk to himself seems infinitesimal and the suppliant humble and devoted.”
This concept of a woman’s inferiority solely so a man can be seen as superior is nothing new. The “influence on a woman’s movement” can also be interpreted as two different scenarios: one being her movement in station or class by her own means impeded by a man; or two, being the physical act of moving itself, in order to intimidate her. The real-world and highly relevant example that comes to mind when looking at this passage is the current presidential race between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton; while she has broken many a “glass ceiling”, her opponent has still mocked and criticized her capability to lead on the sole fact that she is a woman. During the second debate he continued to move about the stage in a predatory manner, like a shark. The only saving grace, regardless of one’s views on Hilary Clinton, no one could label her a “suppliant”.