Jolie Woolf: Passing Glances

So, I bought the June Vanity Fair in order to read Todd Purdum’s article on the end of Bill Clinton (scary, good). As a bonus, Angelina Jolie is on the cover and there’s a nice interview with her about how happy she is to be pregnant, how much she loves motherhood, blah, blah, blah. It’s embarrassingly riveting. For all my education, I still do love reading celebrity profiles and there is something especially fascinating to me these days in reading those of the “I’m a working mom, too” variety. Shame!

But there, in tiny six-point font on the magazine’s cover, on Jolie’s left upper arm, is this quotation: “As a woman I have no country. My country is the whole world.”—Virginia Woolf.

You have to smile.

The quotation is from Woolf’s 1938 pacifist pamphlet, Three Guineas. It was wildly unpopular when published for it linked patriarchy to fascism, forcing the English to look inward at their complicity with the rise of Hitler precisely when it was most convenient and expedient to demonize the fascists. Women have no country, in Woolf’s argument, because a country offers benefits in exchange for loyalty and women have gotten nothing from their country—no citizenship rights, no legal standing as individuals, no inheritance, no right even to serve.

So it’s askew of the original context, but not completely perverse, to apply it to Jolie, the current poster child for UN Refugees and international adoption. It’s very weird—and non-Woolfian—to make this quotation so earth-mother-y, but it’s right and very Woolfian to recall us to global connections beyond politics, to remind us of the real lives of people who are at once utterly without a voice in politics and, at the same time, grossly affected by—made homeless by—politics.