Throughout The Voyage Out, writes Suzanne Raitt in The Cambridge Companion, Rachel (the heroine of the story) fights, just like Virginia Woolf herself, to develop a voice to which people will listen:
Each of the ladies, being after the fashion of their sex, highly trained in promoting men’s talk without listening to it, could think—about the education of children, about the use of fog sirens in an opera—without betraying herself. Only it struck Helen that Rachel was perhaps too still for a hostess, and that she might have done something with her hands.
“Perhaps—?” she said at length, upon which they rose and left, vaguely to the surprise of the gentlemen, who had either thought them attentive or had forgotten their presence.
Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out (1915) chp. 1
Its strange, weird actually, but I recognize this situation so very well. I still meet it when I, every now and then, spend time with men that are older than myself. How they can talk and talk and talk without paying any attention to the fact that they are in the company of smart(er) and (more) interesting women – with important stories to tell …
Is it still more difficult for a woman than a man to find her own voice?