Friday, June 15, 2007

The Subjection of Women vs A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

“And this desire making mere animals of them, when they marry they act as such children may be expected to act: -- they dress; they paint, and nickname God’s creatures” (Wollstonecraft page 154). This statement alone lets the reader know that Mary Wollstonecraft had issues with women being treated differently than men. It amazes me A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft and The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mills are preaching the same topic, “equality”. Wollstonecraft compared the way women were being treated to weakness. Mills’ version of weakness was “natural”. He wanted to see the society go into an unnatural state and lean towards equality.

Wollstonecraft brought another perspective to the plate. She mentioned on page 153, “…the education of the rich tends to render them vain and helpless, and the unfolding mind is not strengthened by the practice of those duties which dignify the human character.” My interpretation is that the upper class women did not know what it meant to clean, cook, and tend to the children. Therefore they were missing out on the true human character. It’s like the Paris Hilton story; if you are given everything without having to work for it then you miss out on the true meaning of life. I feel that you have to go through something in order to grow yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Mill put a little twist on the perspective of education. On page 527, “They never should have been allowed to receive a literary education. Women who read, much more women who write, are, in the existing constitution of things,…” I interpreted this as Mill stating that women are powerful beyond their measure in spite of what man or the rest of the society may say or think. A woman’s education power was not as strong in the 1800s as it is in our society today. We still have some issues on the pay scales when a woman is petitioning for the same position as a man.

In supporting both Wollstonecraft and Mill’s stand on education, I can see it from both points. Without an education, life is more of a challenge but you learn the values of family, love, and life. With an education, you are always striving and reaching for the best to achieve more in life. If you find a perfect balance between the two, you can’t help but be the best you there is to be whether man or woman.

1 comment:

Jonathan.Glance said...


Good idea to revisit Mill's essay in conjunction with Wollstonecraft's. Although Mill never mentions her (probably because had he done so he would have weakened the persuasiveness of his argument, so notorious was her reputation), he was aware of and had read her Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Note that at the end of hsi essay, though, he is not actually advocating that women should not be educated--he is ironically stating an opinion he doesn't hold. The problem with irony, of course, is that it can be misunderstood.