Mary Wollstonecraft`s Vindication of the Rights of Woman
In ancient Greece, specifically Sparta, men and women were perfect equals. Women would even run the country while the men left to fight, or trained to fight. In old Scandinavia, both sexes were held to an equal power. In Amerindian culture, some even saw men as more expendable than women because women could bare children while men could not.
In many of these ancient cultures the sexes ere held as equals. Yet as time went on and the romans moved into international power, men were moved to a type of pedestal and women were seen as the weaker sex. By the time of the eighteenth century in England, wherein Mary Wollstonecraft (one of, if not the first, feminist writer) wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which se described how women were unfairly treated in society.
In this writing she talks about how the inequality among genders has led to further problems and that ideologies should shift in certain aspects of everyday life. Overall she truly makes a strong case to pursuing women’s rights, which is why the movement she began still exists to this day.
Initially, Wollstonecraft speaks about how women are treated and how they have essentially been mentally and psychologically stunted so as to keep them effeminate and polite. She even says, to the women reading, that she will speak sternly and strictly and that they should not feel offended even though people will often talk down to them or “too nicely” because they are women. Then she speaks about education and how generally being well versed or highly educated is seen, by men, as a manly thing to do. But of course, this is not so.
The topic of morality and goodness in itself is then explored, mostly through reason and basic assumptions of each sex. She speaks to three assumptions about humans as a species. The first is that all people have reason and that sets humans apart from animals, second is that there is moral goodness that makes some people better than others, the final is that G-d gave passion and temptations so as to test the virtue and goodness of others. This is essentially saying that men and women both are born with these different things and being a man does not make one immediately morally good nor a woman not being born with reason. All humans are born with these.
Yet in her time and place, Wollstonecraft was not shown this courtesy of equality. So she goes on to explain that the ideology men hold that women, like children, must have a sheltered education and life is not fair. She goes to speak that in the family environment women are also treated unfairly as the woman must care for the children and keep the home and is seen as purely codependent on a man.
Be it her father or husband, at all times women were seen as codependent. Even within these ideas, women were cared for less for their intelligence and instead more for beauty. A woman was not to be educated, stern and strong in her beliefs in and independent in her thoughts. Women were meant to be quiet, beautiful, and nearly subservient. Not equal to men in any way; the entire sex was infantilized by men. An idea that, now, seems horribly outrageous in all forms.
Wollstonecraft did not base said ideologies on simply her own thoughts, either. She strongly based them off of various thinkers, especially through those who came to the forefront of humanity during the European enlightenment. During the enlightenment, people moved out from the dark ages into a new age of secularized intelligence so as to push humanity (at least in Europe) forward. Wollstonecraft saw the enlightenment, and accompanying figures, to be those of pure reason and logic. The movement away from the iron-fisted Catholic Church allowed for secular logical thought and ideas with it.
Thus it would be believed that in the eyes of enlightenment, purely reasonable thinkers, all people would be equal. Wollstonecraft cited these ideas and moved with them. The idea was that if all were equal, why would men and women not be seen as equal? The enlightenment ideas helped to push and strengthen Wollstonecraft’s. It makes sense that she does this as well; she uses thoughts and ideas of male thinkers. Thus she is no longer simply a woman angry with her lot in life. She is a scholar backed by other scholars that the educated men should be looking up to and studying. It is a genius transfer technique that helps to secure her thoughts, because she is backed by writings of intelligent men.
Overall, I truly think Wollstonecraft was headstrong and knew exactly how to write and whom she was actually writing to and for. She wrote for the women that would read her works and agree, and for the men who would read it and disagree. As a woman her ideas, no matter how well thought out and intelligently proven, could be pushed aside as the ramblings of the “lesser sex” by men of that age. She employed other thinkers and took advantage of the times to push for a movement to make men and women equal in all eyes. It seems she has done well as in the modern day it truly seems both sexes are equal, her writing was strong and paid off.