A Vindication of Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects is one of the first books of feminist philosophy written by Mary Wollstonecraft. This work was a response to the political and social theories that spread the belief that women should not be educated. Wollstonecraft declares that educated women can be an essential part of society, as well as true friends and companions of men, and not only ornaments to society.
A Vindication of Rights of Woman is devoted to the politician Talleyrand-Perigord urging him for thinking over women’s education. The author states that illiterate females cannot become equal friends, the fellow of man. Both men and women should have the same influence on political and social events. Furthermore, Wollstonecraft emphasizes that education is a kind of remedy for women as they are often oppressed and rejected by society due to ignorance. They cannot fulfill their potential because of household chores responsibilities. It can be inferred, that woman in the author’s time was neglected and treated like a minor being that thinks only about being fashionable, beautiful, and gentle. Mary Wollstonecraft states that with their ignorance they buy their candlewick. Illiteracy can be considered the main reason for women to be rendered subdued (Wollstonecraft 18). What is more, Wollstonecraft declares that deprived women deter progress, because she is part and parcel of society and influences it. If men struggle for high standards of life, they should stop treating women as subordinate beings. Illiteracy deprives them of the ability to defend their fundamental rights. Therefore, education is a fundamental right of women which cannot be scorned (Wollstonecraft 19).
Firstly, women are taught about the importance of paying attention only to their appearance, as well as about the need to demonstrate weakness and to be gentle for others. Women cannot become independent, because they do not have a profession. Since independence is perceived as the grand blessing of life, the basis of self-esteem, a woman is highly possible to remain a factual slave kept at her home, interested only in her inclines – modesty, innocence, and kindness. The author states that virtue cannot be connected to gender. Both sexes were created by God and own souls. They have the same needs to develop their potential and realize their talents. Dependence is not normal for women as human beings, hence they should not be confined at home, unable to participate in public life.
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Secondly, without education, skills, and knowledge women are likely to become bored and humiliated. The author believes that only education can give them the power to change their destiny, and therefore, she wants to foster a female’s desire to struggle for their rights. Respecting a sexual character is of paramount importance for modern education. Women should be the equal companion of man and with this respect, education can prepare them to cooperate with a man on equal principles (Wollstonecraft 14). One half of the human race cannot be excluded by another half. Thus, women cannot be deprived of the right to take part in politics, social life, and economy and so on. What is more, both men and women should gain an education, by the opinions and manners of the social environment they live in.
The writer compares men of her time with tyrants of different levels, from the nasty king to the bad father of the family. Men are tyrants when they deprive all women of the possibility to participate in social life and make their own decisions. Women may be slaves, but slavery will also have a deteriorating impact on the slave-holder, degrading him. Men’s behavior frequently undermines morality. Apart from the above mentioned, dependent situation and domestic employments made women unable to follow one branch persistently concentrating on it; as the result, they learn everything without immersing in it completely and gain some knowledge rather accidentally. Women were taught to please and live fulfilling this purpose (Wollstonecraft 15). Therefore, knowledge can strengthen women’s minds, open their eyes and change their perspectives.
Rousseau declares that women should not feel independent, but contrariwise, she should be scared to show their abilities to compete with men. He states that the woman was created to be a sweet companion to the man. Dancing, singing, craft as the only education available for the woman was directed towards one point- to make men satisfied and elated. Men should protect women instead of keeping them in the state of childhood all the time since children can be innocent, but when this term is applied to a man or women it means fragility (Wollstonecraft 21). The woman who flexes her body and intellectual muscles will become a true friend of her husband, not an infant child that lacks protection.
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An inappropriate education, a narrow mind, and prejudices make women steadier than men. The former is very beneficial for the latter when uneducated because they are not demanding. The absence of complaints, the ability to please her man and care about children constituted women’s primary responsibilities. The woman is taught that she can only be extremely happy with a husband, who loves her with an ever-increasing pace day by day. Thus, having obtained a husband, she reached her purpose. What is more, a woman should not be melancholic as long as it is man’s feature. The virtuous wife should be passive, ignorant because such obedience makes her a good wife.
Although the superiority of the man is based on the physical strengths, real relationships between sexes should be built on an intellectual basis. Talents, virtues, abilities are the same for both sexes. Women are not only moral but intellectual beings, and it is by no means right that men sublimated regarding their physical and mental strength, while women are advised to be proud of their weakness, cunning nature, obtained by dealing with men’s desires and passions. If the woman is weaker, why should she do physical work at home?
Even today some people are sure that feminism is a worship that inspires women to gain power over men, defeat them, and make them slaves. Conversely, feminism propagates equality, and Wollstonecraft wants to explain that men and women are completely even in their rights. The Vindication of the Rights of Women was the opponent of the new French Constitution, where women’s rights were oppressed (Wollstonecraft 34). This book was an inspiration to act confidently and was aimed to help women all over the world to understand their nature, needs, and desires.
To conclude, The Vindication of the Rights of Women urges all women to struggle for their rights. With this respect, they should obtain education which is powerful enough to make women stronger. Educated women will develop society, because they are responsible for the education of their children, thus of future generations.