The enlightenment, also referred to as the age of reason, was a 18th century philosophical movement. Key to this movement, was the emphasis its proponents placed on the rights of individuals, equality, and the use of reason/rationality to support beliefs. The writers in this period, like John Locke and Jean Rousseau, boasted this “enlightened” way as superior to that of the emotionally-driven Romantic period. However, to others, particularly feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, the ideals are sullied by the fact that women are not also incorporated into this movement that claims equality amongst its virtues. In her work, A Vindication of the Right of Woman, Wollstonecraft delineates the placement of women in this enlightened society. This paper will provide an examination of the various arguments made by Wollstonecraft against the supposed shortcomings of women in order to show that, though the author is accurate in her thought of including women, she fails to include all that could be said to support this claim.
The writers of the enlightenment claim that women in a state of nature are naturally inferior in strength compared to men. Wollstonecraft acknowledges this argument, as she uses the example of Jean Rousseau in her book. She accepts the claim that women are weaker physically, but she states that this is not reason enough to keep women from developing themselves in both body and mind. Wollstonecraft explains that, “men endeavor to sink us still lower, merely to render us alluring objects for a moment; and women, intoxicated by the adoration which men, under the influence of their senses, pay them, do not seek to obtain a durable interest in their hearts, or to become the friends of the fellow cre...
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... Wollstonecraft seems to be one of them few to unconditionally promote the ideals of equality and freedom. In the aforementioned work, she provides a compelling argument against the suppression of free play and education for girls and women solely on the basis of a natural inferiority. She proposes that this way should be changed to afford women equal chance to progress in society as has been had by men. In addition, she asserts that women, who have been conceived as mindlessly obedient have only been conditioned as such because they have been stripped of the right to seek out virtuous activities. Were women able to get an education outside of how to attract a husband she would not likely be so dependent on the entertainment of man.Wollstonecraft’s work is clearly an important work that paved the way for other women is pushing for the increased of rights of the sex.
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