Analysis Of Mary Rousseau 's ' A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman ' Essay

Analysis Of Mary Rousseau 's ' A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman ' Essay

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This analysis endeavours to understand a bundle of quotes extracted from the work of Wollstonecraft, particularly her theories within “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”. Firstly, we will primarily deal with Wollstonecraft’s relationship with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and her vehement critique of his views on education and women in general. The second paragraph will attempt to contextualise her views per the historical and cultural events occurring around the time of writing, and debate whether Wollstonecraft’s theories were ‘male-orientated’ to compensate for her audience, or if through socialisation she genuinely believed women to be the imperfect ones, and that is was the responsibility of men to educate and validate their presence.
Firstly, let’s address the first line -
“From the tyranny of man, I firmly believe, the greater number of female follies proceed;…”. (Wollstonecraft, [1792] 1992: 318)
This line, particularly as it belongs to Wollstonecraft’s critique of Rousseau’s ideas on gender inequality and education, has rather more significance than it’s given credit. Rousseau detailed how class inequality was a social construct; arguing that the founder of civil society was “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought of himself as saying ‘this is mine’ and found people simple enough to believe him” (Rousseau, 1755). Rather than being a natural part of human life, class inequality can be argued to be artificial – a product of social conditions and socialisation. However, the main issue that Wollstonecraft takes with Rousseau’s approach is that he sees gender inequality as natural; this seems frankly illogical and at odds with his other views on various social inequalities. Rousseau argues that women are p...


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...ssary” (Janes, 1978). However, that isn’t to say that her ideas were taken on by the academic community wholeheartedly; in fact, of the two models for resolution she proposed, her suggestion that women be allowed into the public sphere was the most rejected, and in certain circles deemed too romantic (Enfield, 1792). Her second model – that women should be educated on how to be ‘rational wives and mothers’ – was much more accepted. This, in part, was why women were allowed to be educated in the same way as men before they gained the vote and access to government positions; an overall reluctance of the academic community to see women as anything but weak-minded and more suited for positions of motherhood. Perhaps this is why Rousseau’s theories were so popular; the profound disbelief of men that women can do anything (but wifely and motherly duties) without their help.

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