Daily Archives: Friday 13 March 2009

Friday Feminist – Mary Wollstonecraft (4)

Cross posted

For Miss Ten

Consider, I address you as a legislator, whether, when men contend for their freedom, and to be allowed to judge for themselves respecting their own happiness, it be not inconsistent and unjust to subjugate women, even though you firmly believe that you are acting in the manner best calculated to promote their happiness? Who made man the exclusive judge, if woman partake with him of the gift of reason?

In this style, argue tyrants of every denomination, from the weak king to the weak father of a family; they are all eager to crush reason; yet always assert that they usurp its throne only to be useful. Do you not act a similar part, when you force all women, by denying them civil and political rights, to remain immured in their families groping in the dark? for surely, Sir, you will not assert, that a duty can be binding which is not founded on reason? If indeed this be their destination, arguments may be drawn from reason: and thus augustly supported, the more understanding women acquire, the more they will be attached to their duty—comprehending it—for unless they comprehend it, unless their morals be fixed on the same immutable principle as those of man, no authority can make them discharge it in a virtuous manner. They may be convenient slaves, but slavery will have its constant effect, degrading the master and the abject dependent.

But, if women are to be excluded, without having a voice, from a participation of the natural rights of mankind, prove first, to ward off the charge of injustice and inconsistency, that they want reason,—else this flaw in your NEW CONSTITUTION, the first constitution founded on reason, will ever shew that man must, in some shape, act like a tyrant, and tyranny, in whatever part of society it rears its brazen front, will ever undermine morality.

Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792

“Mary Wollstonecraft rocks” – more on raising feminists

Those of you who know me IRL, and those of you have been reading my blog for a while will perhaps be aware that my daughters are the most intelligent, likable, delightful, caring, beautiful girls in the world. I am outrageously proud of them.

I’m sure I will write about each of them on occasion, but today I am feeling particularly outrageously proud of my elder daughter, Miss Ten. As part of her school homework, she is required to read aloud to me for 5 minutes, once a week. Last week, she found some political theory notes I had written for a course I delivered a few years ago, and she read the section on Plato’s theory of the forms (it’s useful to know about them when you are reading The Republic). So she decided would read it out loud to me. But I directed her to another section of the notes, about Mary Wollstonecraft. Hard going, for a ten year old. But she’s a bright kid, and there’s good reason to stretch her, and even better reason to start to introduce her to some of the great women who have come before us, and made the world a better place for us.

Miss Ten read the section competently, and then turned to me and said, “Mary Wollstonecraft rocks!”

Well yes, dear, she does, I thought. We talked a little more about her, and then she started heading off to bed. As I was helping her to straighten her room (a nightly task because she really does prefer to store things on the floor), Miss Ten said, “You know, she [Wollstonecraft] was even more amazing because it must have been much harder to be feminist back then.”

I’ve taught university students who have been incapable of assessing a person in the context of their own times.

Miss Ten says she wants to be a feminist when she grows up. I think she’s one already.

[/proud mother rant over]