Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

In my opinion ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ is primarily a Romantic argument.  Throughout the entire introduction, chapter 1, and 2 Wollstonecraft talks about love and both internal and external change amongst men and women.  She consistently refers to the men of her society as tyrants who act just as the kings they overthrew in Paris.  She calls for the men to look at the new constitution and explain with ‘reason’ why women should not have the same rights as any man (Wollstonecraft, 289).  She further attacks man by calling them “ignorant beings” (289).  As I read Wollstonecraft’s work I found her writing and thoughts to be very entertaining and quite similar to how many modern women think.  It seems to me that according to Wollstonecraft it is natural for women to aspire to love and be loved, but she brings about the point that the education system for women tries to shape women into obedient wives whose sole purpose is to pleasure man.  She tries to get her fellow woman to not lose those natural instincts but instead grow in those abilities and virtues.  In doing so they will hopefully gain some respect from their male counterparts (292).  No human wishes to be walked on all over or is this just a modern day notion?  She says that if women continue to only desire to marry then this desire will make them “mere animals” (293).  The way Wollstonecraft discusses schooling for women almost reminds me of the schooling for modern day children.  Both are required to put away childish fantasies and reasoning in order for them to fit into what society calls this norm for adulthood but like Wollstonecraft I wonder if this is actually okay because just as Wollstonecraft points out we are fighting/ rewriting what should be an almost natural instinct.


One thought on “Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

  1. I could not agree more with you concerning your comments about the link that exists between Wollstonecraft’s arguments and the current situation. The theme of equality between men and women is omnipresent in our society, and it creates many debates. The emphasis on education she does is an important point : at that time, but also still at our time, predjudices in education and in culture prevent women from finding gender equality. But education, as Wollstonecraft emphasises on it, must be the starting point of a change in mentalities : “a profound conviction that the neglected education of my fellow-creatures is the grand source of the misery I deplore” (introduction).
    I also agree with you concerning the Romanticism aspects of this writing, especially concerning the different feelings women can have. However, I don’t believe that this extract is primarily a romantic argument. To me, the Enlightenments’ values are here clearly identifiables, particularly thanks to Wollstonecraft’s emphasis on reason. We can read in chapter 2 : “I wish to speak the simple language of truth, and rather to adress the head than the heart”. This simple sentence insists on reason, which is an Enlightenment’s value against which Romanticism values goes. Here, the head embodies the Enlightenment’s ideologies, whereas the heart embodies the Romanticism’s ones (heart being the place of feelings and passion, and this is the exact point she wants to prevent women from). Moreover, the fact that she wants to write simple sentences reminds me a kind of scientific way of writing : going straight to the point.
    Nevertheless, I won’t say that this extract comes exclusively under the Enlightenment’s ideologies, I will rather say that it is a mix of both movements.

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