In the year 1869, John Stuart Mill published a controversial essay, “The Subjection of Women”, that advocated equality between sexes in a male-dominant society. In this essay, I will demonstrate that Mill’s analysis regarding the systematic subjection of women, by an education system producing conventional “womanly” characters favorable to men, is correct. However, I will argue that this analysis does not apply to today due to the advancement of the political rights and powers, progression of social equality, and improved economic conditions of women in countries with high education indexes. The education index is referring to the statistics on literacy rate, gross enrollment ratios, and other factors compiled by the UN that determine which countries have exemplary education.
In Mill’s analysis, he likens the subjection of women to the relationship between a master and a slave. Whereas the master commands the slave’s obedience through fear and force, according to Mill, men subject women through an institutionalized form of education. This system of education instills the idea that “all women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite of that of men; not self-will, and government by self-control, but submission and yielding to the control of others” (Mill 22). Furthermore, Mill mentions this method fulfills man’s desire to acquire the obedience of women through their willing disposition unlike the obedience found in a master-slave relationship. Mill’s analysis is further fueled from citations of examples of similar relationships throughout history such as plebian to patrician and serf to seigneur that solidifies the argument that men had subtly enslaved women’s minds. Ultimately, in this form of education, women conform into believing that conventional “womanly” characters were most desirable.
Mill’s analysis is grounded in the context of Victorian period Britain, where conservative ideals were common in practice and in law. Mill’s analysis of the subjection of women can most clearly be seen through Victorian conservatism. In mid-Victorian Britain women were denied entry into higher education, many male professions and completely from politics. A woman’s career at the time was a conformed path that led to marriage and housework. A woman ceased to be a separate from her husband and under law; her property, will, and being became her husband's (Wojtczak). Essentially, Mill was correct that men enslaved women’s mind through their education but also through politics through much of the Victorian era.
Though Mill’s analysis is correct, as previously mentioned, the argument was made in the context of the Victorian Era. Thus, Mill’s analysis fails to extend to today. The most prominent examples can be seen in the advancement of the political rights and powers of women. Many nations have granted women’s suffrage throughout the 20th century. However, in 1979, the most transcendent...