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Women’s Inequality In Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women & Rousseau’s On The Origin Of Inequality

1174 words - 5 pages

Both Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft agree that in society women and men are not equals. Rousseau’s idea that socialization brings inequality in his Discourse On the Origin of Inequality is manipulated by Wollstonecraft in her A Vindication of the Rights of Women. She uses his arguments to prove that the inequality between men and women is not natural, but it comes from Rousseau’s idea of socialized inequality. The inequality experienced by women is a product of society, which Wollstonecraft tries to prove by uses Rousseau’s arguments about language and dependency.
Wollstonecraft seems to agree with Rousseau when she says, “that the female in point of strength is, in general, ...view middle of the document...

By putting women in the position of needing men, they are essentially enslaved. This is what Wollstonecraft is talking about when she says that women are considered in a “perpetual state of childhood” (Wollstonecraft, 9) as they are perpetually dependent. This dependence is comparable to the dependence created in slavery. When the systems of society keep them constantly dependent such as by excluding them from the labor force and refusing to acknowledge their rights as citizens. Slaves, though a part of the labor force could not earn money and thus were in a similar predicament as women although with worse physical implications. When writing on the topic of love, Rousseau says, “the moral aspect of love is an artificial sentiment born of social custom, and extolled by women with so much skill and care in order to establish their hegemony and make dominant the sex that ought to obey” (Rousseau, 56). Here Rousseau is eschewing love as an artifice and at the same time he voices his opinion that men are the dominant sex and women “ought to obey” them as if the men are their masters. If men are masters, the only position open to women is that of slaves. Wollstonecraft argues that women have a “slavish dependence” (9) imposed on them. Men already have superiority as far a strength she says but, “not content with this natural pre-eminence, men endeavour to sink us still lower” (8). She believes it is through the socialization process in which inequality between the sexes arises as well as the other kinds of inequality. This also undermines Rousseau’s argument in favor of women submitting to men as their dominance comes from their want for more control than they already have, being stronger than women. If Rousseau believes, “it is not so much understanding which causes the specific distinction of man from all other animals as it is his being a free agent” (Rousseau, 45), then he must think that women are like the other animals if they are meant to “obey”. However, women are free agents just as fully as men are. There is no reason that any sex should not have the same amount of agency as the other.
Rousseau believes that through socialization inequality occurs. It is not in the state of nature because there is no reason only instinct in Rousseau’s conception of the state and he postulates that, “reason is what engenders egocentrism, and reflection strengthens it” (54). Perhaps Wollstonecraft would argue that through men’s use of reason, they become egocentric and believe...

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