Mary Wollstonecraft 1759-1797 Mother of feminism
Outline of the Presentation •The life story of Mary Wollstonecraft•The historical context of the 18th century •The analysis of ―A Vindication of the Rights of Woman‖
Wollstonecraft‘s opinion about sexuality• “Women are sexual beings, but so are men! Female chastity and fidelity is necessary for stable marriage, but requires the male ones, too.”
18th Century • anachronistic statement for this century in which a complete BLIND OBEDIENCE was expected from women
Historical Context of the 18th Century• the American Declaration of Independence (1776)• The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789)• questioning of traditional authority• philosophical debates on the nature of freedom and human rationality
REASON vs. EMOTION women were incapable of thefull development of reason by their very nature creatures of emotion and passion
ANGELS IN THE HOUSES supposed nature‗dependency‘ and biological role‗mothering‘
Biographical BackgroundMary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)• struggled withdifficulties caused by her father • played amaternal role for her sisters & mother • established a school with her sister, Eliza
Biographical Background Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)• In 1786, published her first work: Thoughts on the Education of Daughters based on her experience with the school.• became the governess in the family of Lord Kingsborough, living most of the time in Ireland.• Dismissed in 1787, returned to England and took up the traditional female jobs - needlework, governess, teaching
Biographical BackgroundMary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) • became translator and literary advisor to Joseph Johnson, the publisher of radical texts. • got acquainted with the intellectuals of the days such as Thomas Paine, William Blake, Henry Fuseli, and William Godwin.
Biographical BackgroundMary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)• In 1790, she produced her Vindication of the Rights of Man as a response to Edmund Burkes Reflections on the Revolution in France , which is a defense of constitutional monarchy, aristocracy, and the Church of England).• In 1792, she published her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, an important work which, advocating equality of the sexes, and the main doctrines of the later womens movement, made her both famous and infamous in her own time.
Biographical BackgroundMary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) • women, too, had a right to develop their faculties freely • the laws subjecting women to the fathers and husbands could be changed • their existing defects (and indeed their charms) resulted of social conditioning could be modified.
The famous comparison • fond of dress, trained in obedience, and not expected to think for themselves • education and socialization account for more differences than does gender role.
Paradox: got stuck between reason and passion• She fell in love with a married man, Henry Fuseli, and horrified his wife by suggesting that the three of them might live together, she was attacked most due to this unacceptable and unorthodox lifestyle• Then, she went to Paris met Gilbert Imlay, and agreed to become his common law wife (informal marriage used as a synonym for non-marital relationships
Biographical BackgroundMary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)• She bore him a daughter, Fanny, but then she learnt about his infidelities and attempted suicide twice. Finally, the relationship was Imlay was over.• She started to live with William Godwin .Although both of them were opposed to marriage in principle, they eventually married due to Marys pregnancy and to make the child legitimate.
Biographical Background Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)• During her marriage, she was working on a novel Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman, in which Mary asserted that women had strong sexual desires ,and it was degrading and immoral to pretend otherwise. This work alone sufficed to damn Mary in the eyes of critics throughout the following century. In August, a daughter Mary (who later became Shelleys wife), was born, and on September 10 the mother died of an infection
Biographical Background Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)• Godwin published his "Memoirs" of Wollstonecraft and her unfinished novel, Maria: or the Wrongs of Woman. His honesty in his memoirs of her troubled love relationships, her suicide attempts, her financial difficulties, all helped conservative critics to find a target to denigrate all womens rights.• The result? Many readers steered away from Mary Wollstonecraft. Few writers quoted her or used her work in their own, at least they did not do so publicly. Godwins work of honesty and love, ironically, nearly caused the intellectual loss of Mary Wollstonecrafts ideas.
A VINDICATION of the RIGHTS of WOMAN • attracted considerable hostility: Horace Walpole, for example, called Wollstonecraft ―a hyena in petticoats,‖ and for most of the nineteenth century the book was ignored because of its scandalous reputation.
A VINDICATION of the RIGHTS of WOMAN• In the late 20th • sexuality, century, literary • reason versus passion, critics and • slavery, philosophers began • the relevance of the to take great work to contemporary interest in struggles for rights, Wollstonecrafts • the unflattering treatise as one of portrayal of women, the founding works • the status of the work of feminism, and as a foundational discussed authors feminist text. attitudes toward
A VINDICATION of the RIGHTS of WOMAN •to what extent the text is feminist?
A VINDICATION of the RIGHTS of WOMAN• In 1791, two events • The 2nd was the took place report on education prompting given by Charles Wollstonecraft to Maurice de write her treatise: Talleyrand-Périgord the new French to the French Constitution, which National Assembly excluded women recommending that from all areas of girls education public life and should be directed to granted citizenship more subservient rights only to men activities over the age of 25.
A VINDICATION of the RIGHTS of WOMAN • .... Men are destined to live on the stage of the world. A public education suits them [...] The paternal home is better for the education of women; they have less need to learn to deal with the interests of others, than to accustom themselves to a calm and secluded life.
A VINDICATION of the RIGHTS of WOMAN• In her dedication, • In it, which is comprised ofWollstonecraft states 13 chapters, Wollstonecraft argues thatthat the main idea in • true freedom necessitates her book is based on equality of the sexes; the simple principle: • intellect, or reason, is ―if woman is not superior to emotion, or prepared by passion; education to become • persuade women to acquire the companion of strength of mind and bodyman, she will stop the • convince women that what progress of had traditionally been regarded as soft, ―womanly‖ knowledge and virtues are synonymous virtue‖ with weakness.
A VINDICATION of the RIGHTS of WOMAN • Wollstonecraft advocates education as the key for women to achieve a sense of self-respect and a new self-image that can enable them to live to their full capabilities.
ROUSSEAU vs. WOLLSTONECRAFT• In his work Emile, which described the ideal education “ Little girls of a young man, had always included a chapter on the dislike very different education of Sophie, Emile‘s future wife. learning to For Rousseau, men‘s and read and women‘s natures and abilities were not the same, and these write, but biologically given differences they are defined their whole role in society, with men becoming always ready citizens and women wives to sew”. and mothers.
ROUSSEAU vs.WOLLSTONECRAFT • ―I have, probably, had an opportunity of observing more girls in their infancy than Rousseau‖. • this kind of “femininity” is a social construct rather than being women’s true ability.
WOLLSTONECRAFT‘S REACTIONS • If men‘s and • As one ofwomen‘s common Wollstonecraft‘s humanity is contemporaries, based on their Mary Astell (1666-shared and ―God- 1761) said, ‗ given possession • If all men are of reason‖, how born free…how is can they be it that all women are born slaves?‘ irrational characters?
WOLLSTONECRAFT‘S REACTIONS • Because of that, • Besides the educationWollstonecraft insisted and knowledge, on the idea that women also neededwomen must be given to have independent knowledge and employment,education so that they property and the can make rational protection of the civil choices, and these law to be able to get rational choices are rid of the economic necessary for the necessity that lead betterment of the them into the forced society. marriages.
WOLLSTONECRAFT‘S REACTIONS • She expressed how women were ‗legally prostituted‘ through these forced marriages, and explained how men considered ‗females rather as women than human creatures‘ and how they were ‗anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers‘
Shortly, for Wollstonecraft, a womanwho is forced to perform traditional female roles will do so very badly, but if men • would... but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship, instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers - in a word, better citizens.
PARADOXICAL STATEMENTS Wollstonecraft did not expect that education andfreedom of choice would lead most women to reject their traditional role, but arguedthat they would enable themto perform better. She didn‘t accept the public/private split ;rather she sought to show that domestic duties, properly performed, were aform of rational citizenship: that is, they were to be seen as public responsibilities rather than a source of private satisfaction
The objections to these statements The problem with this is that in a world in which domestic duties are unpaid, the economic dependence of a woman upon her husband remains. By leaving women dependent on the goodwill of men to ‗snap their chains‘, the male monopoly of formal political and legal power is still survived. The predominantly domestic role Wollstonecraft outlines for women—a role that she viewed as meaningful—was interpreted by 20th-century feminist literary critics (and also for the ones in 21st) as paradoxically confining them to the private sphere.
Wollstonecraft accepts the definition ofher time that womens sphere is the home, BUT • she does not isolate the home from public life as many others did and as many still do. For Mary Wollstonecraft, the public life and domestic life are not separate, but connected. Men have duties in the family, too, and women have duties to the state.
Sounds good, but what are these duties?Here comes the opinion of Rousseau again about the women duties.• ―Why would any free • The wifes job, man bother to stick around long enough to simply put, is to help raise the children deceive the man and look after his wife into staying at if he didnt have to, home by sustaining since those are both large demands on ones for him the illusion free individuality— of his freedom, by especially to his serving his psychological freedom, psychological and his sense of being wholly independent?‖ sexual needs.
So, the husband will remain a loving parent and a good citizen, without ever sensing that his freedom is beingrestricted. Emiles independence paradoxically is going to depend upon Sophie - though he must never be aware of that. • If Sophie is to carry out all that Rousseau • What about wants her to do inWollstonecraft‘s maintaining Emiles sturdy sense ofreactions to this autonomy, she has to idea of have an educated Rousseau? reasonable intelligence in order to carry out her main task of sustaining the family.
The major problem in Rousseaus argumentIf women are to have the more difficult role insociety, if they have to understand men and societysufficiently well to protect the family,if they have to be educated for these tasks,then , the various things Rousseau wants themto be taught simply do not seem adequate.Wollstonecraft concludes her ideas by sayingthat―to deal with men in the way Rousseaudemands, surely women require the chance tolearn what men learn‖.
That is, Wollstonecraft wants true equality in education•because only when woman and man are equally free,•and woman and man are equally dutiful in exercise of their responsibilities to family and state,•can there be true freedom.
an education which recognizes her duty to educate her own children, to be an equal partner with her husband in the family, and which recognizes that woman, like man, is a creature of boththought and feeling: a creature of reason.
another major problem arises fromWollstonecraft‘s uncritical adoption of a concept of reason which is bound up with the need to subdue passion and emotion – qualities traditionallyassociated with the female.
ROUSSEAU vs. WOLLSTONECRAFT• Rousseau: the rule of • Wollstonecraft reason was to be was against the achieved by the idea that women exclusion of the were irrational objects of passion – creatures, women – from public because reason is life, because if women enter public a God-given life they not only possession and disrupt it but they men and women also destroy its are equal in the domestic eyes of God. foundations.
GOT STUCK between REASON & PASSION: Paradox again!She was angry with Rousseau, but shealso accepted that REASON involvedthe overcoming or control of love andpassion.Although she recognised the existenceof female sexuality, like love, must besubordinated to reason, so thatmarriage and motherhood must bebased on rational choice and duty.
FEMALE SEXUALITY & SENSIBILITY She is against false and excessive sensibility, particularly in women. She argues that women who are "the prey of their senses" cannot think rationally, because these women - due to the pleasure of the attention of men - actually prefer being considered as objects rather than as rational beings. She continues that ―women are told from their infancy, softness of temper and outward obedience will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, everything else is needless, for at least twenty years of their lives.
FEELING + THOUGHT = REASONReason and feeling are not independent forWollstonecraft; rather, she believes that they shouldinform each other.The goal, for Wollstonecrafts ethics, is to bring feeling andthought into harmony. The harmony of feeling andthought she calls reason. In bringing together feeling and thought, rather thanseparating them and dividing one for woman and one forman, Mary Wollstonecraft was also providing a critiqueof Rousseau, who desires to convert a woman into ―a coquettish slaveand a sweeter companion to man whenever he chooses torelax himself‖,because a woman who lacks reason and who is full ofpassion must be subject to the ‗superior faculties of man.‘
As part of her argument and defence to Rousseau Wollstonecraft advocates that women should not be overly influenced by their feelings, they should not be constrained by or made slaves to their bodies or their sexual feelings.
As part of her argument and defence to Rousseau IF WOMEN ARE NOT INTERESTED IN SEXUALITY, THEY CANNOT BE DOMINATED BY MEN.
Wollstonecraft advises her readers "calmly let passion subside into friendship" in the ideal companionate marriage. ―youth is the season for love in both sexes; but in those days of thoughtless enjoyment provision should be made for the more important years of life, when reflection takes place of sensation.‖ The ―more important years of life‖ were those that did not include attention based on appearance only, but on thought, reflection, and virtue.
As Mary Poovey explains• “Wollstonecraft • Wollstonecraft fears that until was so determined women can to wipe sexuality from her picture transcend their of the ideal fleshly desires woman, because if and fleshly the lustful desires forms, they will cannot be be hostage to controlled how the body.‖ women can be free and more rational.
To realize this dream,women should be given the same opportunities for growth and education as the great men of historyhad enjoyed, because both men and women are rational creatures.
But one concerned writer expressed that her life‗is totally inconsistent with the nature of a rational being‘when we consider her two illegitimate pregnancies, attempts to commitsuicide twice (almost successfully) and her letters to William Godwin full of vanity and passion, even though she argues that rationality would stop the passion for love.
To sum upWollstonecraft established the main guidelinesfor the future liberal feminist movement, whichsees access, education, and the changes in thelaws necessary to achieve those the keyelements in the struggle for womens equality.Today, it may be naïve to imagine that simplyequalizing educational opportunity will ensuretrue equality for women, but the century afterWollstonecraft was a progression of newlyopened doors for womens education, and thateducation significantly changed the lives andopportunities for women in all aspects of theirlives.
To sum up,Without equal and quality education for women,women would be doomed to Rousseaus vision ofa separate and always inferior sphere.Reading A Vindication of the Rights of Womantoday, most readers are struck with howrelevant some parts are, yet how archaic areothers.This reflects the enormous changes in the valuesociety places on womens reason today, ascontrasted to the late 18th century;but it also reflects the many ways in whichissues of equality of rights and duties are stillwith us today.
QUESTIONShould we, like Rousseau, insist that women,because they are not like men and because theyhave a special social role to play, especially inmarriage and family life, should be educated andtreated differently from men—with a specialemphasis on their lives as wives and mothers?Like Wollstonecraft, insist that men and womenshould, in all the most important social andpersonal roles, think of themselves as equal?And how does our decision on this thorny pointaffect our marriage and family life? BECAUSE Women become like men rather than developing fully as women.
THANKS A LOT FOR YOUR ATTENTION :) M. DERYANAZLIPINAR