Essay on Women's Rights: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
It is evident throughout this passage, that there holds a significance amongst the order she presents her ideas and her literary language. Not only does she speak on her value of order, as she believes it “is a most important precept” (135), but it is apparent amidst her writing. Beginning with the title of the passage, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the usage of the word vindication implies that there is prejudice against women’s rights.
The word itself can be defined as evidence that the subject is right, reasonable, or justified. Hence, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman asserts this belief that women have rights that should be acknowledged too amongst society. With that, her introduction to her primary concern, education, falls rather seamlessly after the title; undeniably linking the rights of women to education. She goes on to further use the word virtuous within the first paragraph of the passage, which is not coincidental, considering that it is a word touched on rather frequently by Rousseau, a philosopher who also wrote about education.
Within the rather short excerpt of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft cleverishly takes the ideas of Rousseau and simply applies it to women. Being this passage was published shortly after the French Revolution, which focused on the “universal principles of equality and reason”(133)., the birth of women’s right was inevitable. However, this idea that women had rights equal to men was still unheard of, so her method of taking an idea that was accepted into society and simply expanding it to women as a way to vindicate the rights of women was genius.
This shed light to the prejudice amongst the system held within their society, where power was indubitably given to men and women were simply seen as less than. Rousseau, the philosopher that she primarily talks about within this passage, believed that it was ridiculous to call anyone virtuous who did not use their own reasoning. Extending this claim to women, she elaborates that women were not thought of in this idea because of “false refinement” (134), in other words, distorted filtration, where women simply did not make the cut to be considered virtuous. Having said that, till the mindsets of the people change on a more rational principle, women who may not see their “illegitimate power” (134) as an issue will prove that they are less in mind than men. For the reason that, power can be given by something as subjective as beauty. Physical attributes thus become more important than within, disregarding the development of the mind.
Amidst the first page, Wollstonecraft takes on the position that writers such as Rousseau and Dr. Gregory, that touched on topics that dealt with female education and manners has caused women to be further seen as fragile beings, or in her words “artificial, weak characters” (134). Her choice of word, artificial, stood as extremely significant because it exemplified this idea of fake, plastic, and just completely unnatural. The struggle that women face to reach this perfect beauty is rather unnatural, taking steps toward an “artificial” being. Her decision to announce her disapproval towards certain writings only after she analyzes whether her objections “extends to the whole purport of those books” (134), illustrates her use of reason which ties in with her previous claim that women have minds that, too, can attain habits of virtues.
However, she plays devil’s advocate before she refutes the claim to further strengthen her position on the equality of men and women aside from the balance between the two. This short paragraph, supporting Rousseau, touches upon the balance between man and woman when they bind as one through marriage and how there lies some sense in the man standing as the foundation of the relationship and the women as the delicacy. That is if men could reach a “degree of perfection of mind when his body arrived at maturity” (135). Except, men don’t typically reach that perfection of mind and are actual children within the bodies of men. Thus, nullifying his claim of balance between the sex’s attributes.