The nature of womanhood, or what we perceive as the inherent proclivities that govern only those born as a woman, is often the base argument for the unequal treatment of the female sex. Women are weak, natural-born mothers, unfit to do much else beyond simple household chores and rearing children. This portrait of women seems almost comical in its antiquity; however, we cannot disregard the past, as it shapes the present. The question of the nature of womanhood is rarely allowed nuance, which is a shame, because womanhood can be many, often contradictory things. Instead, the traits we often associate with womanhood stem from society’s projection of what women should be, not necessarily what they are.
The society, and more precisely men, didn’t understand why the ‘weaker vessel’ should be educated, and thought it wasn’t important. Thus, women did not receive a very important education. Girls went to school to learn the basics, like reading and sometimes writing, but never stayed long . Girls were taught how to be good wife and a good mother, and to take care of her household. Fletcher explains that a woman ‘had been well-trained for the role of household manager in adolescence’ .
She gets to do so because her experience differs from man, and from any other woman, same race or otherwise. Woman is ever evolving and will defy definition as time passes. In Beauvoir’s introduction she doesn’t offer a definition of woman, instead she offers how woman has been defined which is intriguing. Quoting Aristotle Beauvoir writes, “The female is female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities. We should regard
Throughout history, women have had to fight against stigma and stereotypes in society. In every era, from the ancient world to present day, females have been persecuted and taken advantage of due to their gender. In our previous set of readings, the female protagonists were strong characters who defied weak stereotypes, but were still viewed as lesser beings than men. In our second group of readings, where were written more recently, women saw a slight increase in their sovereignty. All depict women as powerful figures who use their wits to make a better life for themselves.
The four virtues women were expected to live by were piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. The ideal women who upheld and reinforced traditional American gender norms and expectations in American history were Anne Bradstreet, the Republican Mothers, and women like Catherine Beecher who followed the Cult of True Womanhood. Anne Bradstreet
Hannah Webster Foster formulates a tale that, on the surface, appears as a novel warning women against seduction, a common theme of the times. Marriage was seen as a necessity for women who desired financial stability and status, and being sexually seduced by a man would not provide a woman with these needs. Thus, the warnings against seduction and romanization of marriage were rampant. Upon further examination however, The Coquette has strong feminist undertones calling women towards the American ideal of freedom. This new nation claimed to be built upon the rock of freedom, while simultaneously oppressing women.
This reasoning has given rise to one of the biggest challenge women’s education faces: the belief that they should only be taught skills to please men and kept innocent like children. Wollstonecraft does not think otherwise that children should be kept innocent, but this can not be said for women, as “when the epithet is plied to men, or women, it is but a civil term for weakness”. In another words, Wollstonecraft is appealing to civic rights men own and demanding for women to share the same and the opportunity to educate themselves, because by owing this right they will at least have the chance to prove if they are worthy to “be considered as moral beings, or so weak that they must entirely subjected to the superiority faculties of men”. If Rousseau is so sure that women are inferior, why doesn’t he give them an opportunity, even if it is just to leave the discussion behind. However, if women had the same opportunities as men, according to Wollstonecraft they would be much stronger and active, and would prove men wrong on their assumptions of inferiority and that they should not be treated as
Mary Wollstonecraft devotes her life to feminism and “she fully believes that, if given the chance, women could be just as smart and virtuous as men are” (Shmoop Editorial Team, 2008). As a result, Mary Wollstonecraft doesn’t propose that women should be superior to men and as she wrote in From A Vindication of the Rights for Women, "I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves" (Kwatra, H.,2013). Besides, in Vindication, Mary Wollstonecraft also expresses that although women might be less physically strong than men, they shouldn’t be considered to be weaker than men totally and the reason is that physical strength is not the only point to evaluate one’s ability in modern world (Romantic Period). As a consequence, in addition
Similarly to with education, Wollstonecraft is a strong critic of Rousseau’s ideas in relation to socialization. It can be inferred from Rousseau’s work that he believes that women are innately subservient as he believes that their central purpose in life is to please men. Wollstonecraft uses Rousseau’s work titled Emilius and Sophia: Or, a New System of Education to exemplify this notion as she mentions two characters from the piece named Sophia and Emilius who abide by stereotypical gender norms (Wollstonecraft, 78). Using these characters, Rousseau attempted to prove that “woman ought to be weak and passive, because she has less bodily strength than man and hence infers, that she was formed to please and to be subject to him” (Wollstonecraft, 78). Although Wollstonecraft agrees with Rousseau that women are biologically not as strong as men, she does not believe that physical strength is a reason for women to be seen as subsidiary to men.
Wollstonecraft 's contribution to the philosophy of feminism, the book is called A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), in which she takes the philosophies of the Enlightenment to task, especially Rousseau, for often misusing their vaunted Reason. She also had many other complaints: Wollstonecraft decries the “brainwashing” of women of her day, forcing them to fit into a social structure with no room for independence. Wollstonecraft advocates that the education of women should be to a degree equal to that of the men. Wollstonecraft express grief and sadness of the state of “spinsters,” the pejorative or worsen term for women, who for whatever the reason, the women never married. Wollstonecraft acknowledges that men are for the most part physically stronger than women, but Wollstonecraft argues that women have evolved beyond caveman ethics.