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VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN by Mary Wollstonecraft


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Author Topic: VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN by Mary Wollstonecraft  (Read 911 times)
Callisto
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« Reply #135 on: March 22, 2009, 03:52:55 pm »

  SECT. V.

  As the rearing of children, that is, the laying a foundation of
sound health both of body and mind in the rising generation, has
justly been insisted on as the peculiar destination of woman, the
ignorance that incapacitates them must be contrary to the order of
things. And I contend that their minds can take in much more, and
ought to do so, or they will never become sensible mothers. Many men
attend to the breeding of horses, and overlook the management of the
stable, who would, strange want of sense and feeling! think themselves
degraded by paying any attention to the nursery; yet, how many
children are absolutely murdered by the ignorance of women! But when
they escape, and are destroyed neither by unnatural negligence nor
blind fondness, how few are managed properly with respect to the
infant mind! So that to break the spirit, allowed to become vicious at
home, a child is sent to school; and the methods taken there, which
must be taken to keep a number of children in order, scatter the seeds
of almost every vice in the soil thus forcibly torn up.

  I have sometimes compared the struggles of these poor children,
who ought never to have felt restraint, nor would, had they been
always held in with an even hand, to the despairing plunges of a
spirited filly, which I have seen breaking on a strand: its feet
sinking deeper and deeper in the sand every time it endeavoured to
throw its rider, till at last it sullenly submitted.

  I have always found horses, animals I am attached to, very tractable
when treated with humanity and steadiness, so that I doubt whether the
violent methods taken to break them, do not essentially injure them; I
am, however, certain that a child should never be thus forcibly
tamed after it has injudiciously been allowed to run wild; for every
violation of justice and reason, in the treatment of children, weakens
their reason. And, so early do they catch a character, that the base
of the moral character, experience leads me to infer, is fixed
before their seventh year, the period during which women are allowed
the sole management of children. Afterwards it too often happens
that half the business of education is to correct, and very
imperfectly is it done, if done hastily, the faults, which they
would never have acquired if their mothers had had more understanding.

  One striking instance of the folly of women must not be omitted.-
The manner in which they treat servants in the presence of children,
permitting them to suppose that they ought to wait on them, and bear
their humours. A child should always be made to receive assistance
from a man or woman as a favour; and, as the first lesson of
independence, they should practically be taught, by the example of
their mother, not to require that personal attendance, which it is
an insult to humanity to require, when in health; and instead of being
led to assume airs of consequence, a sense of their own weakness
should first make them feel the natural equality of man. Yet, how
frequently have I indignantly heard servants imperiously called to put
children to bed, and sent away again and again, because master or miss
hung about mamma, to stay a little longer. Thus made slavishly to
attend the little idol, all those most disgusting humours were
exhibited which characterize a spoiled child.

  In short, speaking of the majority of mothers, they leave their
children entirely to the care of servants; or, because they are
their children, treat them as if they were little demi-gods, though
I have always observed, that the women who thus idolize their
children, seldom shew common humanity to servants, or feel the least
tenderness for any children but their own.

  It is, however, these exclusive affections, and an individual manner
of seeing things, produced by ignorance, which keep women for ever
at a stand, with respect to improvement, and make many of them
dedicate their lives to their children only to weaken their bodies and
spoil their tempers, frustrating also any plan of education that a
more rational father may adopt; for unless a mother concur, the father
who restrains will ever be considered as a tyrant.

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Callisto
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« Reply #136 on: March 22, 2009, 03:53:15 pm »

But, fulfilling the duties of a mother, a woman with a sound
constitution, may still keep her person scrupulously neat, and
assist to maintain her family, if necessary, or by reading and
conversations with both sexes, indiscriminately, improve her mind. For
nature has so wisely ordered things, that did women suckle their
children, they would preserve their own health, and there would be
such an interval between the birth of each child, that we should
seldom see a houseful of babes. And did they pursue a plan of conduct,
and not waste their time in following the fashionable vagaries of
dress, the management of their household and children need not shut
them out from literature, or prevent their attaching themselves to a
science, with that steady eye which strengthens the mind, or
practising one of the fine arts that cultivate the taste.

  But, visiting to display finery, card-playing, and balls, not to
mention the idle bustle of morning trifling, draw women from their
duty to render them insignificant, to render them pleasing,
according to the present acceptation of the word, to every man, but
their husband. For a round of pleasures in which the affections are
not exercised, cannot be said to improve the understanding, though
it be erroneously called seeing the world; yet the heart is rendered
cold and averse to duty, by such a senseless intercourse, which
becomes necessary from habit even when it has ceased to amuse.

  But, we shall not see women affectionate till more equality be
established in society, till ranks are confounded and women freed,
neither shall we see that dignified domestic happiness, the simple
grandeur of which cannot be relished by ignorant or vitiated minds;
nor will the important task of education ever be properly begun till
the person of a woman is no longer preferred to her mind. For it would
be as wise to expect corn from tares, or figs from thistles, as that a
foolish ignorant woman should be a good mother.

                        SECT. VI.

  It is not necessary to inform the sagacious reader, now I enter on
my concluding reflections, that the discussion of this subject
merely consists in opening a few simple principles, and clearing
away the rubbish which obscured them. But, as all readers are not
sagacious, I must be allowed to add some explanatory remarks to
bring the subject home to reason- to that sluggish reason, which
supinely takes opinions on trust, and obstinately supports them to
spare itself the labour of thinking.

  Moralists have unanimously agreed, that unless virtue be nursed by
liberty, it will never attain due strength- and what they say of man I
extend to mankind, insisting that in all cases morals must be fixed on
immutable principles; and, that the being cannot be termed rational or
virtuous, who obeys any authority, but that of reason.

  To render women truly useful members of society, I argue that they
should be led, by having their understandings cultivated on a large
scale, to acquire a rational affection for their country, founded on
knowledge, because it is obvious that we are little interested about
what we do not understand. And to render this general knowledge of due
importance, I have endeavoured to shew that private duties are never
properly fulfilled unless the understanding enlarges the heart; and
that public virtue is only an aggregate of private. But, the
distinctions established in society undermine both, by beating out the
solid gold of virtue, till it becomes only the tinsel-covering of
vice; for whilst wealth renders a man more respectable than virtue,
wealth will be sought before virtue; and, whilst women's persons are
caressed, when a childish simper shews an absence of mind- the mind
will lie fallow. Yet, true voluptuousness must proceed from the
mind- for what can equal the sensations produced by mutual
affection, supported by mutual respect? What are the cold, or feverish
caresses of appetite, but sin embracing death, compared with the
modest overflowings of a pure heart and exalted imagination? Yes,
let me tell the libertine of fancy when he despises understanding in
woman- that the mind, which he disregards, gives life to the
enthusiastic affection from which rapture, short-lived as it is, alone
can flow! And, that, without virtue, a sexual attachment must
expire, like a tallow candle in the socket, creating intolerable
disgust. To prove this, I need only observe, that men who have
wasted great part of their lives with women, and with whom they have
sought for pleasure with eager thirst, entertain the meanest opinion
of the sex.- Virtue, true refiner of joy!- if foolish men were to
fright thee from earth, in order to give loose to all their
appetites without a check- some sensual wight of taste would scale the
heavens to invite thee back, to give a zest to pleasure!

  That women at present are by ignorance rendered foolish or
vicious, is, I think, not to be disputed; and, that the most
salutary effects tending to improve mankind might be expected from a
REVOLUTION in female manners, appears, at least, with a face of
probability, to rise out of the observation. For as marriage has
been termed the parent of those endearing charities which draw man
from the brutal herd, the corrupting intercourse that wealth,
idleness, and folly, produce between the sexes, is more universally
injurious to morality than all the other vices of mankind collectively
considered. To adulterous lust the most sacred duties are
sacrificed, because before marriage, men, by a promiscuous intimacy
with women, learned to consider love as a selfish gratification-
learned to separate it not only from esteem, but from the affection
merely built on habit, which mixes a little humanity with it.
Justice and friendship are also set at defiance, and that purity of
taste is vitiated which would naturally lead a man to relish an
artless display of affection rather than affected airs. But that noble
simplicity of affection, which dares to appear unadorned, has few
attractions for the libertine, though it be the charm, which by
cementing the matrimonial tie, secures to the pledges of a warmer
passion the necessary parental attention; for children will never be
properly educated till friendship subsists between parents. Virtue
flies from a house divided against itself- and a whole legion of
devils take up their residence there.

  The affection of husbands and wives cannot be pure when they have so
few sentiments in common, and when so little confidence is established
at home, as must be the case when their pursuits are so different.
That intimacy from which tenderness should flow, will not, cannot
subsist between the vicious.

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Callisto
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« Reply #137 on: March 22, 2009, 03:53:30 pm »

Contending, therefore, that the sexual distinction which men have so
warmly insisted upon, is arbitrary, I have dwelt on an observation,
that several sensible men, with whom I have conversed on the
subject, allowed to be well founded; and it is simply this, that the
little chastity to be found amongst men, and consequent disregard of
modesty, tend to degrade both sexes; and further, that the modesty
of women, characterized as such, will often be only the artful veil of
wantonness instead of being the natural reflection of purity, till
modesty be universally respected.

  From the tyranny of man, I firmly believe, the greater number of
female follies proceed; and the cunning, which I allow makes at
present a part of their character, I likewise have repeatedly
endeavoured to prove, is produced by oppression.

  Were not dissenters, for instance, a class of people, with strict
truth, characterized as cunning? And may I not lay some stress on this
fact to prove, that when any power but reason curbs the free spirit of
man, dissimulation is practised, and the various shifts of art are
naturally called forth? Great attention to decorum, which was
carried to a degree of scrupulosity, and all that puerile bustle about
trifles and consequential solemnity, which Butler's caricature of a
dissenter, brings before the imagination, shaped their persons as well
as their minds in the mould of prim littleness. I speak
collectively, for I know how many ornaments to human nature have
been enrolled amongst sectaries; yet, I assert, that the same narrow
prejudice for their sect, which women have for their families,
prevailed in the dissenting part of the community, however worthy in
other respects; and also that the same timid prudence, or headstrong
efforts, often disgraced the exertions of both. Oppression thus formed
many of the features of their character perfectly to coincide with
that of the oppressed half of mankind; or is it not notorious that
dissenters were, like women, fond of deliberating together, and asking
advice of each other, till by a complication of little contrivances,
some little end was brought about? A similar attention to preserve
their reputation was conspicuous in the dissenting and female world,
and was produced by a similar cause.

  Asserting the rights which women in common with men ought to contend
for, I have not attempted to extenuate their faults; but to prove them
to be the natural consequence of their education and station in
society. If so, it is reasonable to suppose that they will change
their character, and correct their vices and follies, when they are
allowed to be free in a physical, moral, and civil sense.*

  * I had further enlarged on the advantages which might reasonably be
expected to result from an improvement in female manners, towards
the general reformation of society; but it appeared to me that such
reflections would more properly close the last volume.

  Let woman share the rights and she will emulate the virtues of
man; for she must grow more perfect when emancipated, or justify the
authority that chains such a weak being to her duty.- If the latter,
it will be expedient to open a fresh trade with Russia for whips; a
present which a father should always make to his son-in-law on his
wedding day, that a husband may keep his whole family in order by
the same means; and without any violation of justice reign, wielding
this sceptre, sole master of his house, because he is the only being
in it who has reason:- the divine, indefeasible earthly sovereignty
breathed into man by the Master of the universe. Allowing this
position, women have not any inherent rights to claim; and, by the
same rule, their duties vanish, for rights and duties are inseparable.

  Be just then, O ye men of understanding! and mark not more
severely what women do amiss, than the vicious tricks of the horse
or the ass for whom ye provide provender- and allow her the privileges
of ignorance, to whom ye deny the rights of reason, or ye will be
worse than Egyptian task-masters, expecting virtue where nature has
not given understanding!

                        THE END
.

« Last Edit: March 22, 2009, 03:55:33 pm by Callisto » Report Spam   Logged
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