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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

A masterpiece of feminist philosophy

By Mary Wollstonecraft
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  • Contains 6 key ideas
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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is a historical text that details the gender disparities of the eighteenth century. These blinks explain the ways in which women were subservient to men at this time, why the author wanted a fairer world to take shape and how she suggested it could be done.

Key idea 1 of 6

Women should not be looked down on as second-class citizens.

Ever since the Bible said that Eve was made from a piece of Adam’s rib for his entertainment, women have been considered mere servants to men. But if we want a fair society, this notion has got to change.

A first step would be for women to be better represented in society; for instance, by having a greater voice in literature. This may seem like a small step, but it’s quite profound. Men have always been able to express their views on women, perpetuating the idea that they’re lesser than men. Meanwhile, women have rarely been able to voice their disagreement. Such behavior is deemed unladylike. Plus, to prevent any kind of disagreement, women were often given mind-numbing stories to read and denied any educational materials that might help them think critically.

Ensuring that women had more meaningful representation in government would be another step in the right direction. Governments composed solely of men often fail to even consider the rights of women.

From there, we should enable women to become as virtuous as men. Women are deprived of this opportunity because real virtue can only be attained by understanding and doing – neither of which women are encouraged to do.

Instead, women are merely taught to appear virtuous. That is, they’re taught to focus on their beauty and grace rather than on their ability to reason and the intellectual power that would command true respect.

People do not come by such respect easily, they must earn it. Women are at a tremendous disadvantage here as they aren’t allowed access to the education needed to earn the type of respect that one man has for another. Women won’t be able to break down this barrier until they have access to the knowledge needed to develop virtuousness and make rational decisions that are beneficial to society.

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