A vindication of the rights of woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
In the present state of society, it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground.
This is one of the earliest books of feminist writing out there. In it Wollstonecraft argues in favour of the rights of women, in favour of educating women, in favour of treating men and women equally. But because it was written so long ago, 1792, a lot of what she has to say sounds very out-dated and obvious to modern readers. Or at least I hope it does. As such it was a good choice to start of the Year of Feminist Classics, as it does a great job at setting the scene. And of showing how far we have come. Although it could be argued that we have a lot further to go.
To be totally honest though I found Wollstonecraft’s manner and style of writing quite irritating. She seemed so full of her self, and sure that she was right. Superior to everyone, almost. Of course, I agree with her that women are the equal to men, and deserve the same education and respect. But her dismissing any women but those from the middle classes. The lives of lower class women do not feature here, unless they are maids or servants. In a way I can understand that, she is writing a specific argument and so must limit her topic, nevertheless it does seem overly dismissive. And her attitude to the “savages”! Well, she speaks as a person from that time understood the world I suppose, so I shouldn’t be anachronistic and criticize her for that. Even if it did grate.
The major issue I had with the book was actually Wollstonecraft’s attitude towards other women. They are all foolish, or silly. Even those well respected by others. They use their “low cunning” to enslave men because they have not been educated to use reason for the greater good.
But that is unfair of me. She says at many times that it is because of how women are educated, or the lack of an education they receive that women act this way. And this is a historical document much more than a modern sociological or political essay.