Title: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Author: Wollstonecraft, Mary
Length: Varies per edition
Original Published In: 1792
I apologize that I’ve been rather absent in the discussion for this book. It’s been a rather busy and hectic month for me with a lot going on – I certainly hope to do better in my next months! I am working my way through the comments and posts at the moment and hope to catch up soon. I would like to say thank you for your understanding and for making the discussion such a success! I’m absolutely loving reading all of the opinions – I love nothing more than a long discussion where we can all feel free to post our thoughts irrespective of if others agree with us or not. I’m so happy to see that we can have that here! This has been a success thanks solely to you!
I admit to also failing at completing this book – luckily I read it previously last year. My thoughts on it can be seen here (back from my early days, it’s rather shame inducing to link back to earlier posts sometimes isn’t it!). I still hold to what I said at the time – namely that it is interesting to think about how far we’ve come, and how some of her ideas and opinions still make me roll my eyes. Thinking on it now though and having read more background on the book and the discussions have made me come up with many more thoughts though.
First, her arguments against passion and how they are quite a contradiction both to the passion she shows in her writing and to the way she lived her life. I’ll address first her writing. I feel that the passion she argued against is the opposite of the passion she showed in her writing – one is a passion purely based on emotion and the latter is a passion based on ideas, opinions, and education. Does anyone else see these as two different passions?
As to the contradiction between her railings against the passions women showed and the way she lived her own life, this is a harder one for many reasons. In one sense I want to say that she should have practiced what she preached. In another sense I wonder if we don’t often talk about things in the ideal knowing that we are not yet there ourselves. Just because she didn’t live up to her own arguments, does that detract from her arguments or rather just show her as being as human as the rest of us? I’m unsure, really. She was rather vehement in them by times and doesn’t really address her own shortcomings. I am apt to let her off the hook as simply human though.
Second, it really is hard to read the book as an atheist in some senses. Her arguments are quite couched in religion and a Godly sense of duty. It’s hard for me to place myself in the time period, but I do believe that religion was a much larger presence in everyone’s life at that time. A lot of the arguments against women’s participating as active members of society was put in religious terms. If those are true (I’m showing here my lack of knowledge of the time, I know!) then it makes sense for her to use the terms both of her personal belief and of those she is arguing against. By maintaining their framework she would make it easier for them to understand and perhaps help to sway them. Such arguments would hold much less weight today given that religion isn’t as large a presence, and I believe her arguments would be different, so I feel it is really a matter of time and place that causes this.
The third thing that the discussion has impressed upon me is the quickness with which the book was writing and obvious need for editing that still shows itself. This makes me consider the background behind her writing and why it was written so quickly. I so wish that she had had the time and opportunity to write the second part as she had planned to. I would love to know what this second part would show.
Lastly, it is really hard to read the book and not get angry at some of Wollstonecraft’s arguments. She still thinks that women should be primarily mothers, that they are not as strong as men, that they shouldn’t try to be equal. All ideas that we would scoff at now… but it is important to remember, for myself anyway, when the book was written and the ideas and culture of the time. At the time this was a big step, and we wouldn’t have the ideas we have now if we hadn’t started with our feminism at some beginning point in history.
What do you think of my ideas and opinions from the discussion? I have seen arguments and discussions from all sides on all of these topics and I’ve really loved how it’s changed my opinions on some of the points. Now I want to know what you think! Do you agree with me? Disagree with me? Think I should be pelted with tomatoes (heh)? I’d love to know where you stand!
For the wrap-up of So Long a Letter yesterday I posted a summary of what the commenters had said up until the point of when I wrote it. With this book there have been such a huge amount of discussion posts and ideas that I am sorry to say that I won’t be able to do a wrap-up like that! Instead I will point you to the absolutely fantastic discussion that has been ongoing on the discussion post here.
If you have written about the book, please add your link using the link below.