Mary Wollstonecraft: A Feminist Analysis

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The first well documented feminist theorist in the Anglo-American tradition is Mary Wollstonecraft who produced a social theory of the subordination of women in her tract, A Vindication of Rights of Women (1972). Wollstonecraft engendered a political activism that has remained as the core of western feminism. Wollstonecraft examined the society in which she lived, a society in which liberal Individualism was becoming the dominant ideological formation of personhood and social organization. What she uncovered was a systematic inequality of women in all areas of life – the family, work, culture, economics, the law, education as well as the inconsistency of ideological positions that held this inequality in place.
The work A Vindication of Rights
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Their books A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) and The Subjection of Women (1869) anticipated all the observations and demands of the women's movements. Mary Wollstonecraft, in her book, attacks the prevailing education system that inculcates false notions of femininity in men and women, and hampers the development of reason and understanding in women. Mill contends that distinctions between men and women which go to show the inferiority of women are not natural, but artificial. He believes that what is needed is the enlightenment of womanhood which can be brought about by education, moral reforms and legal measures. He states that the abilities of men and women are not superior or inferior, but reciprocal. Later exponents of feminism like Simone De Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Kate Millet, Betty Friedan, Elaine Showalter, Helene Cixous, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigarayand many others carried on the fight for the equality of women. Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949), Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963) and Kate Millet's Sexual Politics (1969) are books that advocate this view. The writings of Toril Moi and Julia Kristeva have widened the scope of feminism. They challenge the biological determinism that said that women are biologically inferior to men and that social and cultural inferiority follow from this. They assert the value of women as women and counter the systematic devaluation of women.
Feminist critics have deconstructed the representation of women. The idealized images, stereotypes and archetypes have been studied from the female point of view. It has led to the re-interpretation of literature about women, whether written by men or women. The attempt is now to make visible the invisible woman or audible the mute woman; the woman who exists only as tangential to man and his

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