Oppression Of Manhood

1753 Words 8 Pages
In her famous work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about the oppression women in society face, and the ways in which they are denied an equal chance to participate in society and make the best choices for themselves. Many of Wollstonecraft’s arguments are connected not only with women, but with the conceptions of manhood prevalent at the time. Through revealing social norms and double standards towards women in society and references to other prominent writers of the age, Wollstonecraft shows that, while manhood was equated with freedom, reason, intelligence and superiority, the conception of manhood lacked responsibility and accountability. The pressure of remaining virtuous was placed solely on women, Wollstonecraft …show more content…
Wollstonecraft argues that the “novels, music, poetry, and gallantry” of the time have portrayed female characters as only developing through successfully adhering to the traditional roles for women in society. Wollstonecraft briefly discusses the term ‘masculine’. She seems to believe that when men criticize ‘masculine women’, they do not necessarily refer to women wish to engage in activities considered manly such as hunting, (which Wollstonecraft seems to agree are inappropriate for women) they also refer to women who aspire to rise above the station which society allotted them. Wollstonecraft calls on women to “to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body” (pg. 5), and to become “more respectable members of society” (pg. 6). Wollstonecraft calls on women to understand that terms like “elegance” and “refinement” , which women have come to pride themselves in, are actually synonymous with weakness and points out that women who seek to be respected are “hunted out of society as masculine" (pg. 23) . Wollstonecraft further shows that women are largely excluded from being associated with qualities such as knowledge and reason through referencing …show more content…
Wollstonecraft says “the two sexes mutually corrupt and improve each other,” and argues that if women are required to be modest, chaste and virtuous, then men must be held to the same standards. Wollstonecraft continues by saying that though men are not punished by society for acting contrary to some of these principles as women are, there are serious moral and societal consequences for both men and women when the concept of manhood lacks responsibility. She writes in the dedication of the text that men should be taught “not only to respect modesty in women, but to acquire it themselves” (pg. 2). Wollstonecraft also argues against the idea of the inherent virtue and morality of manhood, but calls instead for both young men and young women to be taught virtue and reason together (pg. 24). She also insists that men also work hard and take seriously their roles as fathers of children (pg. 3). Wollstonecraft shows that there can be no virtue and sanctity as long as manhood still remains disconnected from moral responsibility and the same familial responsibilities as womanhood

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