“A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” was written over 200 years ago. However, if it were not for some of the language clues I quite possibly could have been led to believe that this paper was written yesterday. Women today are still struggling with the issues spoke of in the paper.
Wollstonecraft compares woman to the flowers “planted in too rich a soil” its “strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty.” Just as a woman’s physical and mental strength were handicapped then. Corsets and petticoats kept women in bondage while creating a look concurrent with the style of the times. Girls are taught to be subservient to all men as young children, curbing any independence before the girl can get out of control. In today’s time we have cosmetic surgery and wonder-bras to help women attract men. And we have magazines and television shows telling us that women are simply sex slaves that might be allowed to work during the day if it is convenient for her spouse.
Women are “anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect.” Even today, some of the brightest women I know would rather spend the night flirting with some dunce than let on that they might actually have a brain and find a guy worth talking to. People say old habits die hard, and dependence, even if a false dependence, is definitely a habit we as women need to kick.
While Wollstencraft admits believing that men are physically stronger, she just as strongly believes that a woman’s brain is equal to that of a mans. In saying this she tries to convey that women will never be able to live without men completely, but that women should not allow themselves to believe they are of any less value than men simply because they do not embody brute strength.
Wollstencraft describes her fellow women as being in a “state of perpetual childhood.” That women, as individuals are unable to stand alone. Trying to show them that qualities held by respectable ladies (”delicacy of sentiment,” “refinement of taste,” “susceptibility of heart” etc. etc.) are practically interchangeable with “epithets of weakness.”
Next Wollstencraft goes into women’s education, and how it has improved slightly as compared to the years before, but still had a long way to go. And she points out that maybe these changes are for the wrong reasons. Just like today, young girls educations are being sacrificed. And just like today, this problem is slowly being rectified, but perhaps not with the girls best interests at heart. Studies are done on young girls learning styles, and amount of classroom time and all of the like today, but is it because the government is really worried about being unfair. Or is it simply to be politically correct, so that when asked this official or that official can say “Well I am for this and that, see?”
Wollstencraft wrote a paper in 1792, that is 208 years ago, and it has withstood the test of time. This paper and most of the issues discussed in the paper are still controversial even today. Can you imagine how much conflict this little paper must have caused back then? We learn from our history so as not to make the same mistake twice, but what about when today and yesterday are still intertwined with the same issues?