The Inequality of Women in the Enlightenment

1528 words 7 pages
Battle of the Sexes: Inequality of Women During the Enlightenment The Enlightenment was a period when clusters of philosophers, writers, scholars, and aristocrats sharply debated standards and assumptions about women's rights in society. Issues that pertained to widening the women's sphere into more than just the household, questioning the ability of women to logic as men, and debating egalitarian co-educational opportunities for both boys and girls. This was a time when women started to come forth as intellectuals in response to the unbalanced status given to the “weaker” sex. Both male and female Enlightenment thinkers had opinions that spanned across each side of the issues. Jean-Jacque Rousseau, who in his novels, such as Emile, …show more content…

The ability to grasp truth and acuire knowledge of right and wrong is what seperates our race from the animal world, yet Rousseau believes women are not capable of possessing this kind of rationale (1). He claims that women are not these so-called, “rational creaturs,” and are simply slaves to their passions. Wollstonecraft agrees with Rousseau that women are problematic, but also offers an explanation to this assumption that women were born with these characteristics. Instead of claiming that women possessed these traits from birth, Wollstonecraft argues that it is the parents who raise their daughters up to be submissive and domesticated (4). If both sexes were granted the same treatment from birth to maturity, then the grounds to believe women are inferior to men would not exist. Not only should boys, but also girls should be encouraged at an early age to develop their minds, practice rational thought, and reach his or her own potential. This would demonstrate that if given the same opportunities, girls can have the mindset to practice logic, and inevitably begin the path to being seen as equivalent to men. Wollstonecraft implies that, “The being who discharges the duties of its station is independent; and, speaking of women at large, their first duty is to see themselves as rational creatures” (Wollstonecraft, Enlightenment Reader, Page 623). Not only


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