The enlightenment was a period when writers and thinkers critically debated questions concerning the rights of women. It portrayed the issues of women as options that could be framed in terms of emancipation, liberty or even natural rights. The writers in this context brought about the diverse issues on the topic and gave their ideas as well as criticizing each other (Spielvogel). Mary Wollstonecraft wrote a book “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” in response to Rousseaus’ novels about the education of women to serve their husbands. This paper will discuss the arguments of each of the great thinkers by giving their ideologies and then focus on their comparison.
Rousseau’s’ urges women to remain submissive to their men to an extent where he says that women ought to remain closed in their houses and await decisions from their husbands and fathers. This clearly shows that he did not favor the equal rights for women. He continues to express his views through the way he addresses the women. He claims that women or rather girls should be thwarted from an early age and must be exercised to constraint so that it would not cost them anything to stifle their fantasies to submit them to the will of others. This also covers the responsibilities of both man and woman in the society. Man was supposed to cater for his family by providing protection and the basic needs while women were limited to the household chores and being submissive and helpful to their husbands as they were not allowed to carry out activities in the public sphere (Spielvogel, 153).
According to Rousseau, gender inequality emerged due to the aspect of colonization when women were only allowed to carry out domestic duties. The French also acquired this notion and were to implement it in their proposal to educate girls only up to the age of eight. Similarly, Rousseau describes womens’ ability to reason as impossibility. He claims that women were incapable of reasoning and that it should be left to men. In this view, he claimed that women could not become citizens but men could as they were trusted to exercise thought and reason. His arguments are not convincing and logic in any way as they only depict a woman as a servant who does not get to make her own decisions. She is portrayed as man’s assistant who should obey and comply with everything he says (Spielvogel, 23). Roosseau reference to nature means that he compares the occurrence of events in regard to how animals behave to the nature of humans.
Mary Wollstonecraft, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, is another philosopher who has been accredited for her great work. She criticized Rousseau’s’ work by claiming that women had the right to equal education as mean. She pointed out that she was not advocating for women to get an education in order to have power over men, but to possess power over them. She wanted women to gain education in order to become independent when she said “the most perfect education in my opinion is. to enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent.” (Spielvogel, 104). She also suggests that educating women would strengthen the marriage relationship. Wollstonecraft blames the discontent of women to the society and men in that they have denied women the rights to freedom or making their own decision. They coerce women to remain at home and carry out household chores. This clearly brings about gender inequality (Spielvogel, 385).
Wollstonecraft argued that when men and women are given equal rights of freedom and their duties equally exercised in terms of responsibilities to family and state, and then there will be true freedom will be achieved. This in the long run will bring equality. She argues that equal and quality education which recognizes the duties of women to educate her children in order to bring equality to her partner and family will bring creatures of both thought and feeling. She is convinced that equality will strengthen the marriage life and bring about better performance of duties that will help create a reason (Spielvogel). She characterizes women’s capacity for reason as a product of equality in terms of education and duties. She makes her case by criticizing the arguments made by Rousseau and brings enlightenment to the society in terms of advocating for the equal rights of women. Mostly she appeals to Rousseau and reason to bring about her arguments and support the rights for women as well as equal treatment through education. Her arguments are very convincing in that they help bring out the sense of educating women equally to men as it will impact better marriages and independent women.
Based on the above discussion, the scenarios bring out the different arguments from both philosophers and helps analyze who was more influential in their arguments. Wollstonecraft was more convincing as she gave clear views on the importance of equal rights to women. It helps build marriage relationships and brings about independent women. Rousseau on the other hand gave vague arguments as women cannot rely on their husbands for everything especially on the life today.
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011. Print.