Candice Jacobs Test 1- “The Importance of Women Reaching their Full Potential” Eng. 206- English Literature II In “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” by Mary Wollstonecraft she is deplored by the fact that “women are rendered weak and wretched by a variety of concurring causes” (290). She implies that women were not in a “healthy state” of mind because beauty took priority over all things, so their “strength” and “usefulness” were always less important in society. In her literary work she stated that, “they are treated as a kind of subordinate beings, and not as a part of the human species” (291).
Women were ruled by society and their independence was not an urgent matter. They were not afforded the same educational and civil opportunities as men. Women were expected to be domestic and subservient to their men. These traits were pasted down by the women of the family from generation to generation. Wollstonecraft argued that society would be a better place if women were educated, rational thinkers, and allowed to develop a lasting friendship with their men; instead of weak uneducated “domestic brutes” (294).
Women should have been groomed for the future instead of the present. It is important for a woman to be educated, strong in mind and body, and possesses virtuous qualities for her to reach full potential and be a contributing member of society. In order for a woman to reach her full potential she needs to be educated. Wollstonecraft was a strong believer in the education of girls and women. As parents we are our children’s first teachers. If women raise their children to believe that education is not important then children are more likely to believe that to be true.
Wollstonecraft say’s the first “barren blooming” placed on women is the “false system of education gathered from books written on this subject by men” (290). During the time Wollstonecraft wrote “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” men viewed women as “inferior” beings. During this time period little girls’ education was geared only towards subservient duties. A women’s place was in the home and raising the children. These duties would have to be preformed by someone. If your husband can provide more for the family economically then allow him to do o. When your husband is out working for the family a woman should be able to study and increase her knowledge. If she were to obtain an education without going to an institution for higher learning her knowledge would have to come from life experiences or from things she would hear from others. A woman would be better prepared for the future. If something were to happen to her husband how could she continue to care for the family if she were not educated or had any sense of the world outside of the home.
Although the “The Color Purple” was written much later than Wollstonecraft’s literature an example of how women and their education were viewed based on Miss Celie’s character. In Alice Walker’s novel Miss Celie was illiterate for the most part of her life. She could not read or write. It was not until she learned how to read and educate herself, with the help of her sister, which she could fend for herself. She eventually opened her own store and obtained her own self image. As the men of Wollstonecraft’s time men wanted to feel needed.
I am sure that men felt that women would no longer need them or come to them for advice anymore. Women did not want to have power over men they just want power over themselves. In “The Color Purple” and in “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” men “rendered us alluring objects for a moment” (291). Women were prepared only for the present. In order for a woman to reach her full potential she needs to be strong in the mind and body. According to Wollstonecraft’s reading, one must “strengthen the female mind by enlarging it and there will be an end to blind obedience” (298).
This emphasizes that as women learn more, they will be able to distinguish between what is appropriate and what is not. An example of being strong in body and mind was when Miss Celie was sold off to Alfred in “The Color Purple” for her to care for his children. She was only used for her domestic qualities and to please him whenever he wanted to be pleased. Her strength in mind and body was evident when even though she was mistreated she stood strong and she persevered. If she was not poor then this would have never happened to her.
Wollstonecraft stated that “the education of the rich tends to render them vain and helpless” (292). The same should be said for obtaining domestic qualities too. The rich do not have to lift a finger in the home. They have the means to provide food, shelter and caretakers for their children. The middleclass and lower-class have to fend for themselves. You have to be strong of the mind and body to endure the struggles of poverty. If a woman cannot provide food, shelter or care for her children they would be left to fend for themselves.
If a man is not prepared to do the same things as a woman in the home then the children would be left alone to fend for them selves too. Men and women have to make compromises when it comes to caring for the family. Wollstonecraft says “women are told from their infancy, and taught by example of their mothers, that softness of temper, outward obedience, and a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of a man” (295). However, strong-minded women would, instead of focusing on these things to get a man focus on fulfilling their interests and attributes and through this, a man would come.
In addition, Wollstonecraft went on to show the strength of the body and the mind of the woman when she mentions that the woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind will not find it necessary to conceal her affection, nor to pretend to excite her husband’s passions. This type of woman who has distinguished herself in this way is most of the times not beautiful or gentle (300). Wollstonecraft seeks to show that beauty and gentleness is not a contributing factor to this type of woman.
I agree with Wollstonecraft when she says that “the woman who strengthens her body and exercise her mind will, by managing her family and practising various virtues, become the friend, and not the humble dependent of her husband” (300). As a result, the woman should have a friendship with her husband before settling for love or lust. Women need to possess virtuous qualities. Wollstonecraft attributes to this by saying to dismiss the pretty feminine phrases that men use to soften our slavish dependence and weaken the elegancy of the mind and focus on virtue instead of elegance because elegance is inferior to virtue (292).
She went on to show her observation by saying that “the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being regardless of the distinction of sex” (292). This seeks to show that women are human being first and women second, and that women are therefore virtuous and rational beings. Wollstonecraft also insinuated that some women govern their husbands without degrading themselves because of the intellectual women they are. This shows the innate ability of virtuous women. With this quality, women will be more respected.
However, in contrast, Wollstonecraft states that when women appear to imitate manly virtues, they are quick to be called masculine women. She disagrees and responds by saying that these manly virtues are nothing but talents and virtues that ennobles the human character on a whole, not only for men. Therefore she encourages women with these various virtues to “grow more and more masculine” (291). She wants women to ignore the ‘name-calling’ and continue to use these virtues to enhance their well-being as part of mankind.
According to Wollstonecraft, after many ingenious arguments, it was concluded that women should not be allowed to have sufficient strength of mind to acquire what is called virtue (295). But who determines if women have the needed strength to possess virtue? Most definitely, not man! In my opinion, only God can determine a person’s strengths. In all, a virtuous person lends to his understanding through his own reasoning. In fact, according to Wollstonecraft, “it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason” (297).
Therefore the ability to reason is a legitimate power of a woman in being a virtuous creature. Wollstonecraft says that “whether she be loved or neglected, her first wish should be to make herself respectable, and not to rely for all her happiness on a being subject to like infirmities with herself” (299). I agree with Wollstonecraft because when a woman can reason and respect herself, she will be able to survive in life whether she is married or single. Even though physically women are generally inferior to men, we are all part of the human species and contribute equally to our society.
Women should not feel second to men in any capacity although men try so feverishly to make women believe that it is so. They do this by making women feel subservient to them. Men try to make women believe that they are just here to serve and please them. However, women can be more than that. To reach their full potential, women need to be educated, strong in mind and body and possess virtuous qualities and be ambitious enough to include other attributes to enhance their well-being so as to be an integral part of mankind.