Varieties of Feminist Theory
In “The National Organization for Women’s 1966 Statement of Purpose,” Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” and Harriet’s Taylor Mill’s, “The Enfranchisement of Women” there is a strong connection among the readings. While the readings were written by various authors during different time periods, they still show quite a few similarities in how women are both treated and regarded in our past patriarchal dominating society.
First, in addressing Wollstonecraft’s piece, she notes that women have been taught that their primary purpose in life is motherhood and is essentially to serve complimentary to man. It is important though that we recognize the same thought in our reading from Harriet Taylor Mill, she too, argues that each woman is often thought to be an appendage to man and to not have her own interests and desires to fulfill in life. But my question is, where would we conceive such thoughts, and what would lead us to believe that men are superior to women and that women serve as accessories to men?
I guess that by answering my own question, Mill’s suggests that perhaps these preconceived thoughts stem from historical documents that place or recognize men as the dominating or only sex that exists in society. For example, when Mills points out that by solely using the word “men” in the Declaration of Independence, and by not inferring or including both sexes (male and/or female), but instead strictly stating “men,” it reinforces that men are the dominating sex or the one of greater importance. With that being said, it is no wonder that our society reinforces that misconception or belief that men are the domineering sex in today’s society. While we know that men are responsible for writing the Declaration of Independence, which states that all are created equal, it is in the writing of the same, exact document that reinforces the misconception that men are more important than women.
Now, one may ask how do all these readings intersect and link together? I would argue that just as Betty Freidan wrote in NOW’s Statement of Purpose, “we believe it is essential for every girl to educated to her full potential”, Marry Wollstonecraft and Harriet Taylor Mill also shared similar beliefs. These three shared thoughts that women should not only be treated as rational beings and be held equivalent to men, but they should also be educated in order to fulfill their full potential. With their education they can take part in job opportunities and in pursuing careers just as men do.
It is important to remember, however, that of these three writers neither of them are repeating or reinstating the other’s beliefs, but instead they offer similar thoughts in the advancement of women in society in terms of being on an equal playing field with men in jobs, education and in life. And without such women, perhaps inferiority would still be extremely prevalent in women’s lives.