I just noticed that it’s “The Rights of Men” but then “The Rights of Woman”, as opposed to “Women”. I wish I had a better starting sentence than that, but moving on…
For starters, I like the cover photo of the Statue of Liberty and how it very neatly ties into the subject of freedom while also pointing out that the woman is still being used as a symbol. Are there any statues representing a concept that are sculpted in the image of a man? I sort of feel like there’s an obvious answer to that question that I can’t quite find right now.
Wollstonecraft plays off Rousseau in chapters 1-4:
“In the present state of society it appears necessary to go back to first principles in search of the most simple truths, and to dispute with some prevailing prejudice every inch of ground.” (117)
“In tracing the causes that, in my opinion, have degraded woman…to me it appears clear that they all spring from want of understanding.” (196-197)
My notes for this book were surprisingly uniform: there were a lot of “exactly”s, “hey”s, and more than one “!”. There were also a couple of blank tabs that I put down just to flag the parts where I felt like Wollstonecraft really got something or said something really interesting that I didn’t know how to react to.
Wollstonecraft also spends a fair bit of time criticizing femininity. This was a bit of a sticking point for me in some ways, but in other ways, my understanding is that she doesn’t trash femininity completely. What she seems to be going after is the maintenance aspect:
“Men order their clothes to be made, and have done with the subject; women make their own clothes, necessary or ornamental, and are continually talking about then; and their thoughts follow their hands. It is not indeed the making of necessaries that weakens the mind; but the frippery of a dress.” (194-195)
“I have known a number of women who, if they did not love their husbands, loved nobody else, give themselves entirely up to vanity and dissipation, neglecting every domestic duty; nay, even squandering away all the money which should have been saved for their helpless younger children…” (267)
There’s the Alexander Pope quote she brings in:
“…every woman is at heart a rake” (247)
Finally, to go back to what I said about women being symbolic, and by extension being pigeonholed to some extent (maybe even becoming muses?):
“Novels, music, poetry, and gallantry, all tend to make women the creatures of sensation…” (177)
I haven’t linked to a song in a while, so here’s one. Thanks for reading, everyone.