Girls like us

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.


I’m not done reading Rights of Man yet but here’s what I have so far.

I’m appreciating all the one-liners (page references are according to the Adelaide ebook).

“What Athens was in miniature America will be in magnitude.” (140)

“Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” (99)

“…as there is but one species of man, there can be but one element of human power; and that element is man himself.” (101)

Okay, so the last one isn’t exactly one line, but still. I know that give the subject matter, one-liners are basically inevitable, but seeing how concisely Thomas Paine can state his ideas is refreshing.

There are, of course, callbacks to earlier books.

Rousseau (and maybe some Hobbes?): “We have now, in a few words, traced man from a natural individual to a member of society, and shown, or endeavoured to show, the quality of the natural rights retained, and of those which are exchanged for civil rights.” (38)

Plato: “If there existed a man so transcendently wise above all others, that his wisdom was necessary to instruct a nation, some reason might be offered for monarchy…” (86)

Césaire/Walcott: “Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the human character…” (47)

I’m in Part the Second right now, and a lot of it is Paine comparing/contrasting European governments with the American. So much of what he says in lauding is completely different from how the US government is so often criticized. It’s interesting.

One more thing: at the very, very beginning, Paine seems pretty polite towards Mr. Burke, but everything else Paine’s said about him after that is just complaint after complaint. I don’t get it. Am I missing something?

Short blog post, I guess. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Gathered up

I put off this post because I haven’t found anything to say about the book.

Well, I guess I can start with Freud.

“Examine diligently, therefore, all the faculties of your soul: memory, understanding, and will. Examine with precision all your senses as well. . . . Examine, moreover, all your thoughts, every word you speak, and all your actions. Examine even unto your dreams, to know if, once awakened, you did not give them your consent. And finally, do not think that in so sensitive and perilous a matter as this, there is anything trivial or insignificant.” (20)

I tagged it with Freud mostly because the dream-analysis part caught my attention, but in typing out the full quote, I realized it was closer to a description of introspection. Which is weird now, because when I was actually taking PSYC 101 I never really thought about the similarities between Freud and introspection. Probably because I hadn’t read Dora then.

I like how the first part of the book is called “We “Other Victorians”". As in, even though their opinions regarding sexuality are different, they’re still Victorians. The question of what defines an era goes back to what Miranda said about how eras are made sense of in retrospect in the Lyrical Ballads lecture and the ensuing discussion in seminar.

Foucault concerns himself a lot with what I tagged in my notes as a “legislation” of sex (37) – literally, but I was also referring to how he seems to dislike comprehensive descriptions/explanations of sex. He also draws a line between sexuality and sex in his discussion, which I found interesting (54, 114).

I also like that he didn’t use, as I said in my last blog post, the random justification (at least, not to the extent that Rousseau uses it). Maybe just because his discussion is more limited, with a focus on history like the Industrial Revolution, and not Rousseau’s brand of pre-history. Checking against my seminar notes now, we discussed Foucault in our Silencing the Past seminars and how Foucault doesn’t discuss the “provenance of power” and talks about history without being a historian (just like Trouillot). Again, now that I’ve remembered this, it’s weird that the books that have something to do with Silencing the Past are the ones I really am “decidedly neutral” (again) about. Maybe because I haven’t really considered in the past whether or not I’ve liked most of the books, and only recently have I started to do that.

See? Not much to say. Thanks for reading, everyone.


[Edited for spacing.]

Go on

I’m finding that the more philosophy we read the less I like reading it. Rousseau wasn’t too difficult to get through but in some places I just felt like my mind was falling out.

To start with (and probably the only subject matter of this post):

“… not only did such commodities continue to soften body and mind and as they had the same time degenerated into actual needs, being deprived of them became much more cruel than the possession of them was sweet…” (113)

In some places, the Discourse on Inequality reminds me a lot of contemporary motivational/advising media. This part would probably translate into something like “don’t use your free time to find vices”. There’s also this:

“As a result of seeing each other, people cannot do without seeing more of each other. A tender and sweet sentiment insinuates itself into the soul, and at the least obstacle becomes an inflamed fury; jealousy awakens with love; discord triumphs, and the gentlest of passions receives the sacrifice of human blood” (114)

That struck me as a specific example of how, to quote the first link I wasn’t afraid to click on in the first page of results when googling the phrase “the pursuit of happiness is the cause of all unhappiness”:

“Groundbreaking work by Iris Mauss has recently supported the counterintuitive idea that striving for happiness may actually cause more harm than good. In fact, at times, the more people pursue happiness the less they seem able to obtain it. Mauss shows that the more people strive for happiness, the more likely they will be to set a high standard for happiness—then be disappointed when that standard is not met.”

There’s also this in Rousseau’s footnotes:

“One must not confuse pride and self-love, two passions very different in their nature and in their effects” (167)

Hobbes also uses the phrase “self-love” (99, para. 35), and I don’t think I completely understand what he’s talking about in that paragraph, but it’s there. I know Rousseau’s/Cranston’s usage of the phrase – an instinct for self-preservation – is kind of different from its modern meaning, but it’s funny to see it anyway.

Here’s another nigh irrelevant music video I like. It’s also where this post’s title comes from. Thanks for reading, everyone. It was really cold today.


[Edited to clarify where the footnote was from.]

[Edited a second time because I wrote "happiness" instead of "unhappiness". Sorry, everyone.]