One of Rousseau’s statements that I take exception to in his Discourse on Inequality is his opinion of women and how they should behave in society. He claims that women in the commonwealth “[assure] the happiness of the other” sex (Rousseau 65). Here it seems that Rousseau is proposing that women exist in society to cater to men. I don’t think I need to explain how infuriated I was when reading this passage. Needless to say I had to take a few deep breaths before continuing on. But as I continued to read this passage, I found that Rousseau actually redeems himself somewhat by stating that “the destiny of [the female sex] will always be to govern [the male sex]” (Rousseau 65). Perhaps this is just Rousseau’s way of making women feel that their role as servants to men is important in society, however he only refers to a woman’s “chaste power, exerted solely within the marriage bond” (Rousseau 65). In a way, Rousseau is suggesting that women are more important than men in some instances, which still demonstrates his unequal attitude towards the relationship between men and women.
What is more, Rousseau makes it very clear that only a certain type of woman should exist in society, that is a woman who “through the persuasive sweetness of [her] lessons and the modest grace of [her] conversation” can uphold peace among men (Rousseau 65). Rousseau condemns “loose women” and states that they have no place in a civil society. And yet, Rousseau closes his discussion on women’s role in society by stating that they should “continue, therefore, always to be as [they] are” (Rousseau 65). What if, might I ask Rousseau, not all women are born to be the gentle and chaste women as described in your fantasy? Should those women still continue to be who they are?