How is "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" relevant to our time?Do Mary Wollstonecraft's views apply to today?
Although Wollstonecraft's work was radical in its day; by modern standards, it reads as a tame piece of feminist literature. Therefore, one might ask, what relevance does it have for our times?
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft assumes that a woman's role in life is to be a wife and mother. She argues that society would benefit if women were better educated for that role. If women were provided educations more like those given men, they would be better wives to their husbands. They would also be better mothers, capable of raising wise, knowledgable, and sober children.
However, Wollstonecraft notes, women in her time are raised and educated to be manipulative and childlike. They are taught to focus on fashion and flirtation. Because of the gap between how they and their husbands are educated, it is difficult for the average woman to be a rational helpmeet to her husband. Wollstonecraft also argues that if women had more rights and equality in marriage, they would be encouraged to behave more rationally. Companionate marriages based on mutual esteem, rather than those treating the wife like a childbearing slave, would be better for everyone.
We have largely achieved and surpassed Wollstonecraft's goals for women's education and equality. Today, more women than men graduate from college. Women, on the whole, can expect to enter into companionate marriages where they have equality or near equality to their husbands. Women not only use their education in the home, but in careers outside the home. However, as others have expressed, women are still often treated as second class citizens. Vindication remains relevant because the sexism that limits women's opportunities still exists. It is also relevant as a reminder of how far women have come –– and how far back they could go if they are not vigilant in holding onto their rights.
I think lately, especially, with the incredible rise in the number of sexual harassment and assault accusations made by women against powerful men—accusations that have affected Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Louis C.K., and Matt Lauer (to name a few)—we see that there still exists a need for discussions regarding the equality of the sexes. Wollstonecraft's work is relevant in that it promotes such educated discussions.
I like to think that most people, in this day and age, believe that men and women should be considered equal. However, when one looks at the facts—such as that white women are still paid about seventy-seven cents to the white male's dollar, and women of color far less than that, that women are disproportionately affected by crimes like sexual assault and rape, that women are incredibly underrepresented in our Congress, even that telling a boy he does something "like a girl" is still considered to be an insult—it begins to seem like we talk about equality a lot, but it doesn't actually exist.
So, despite the fact that we are living more than two hundred years after Wollstonecraft's thesis was published, it doesn't seem that we have advanced all that far. Yes, women have the right to vote, women can hold public office, women serve in the military and run Fortune 500 companies, and this is progress, but progress is slow and we have not reached the ultimate goal of equality yet.
One of the ways in which Wollstonecraft's work is relevant to our time is that it discusses an issue that is relevant to our world. The idea of women advocating for equality and stressing to have their voices heard is something that is quite relevant to the modern setting. Throughout the world, women from different narratives and experiences experience some level of mistreatment or inequality from social, traditional, or political entities. The idea of stressing the need for equal rights and equality of opportunity is something that is meaningful in these situations and settings. As the world is becoming more globalized, the need to exchange ideas that advocate social democratic notions of the good is essential, which proves the value of the work.