A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

by Mary Wollstonecraft

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How does Wollstonecraft place the blame for the position of women on men and women?

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According to Wollstonecraft, men are responsible for the uneducated position of most women in 18th century England due to the power they hold in society and how they use that power to ensure that women remain uneducated. In the context of the 18th century, the vast majority of men are strongly committed to ensuring that women remain docile, weak, and subservient to men. They must be pretty, gentle, and agreeable. They must not be argumentative or practice independent thought as this challenges the authority of men. In this time period, men believe that women are incapable of rational thought and exist for the pleasure of men (sadly, there are aspects of these thoughts within our present society as well). Wollstonecraft also asserts that conditioning has resulted in many women believing that they are incapable of rational thought, and, therefore, perpetuate these harmful and blatantly untrue narratives. Of course, given that independent thought would be punished severely as disobedience, many women certainly had motivation to not pursue an education or practice critical thinking.

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