In “Which is to Blame?” what is Claflin and Woodhull’s argument about the role of seduction and passion in the social roles and dynamics between men and women in their era, and what do they think ought to be changed about these perceived gendered social norms and expectations?

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In the essay “Which Is to Blame?” Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin argue that the “foundation of our existing social order is mutual deception and all-prevalent hypocrisy.” They are referring to the position of women in a society that, with great contradiction, both portrays woman as weak, foolish, and vulnerable to seduction and encourages women to actually seduce men in order to survive.

The authors begin by exposing the falsehood that women are “weaklings and ninnies” who are under the power of men. Certainly, they admit, some women are seduced by scoundrels, and this is largely because these women are not educated and have no means to be educated under the current system.

Most of the time, however, the women are the ones doing the seducing. Women are “humiliated and despised by society” if they don’t have husbands, and this alone drives some women to getting a husband any way they can. What’s more, women are not able to earn their own way in the world. Society makes them dependent upon men. Therefore, to “secure their portion of the spoil,” they need to use their wiles to attract a man, one way or another.

Obviously, this situation cannot be allow to stand. Women need the freedom and education to make their own way in the world, independent of men if they so choose. Further, the authors maintain that society must “recognize the rights of nature” and “provide in a normal and proper way for every passion of the human soul.”

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