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Mary Wollstonecraft, in A Vindication of the Rights of Women, rejects the metaphorical image of the man being the oak and the woman being the ivy.
Metaphorically, the image of the oak and the ivy represents two very different things (depending upon one's interpretation of the image). First, one could lean towards one of Wollstonecraft's ideas (regarding the image) and agree that the image is only acceptable
in order to make a man and his wife one, that she should rely entirely on his understanding; and the graceful ivy, clasping the oak that supported it, would form a whole in which strength and beauty would be equally conspicuous.
Therefore, Wollstonecraft only agrees with Rousseau's use of the metaphorical image of the ivy and the oak if the relationship between the two is, ultimately, symbiotic.
Instead of the image providing a metaphorical and symbiotic relationship between a man and a woman, Wollstonecraft describes the image (Rousseau's) as being "what nonsense!" She further states that Rousseau, and other male authors with the same ideologies, "have contributed to render women more artificial, weak characters."
Immediately, upon reading Wollstonecraft's text, one can readily admit that she does not see women as beings, or objects, which need to be supported by men. Instead, women who are "are restrained by principle or prejudice...are cruelly neglected by their husbands." These women "are not allowed to exert any manual strength" and would fail miserably if they existed as ivy (being unable to support themselves under their own strength.).
Therefore, it would seem that Wollstonecraft rejects the metaphorical image of the oak and ivy based upon the fact that woman should be able to support themselves without having to depend upon the "oak." According to Wollstonecraft, woman are not weak. They (woman) do not need the support of another to prove themselves worthy of independent support.
In the end, Wollstonecraft states that "we shall not see women more affectionate till more equality be established in society, till ranks are confounded and women freed." What this means is that woman simply cannot be the ivy. They, in order to be equally "established in society," woman must be freed from the oak.
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