Margaret Fuller

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Analyze Margaret Fuller's quote, "There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman."

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In Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Margaret Fuller wrote:

Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But, in fact, they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.

Fuller regards masculine and feminine as theoretical absolutes that are not encountered in real people. Later she uses Hercules as an example to illustrate her point. Hercules is the archetype of masculinity, possibly the most purely masculine man who can be imagined. Yet Hercules was enslaved by Omphale, Queen of Lydia, and spun wool for her, traditionally the most feminine of tasks. Some works of art even depict him in women's clothing during the year he spent in her service. Likewise, Fuller says, women may go into battle, bear immense physical hardships and perform many tasks traditionally associated with men.

The idea Fuller is critiquing is now described as "gender essentialism," the notion that men and women each have a fixed essence with certain gender-specific characteristics and attributes. However, Fuller's critique is a fairly mild one. She does not deny that strength or aggression, for instance, are predominantly male attributes, she simply points out that there are no men who display only male attributes to the complete exclusion of those traditionally recognized as feminine.

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