A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

by Mary Wollstonecraft

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In "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman," how does Mary Wollstonecraft depict men?

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Mary Woollstonecraft certainly has a lot to say about men and their role in creating a situation and a society in which women are taught only to please men. This "barren blooming" is attributed to men:

One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers...

Note how the author blames men for creating this image of women as needing to become "alluring mistresses."

However, it is also important to note that throughout the text, although Woollstonecraft clearly rails against a patriarchal society that completely disempowers women and treats them as "subordinate beings," she is careful not to openly attack men in her discourse. She merely argues her point that women are rational beings too, and states that not all women of her time lack well-developed minds, dignity and personal power. Thus, whilst clearly arguing that men have been responsible for creating a situation of such inequality, the author does not directly attack them.

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