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Rousseau and Mill on Gender

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Rousseau and Mill on Gender

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  • May 2013
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Whereas Rousseau takes both the stand of a feminist and a sexist in his work, Mill is quite protective about women in arguing that men do not know what women are capable of because they have never been given a chance to develop and prove it. Mill lived in a time when women were generally subject to oppression and humiliation coming from their husbands and fathers due to the socially preconceived ideas that women were both physically and mentally less able than men. Rousseau on the other side has a very bilateral perspective on gender when promoting the patriarchal family where men are superior to women in contrast to providing women with some sort of agency and acknowledging that females have certain talents that men do not and they are able to make males dependent on them. Mill starts off his “Subjection of Women” by contrasting the situation of women in a patriarchal culture to that of slaves. Due to the use of physical power that men exercise over women, their relationship reminds nothing more that the situation of slavery and marriage is one of the only remaining examples of slavery in a Christian Europe where “slavery, has been at length abolished” (5). Mill strongly believes that violence should not be tolerated in the matter of domination over women and he points out that the fact that patriarchy and women’s oppression have been known through history is not a good enough explanation of why this should continue. He believes women have been oppressed because they have not been allowed any alternative. Men claim that women are not able of doing anything, which is why they are trying to stop them. However, according to Mill, in reality we do not know what the nature of women is, since they live in subjection and did not have a chance for self-development. Mill denies that “anyone knows, or can know the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another” (22). He claims that “if men had ever been found in...