The Inequality of Women in the Enlightenment

Topics: Age of Enlightenment, Gender equality, Gender Pages: 4 (1535 words) Published: November 2, 2011
Battle of the Sexes: Inequality of Women During the Enlightenment
The Enlightenment was a period when clusters of philosophers, writers, scholars, and aristocrats sharply debated standards and assumptions about women's rights in society. Issues that pertained to widening the women's sphere into more than just the household, questioning the ability of women to logic as men, and debating egalitarian co-educational opportunities for both boys and girls. This was a time when women started to come forth as intellectuals in response to the unbalanced status given to the “weaker” sex. Both male and female Enlightenment thinkers had opinions that spanned across each side of the issues. Jean-Jacque Rousseau, who in his novels, such as Emile, stated that women's education should prepare them to compliment and serve men, rather than broadening women's knowledge of logic and reason. In response to Rousseau's claim, Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist writer of the influential, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, spread the claim that women are more than capable of standing side by side with men in the public life to better the society as a whole. Wollstonecraft successfully disputes Rousseau's assumption that women are not capable of leaving the household and venturing into the intellection world of education and reason.

The idea that women should be limited to the private sphere of the home was highly supported by Rousseau; even Wollstonecraft accepted the notion that women's sphere was the home, but she also claimed that men should not isolate the home from public life. Just as the traditional assumption is for women to “stay in the kitchen,” so does Rousseau believe that men are responsible for business outside the home, and the women are assumed to tend to the home and children. She strives to articulate that the public and domestic life should not be separate, but connected. Women are in a constant cycle of subordination from the opposite sex, and Wollstoncraft...
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