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A Differently Constituted Society

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Dean W.
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  1. She finds society's opinions most responsible for tyrannizing over women
  2. This is not to say that Wollstonecraft only had the barest necessities in mind when thinking of the legal rights of women
  3. Power, according to Wollstonecraft, seeks blind obedience.
  4. A reasonable and ideal part of society already exists
  5. Some men chose to live by reason while others chose to live by power

One of the few times Mary Wollstonecraft advocates an actual legal right for women in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is when she says that a man who seduces a woman must be ?legally obliged to maintain the woman and her children ? And this law should remain in force as long as the weakness of women caused the word seduction to be used as an excuse for their frailty and want of principle? (71). This is an odd moment in the text, especially as it is unclear that there ever could be a time when the word seduction will cease to be used as an excuse. Above all, it highlights the conflict between expediency and the slow conversion of society which Wollstonecraft is trying to balance as she defines the proper state of independence for women as reasoned thought following first principles. In the case of ruined women or women who have lost their honour, Wollstonecraft feels such pity and compassion for their situation that she believes these women must be helped. But in other cases she seems strangely acceptant of society's inertia.

[...] an ideal, which requires only the sanction of society or if it is a legal right which must ultimately have political force. So she tries to split the question and advocates a legal right, for instance, to allow women without means to receive aid if they have been seduced and cast out of society. The rest of womankind is oppressed by society (though not to the same degree) and must wait for society to change before they can enjoy their natural right. [...]


[...] Of course any legal measures which would be enacted would require the consent of society or at the very least, the consent of power. The intimate way in which society and government law are bound up makes it almost impossible for her hold to one approach as a means for change, consequently her one ideal of woman's right to independence is split up and prioritized and presented in different ways to her manifold audience. Power, according to Wollstonecraft, seeks blind obedience. [...]

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