Mary Wollstonecraft was known as a writer, a philosopher, and a feminist. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Knowing that Wollstonecraft was a vehement fighter for women’s rights we can make a supposition, that she was fonder of women, and vindicate their positions in the question of virtue possession.
Taking a closer look in to her works, we see that one thing she was vindicating – is equality in virtues, which on her opinion were different for men and women:
Let it not be concluded that I wish to invert the order of things; I have already granted, that, from the constitution of their bodies, men seem to be designed by Providence to attain a greater degree of virtue. I speak collectively of the whole sex; but I see not the shadow of a reason to conclude that their virtues should differ in respect to their nature. In fact, how can they, if virtue has only one eternal standard? (Wollstonecraft, 135)
She describes men, in general as arrogant, tyrants, rakes, sensualists, and lovers of power. As she though men were despots, who take advantage of women, thinking only of conquest and sexual desire. This aspect of men’s behavior shows such weakness of mind, that it was vain to expect much public or private virtue from men, stated Wollstonecraft (256). On her opinion women were educated not as well as men were, girls were brought up in such way that she had to be dependent on men, to be a good wife, mother, woman, etc. She was expected to be well-behaved and to obey men, to listen to them and to be there for them. Women are not allowed to have sufficient strength of mind to acquire what really deserves the name of virtue (126). Women were prepared for carrying out domestic duties, finding contentment in marriage, or leading virtuous lives. Men designed their meaning of virtue and were imputing women characteristics they did not want to see in themselves. It is important to make an accent that Wollstonecraft thought that virtue of men and women differ – Virtue in men thus had become power, ambition, and wealth; (Wollstonecraft, 257) virtue in women consisted of happy submission, dependence, and the need for protection. She realized that virtues of men and women differ, but she was insisting, that they should be evaluated by the same standard and move toward equality. Virtue was a necessary part of civilization and could lead to happiness, Wollstonecraft argued, but it had become confused with vice.
Analyzing Wollstonecraft’s views, I can form my own position. Beyond questions, there were rational ideas in her statements. But we cannot omit the fact that she was living and vindicating women’s rights in eighteenth century. A lot of time passed since then, and a lot of changes appeared. Women’s position in the society changed. I would not judge these issues so radical, as Wollstonecraft did. But Even now, when so many psychological facts about men and women are well-known, I would say that virtue of men and women differ a lot, as well as meaning of virtue by it self.
Generally I still agree that virtue of men and women differ, but I would say that the essence of virtue changed foe men, as well as for women.
Wollstonecraft, M., MacDonald, D. L., and Scherf, K. The Vindications: The Rights of Men and the Rights of Woman. Broadview Press, 1997.