Wednesday, November 19, 2014
John Stuart Mill (The Subjection Of Women) - Shania DelCampo (13) #4 of 4
Women had very few rights in the early 18th century. It was a women's duty to marry. However once married if she had an inheritance, it was by law now her husbands. This applied to her children, her clothes, her body, etc. Also women were not allowed to own property. Women once married were often expected to be a housekeeper, a mother, and a worker. A man divorcing his wife was highly frowned upon and unthinkable for women to divorce their husband. John Mill's book The Subjection of Women discusses the equality of the sexes in four chapters.
In this chapter Mill basically is just introducing his argument. In the first paragraph Mill says, "The legal subordination of one sex to the other-is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement." Then he goes on to say that this inequality between the sexes needs to be replaced with "perfect equality" and if a person holds the notion that men are better than women then they need to produce positive evidence to back up their claim. Mill however goes on to proclaim that there are no viable experiments claiming men better than women because women's full capacities have been hindered by society, both physically and mentally. Later in the chapter he questions how men being better than women benefits society in anyway and comes up empty handed. In his opinion men know close to nothing about women, so it should not be up to men to create legislation that dictates what a women can and cannot do. In addition to that although it is a women's nature to be motherly it is not fair for men to create legislation that commits all women to conform to this route of life.
Chapter two goes on to compare marriage to the lowest form of slavery because as mention before once married their husbands owned them. Mill first points out how marriage is the ultimate destination appointed to women by society and how it is achieved through "foul rather than fair play." He gives the example how originally women were sold into marriage by their fathers in late period Europe. Then gives a present example of how "what's hers is his" by law but not proclaim "what's his is hers." Once married in Mill's opinion women signed a life of servitude to that man, and in a way they did. In other world only wealthy women could divorce their husbands legally because it cost a lot of money. However these women would have had to hide this money because whatever money she earned or was given was her husbands. Mill then goes on to say that if society insists that a women's ultimate goal is to find a good "master" then she should be able to change time and time again till she finds one. Mill does not agree that this is how a women should ideally go about finding her husband but this is how society is making out to be.
Mill in this chapter talks of how women could improve jobs that in that day were only reserved for men such as: politics, literary pursuits, and participation in the arts. He goes on to say that although they would benefit these fields and many more women would first have to be educated equally as men. This goes back to how Mill believed there was no plausible evidence confirming that men are better than women because the tests would be unfair due to the hindrance society has placed on women educationally and physically. This chapter ends with Mill highlighting the fact that the fight for women's equality will have to be supported by both man and woman.
The last chapter basically just goes over how much better life would be if men and women were equals. First he points out that if they were equal "the mass of mental facilities available for the higher service of humanity" would double because of the other half of the population now also receiving an education. He makes many other points on how women benefit society because of their softer more charitable sides. Towards the end of the chapter Mill says, "In the ideal marriage, men and women will be partners in the higher service of humanity." This is due in Mill's opinion to how the two sexes would now have similar upbringings.
Here is a modern video of how marriage is still pressed on girls at a young age but also how this view of marriage has changed from one generation to the next. This clip is from the movie Brave.
* Side note: In Mill's book he does not actually name the chapters, however I did name them so you as a reader would get the essence of that chapter.