Life (Or Something)

Coffee with Mary Wollstonecraft

mary_wollstonecraft_by_john_opie_c-_1797“I lament that women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions, which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, they are insultingly supporting their own superiority.”

I looked up from the book.  I was 19 and still reeling from the results of the 2016 election.

“When do we hear of women who, starting out of obscurity, boldly claim respect on account of their great abilities or daring virtues?  Where are they to be found?”

I was 19, and I felt like crying.

Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the first feminists, and although she wrote a number of different pieces, she’s most well known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which was published in 1792.

What I expected to find when I read A Vindication for the first time: a criticism of women’s roles in late 18th century society.

What I found: a criticism of women’s roles in society; passionate thoughts on love, marriage, and education; comments that would make us say, “Ooooh, savage,” today; empowerment; and a connection to a woman who died about two centuries before I was born.

But I also found anger.

There are a few things that still stand out as entirely relevant today, and these are the things which really anger me.  Progress doesn’t happen immediately—I know that—but it’s entirely disconcerting to think that the treatment of women today can still be so similar to the treatment of women over two hundred years ago.

Even if you only voted for Hillary Clinton in an attempt to stop Donald Trump, there’s just something particularly astounding about the way in which he won.  While he didn’t always focus on women—and the comments about women certainly weren’t the very worst things that he said—he said them while running against a woman.  This often worked to highlight the atrocities our society is willing to endure.  All America did was make excuses for the candidates this year.  But it was still a woman who was forced to take a loss gracefully—to concede without making a scene.

I poured myself another cup of coffee and stared through the steam.

“Besides if women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?”


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