Mary Wollstonecraft is held as being the first modern feminist. She was born in 1759 to a gentry farmer and an unloving mother and is said to have began her protests at an early age by protecting her mother from an abusive father and resenting her brother’s favored position. She worked as a governess for a number of years however she chose to make an unconventional career as an editor and a journalist.

In 1786 she wrote the Thoughts on the Education of Daughters and in 1790 published A Vindication of the Rights of Man as a response to the goals brought fourth by the French revolution. However Wolstonecraft owes much of her fame to her feminist social study A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In this work Wollstonecraft addressed the legal, economic and educational disabilities of women. Ultimately she argues that the equal rights that are applied to men should be extended to include women. Women had the right to an education and the progress of all society depended on the fact that both sexes must be equally educated. Wollstonecraft explains that women should move away from their old emotional stereotypes and see education as the fundamental access to achieve a place in society. The Rights of women contained other unconventional beliefs on society’s standards of which Marriage was a constant theme.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Marriage gave the husband legal ownership of his wife, her property, and their children. To divorce meant to leave everything behind. By being against Marriage Wollstonecraft was far ahead of her time, for in 18th century England a good marriage was the goal of most women. However for Wollstonecraft independence was essential and the only true freedom could be obtained from remaining unmarried. Marriage under law Wollstonecraft argued was nothing more than ‘legalized prostitution’.

These ideas were highlighted in her fictional tale Maria, where the protagonist is imprisoned in a mental hospital at the hands of her abusive husband. Maria reiterates Wollstonecraft’s view on the disabilities that society imposed on women. Many criticize that Wollstonecraft’s achievements in the Vindication’s of the Rights of Women were widespread in 18th century England. But it is necessary to review the political background of these times. Wollstonecraft was influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the French and American revolution, and interacted in the intellectual circles that included, Paine, Burke, Rousseau, and Voltaire. It is important to remember that the French Revolution began in 1789, and that for the next 50 years Europe was petrified of a repetition of the upheaval. Revolutionary ideas such as Paine’s and Wollstonecraft’s were seen as dangers to the foundations of society. Many feared that these unconventional thoughts would spread to other nations across Europe.

Wollstonecraft’s works remains as a cornerstone in women’s rights and laid the foundation for modern feminism, which sees education as the access to achieve greater economic, political, and social status. Wollstonecraft died in 1797 in the childbirth of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin later to become Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Though Wollstonecraft did not live to see her ideals in women’s rights come to fruition, we are left with her vision when she states, “I have thrown down the gauntlet, it is time to restore women to their lost dignity and to make them a part of the human species.”


What is feminism? By general definition, feminism is a philosophy in which womenand their contributions are valued. It is based on social, political andeconomical equality for women. Feminists can be anyone in the population, men,women, girl or boys. Feminism can also be described as a movement. A revolutionthat includes women and men who wish the world to be equal without boundaries.

These boundaries or blockades are better known as discrimination and biasesagainst gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status and economic status.Everyone views the world with his or her own sense of gender and equality.Feminists view the world as being unequal. They wish to see the gender gap andthe idea that men are superior to women decreased or even abolished. CarolGilligan is one woman who has contributed much time and effort to the feministtheory. Her beliefs and ideas are based upon difference feminism.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

In this essayI will tie the ideas and beliefs of Carol Gilligan with information from ourtext, the packet read in class and the book, Faces of Feminism. Carol Gilliganis a lecturer and assistant professor at Harvard University as well as apsychologist. She has many theories that deal with moral reasoning anddevelopment. In her influential book In a Different Voice, she sets forth theidea that women make decisions “according to a criteria of ethics of care andthat men make decisions according to an ethic of rights.”(3) In her book,Carol Gilligan also disagrees with Lawrence Kohlbergs’ theory, which suggeststhat “Few people matured fully in their moral reasoning…

but women hardlyever did.”(2) In her opposition Gilligan stated that “women make moraldecisions according to different but equally mature and morally uprightreasoning.”(2) She feels that women are different because they posses adifferent hereditary set of values and beliefs.

This opposition to Kohlberg’stheory was backed by research. Even though there was research done to supportGilligan, it seemed to have experimenter bias. It was not an open or strongexperiment and it only observed the actions of the white middle class. This didnot give a clear or objective view on the separate criteria of women and men.The views and ideas on moral reasoning and development set forth by CarolGilligan are those of many difference feminists.

Difference feminism is just onetype of feminism. It gives a concept that “women should go back to traditionalroles”(3) set by society. It also states that gender is natural and is notlearned by the society in which one lives. Not all Feminists agree with thistheory but there are many feminists, such as Carol Gilligan who agree with thisidea that even though men and women are different, they each have their ownseparate place in society. Difference feminism is “successful because it tellspeople what they want to hear: women really are different in just the ways thatwe always thought.

… And men have power, wealth and control of socialresources because women do not really want them.

“(3) This idea of differencefeminism sets forth a number of stereotypes. They give feminists and the generalpublic a skewed view of the theory behind the philosophy. In the book Faces ofFeminism, feminist theorists were asked, “Do women have to be the same as mento be equal?”(1) The majority of responses were yes. It is believed that inorder for women and men to become equal, society must “unlearn and uncondition”(1)the gender roles and standards it has established throughout history.

Societyand the people in it have set up the basis for gender difference and now manyfeminists are breaking down those barriers. Carol Gilligans position on moraldevelopment and her views as a feminist, suggest that “womens nature is notsomething to be replaced, but something to be maintained, indeed celebrated, forthe sake both of women and society.”(1) This view is tied in with the generaldefinition of feminism, that women should be valued for their accomplishments.Womanhood is important and should be celebrated and praised. On that same note,maleness must also be celebrated and praised.

Throughout history men havedominated our culture and now through the work of feminists such as CarolGilligan, the roles are beginning to shift. There are more women in theworkplace and more men staying at home. This idea of gender reversal goesagainst parts of the difference feminist theory.BibliographyTobias, Shelia. Faces of Feminism. Westview Press, Colo 1997. Katha Pollitt.

‘Are women morally superior to men?” 1992.


Feminism The word feminism has many connotations.

Some include lesbian, feminazi, man-hater, and baby killer. It is interesting to note that all these words convey a negative feeling. It is rare to hear feminism described as female empowerment or as an organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests, which is how it is defined in the dictionary. Why has feminism taken on such a negative meaning? In this course, feminism has been defined as female empowerment, the recognition of oppression, and the advocation of equality. The syllabus clearly states that academic feminism is not about male bashingit is about challenging racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic ideologies in order to theorize about a more equitable society, and it is about transforming some of the existing patriarchal and racist paradigms in order to eliminate oppression. In my opinion, any strong and independent woman would want to be labeled as a feminist.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Yet many women are cautious, afraid even, of aligning themselves with the word feminist. Fear is part of the equationthe justifiable fear of what lies ahead for any woman boldly proclaiming her commitment to empowerment(Morgan, 55). Is it because in order to be a feminist, a woman must deal with false assumptions about her sexual preference, cultural beliefs, and general outlook on life? I dreaded the long, tedious conversations spent exorcising others of the stereotypes that tend to haunt the collective consciousness.when we think of the f-wordmale basher, crew cut dyke.(Morgan, 56). What woman would want to deal with this constant barrage of insults in order to proclaim herself a feminist? Feminism is often identified with the radical and extreme definition associated with one of its subcategories, Radical Feminism. Radical Feminism emphasized the relationship of women to each other, even going so far as to advocate separatism (women only communes, withholding sex) in order to change the system.Unfortunately, this theory promoted the idea of feminists as lesbians, as man haters who wished to separate themselves from an unjust patriarchal society.

Contemporary mass media has also contributed to the negative attitude surrounding feminism. The term feminazi, coined by television and radio personality Rush Limbaugh, is defined by anti-feminists as a feminist who is trying to produce as many abortions as possible, hence the term nazi. Limbaugh is obviously under the misconception that all feminists are pro-choice, which coincides with the whole lesbian/man-hating feeling towards feminism.


I'm Adrienne!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out