Summary of the subjection of women. The Subjection of Women (Classic of the Feminist Philosophy) by John Stuart Mill by John Stuart Mill 2019-02-02

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Extracts from John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women

summary of the subjection of women

For more than a thousand years the Church kept up the contest, with hardly any perceptible success. It is hardly to be expected that this question will be asked in respect to the change proposed in the condition of women in marriage. In the first few pages of chapter one, Mill points out three factors in the hindrance that he spoke on previously that of power, religion, and government. If they do extort a hearing, they are subjected to a set of logical requirements totally different from those exacted from other people. It was persisted in not only until, but long after, the oppressed had obtained a power enabling them often to take conspicuous vengeance; and on the Continent much of it continued to the time of the French Revolution, though in England the earlier and better organisation of the democratic classes put an end to it sooner, by establishing equal laws and free national institutions. No presumption in its favour, therefore, can be drawn from the fact of its existence.

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Summary of Subjection of by Mill Essay

summary of the subjection of women

The first small vestige of a feeling of obligation in a superior to acknowledge any right in inferiors, began when he had been induced, for convenience, to make some promise to them. History, which is now so much better understood than formerly, teaches another lesson: if only by showing the extraordinary susceptibility of human nature to external influences, and the extreme variableness of those of its manifestations which are supposed to be most universal and uniform. Even if every woman were a wife, and if every wife ought to be a slave, all the more would these slaves stand in need of legal protection: and we know what legal protection the slaves have, where the laws are made by their masters. . Where there is now one person qualified to benefit mankind and promote the general improvement, as a public teacher, or an administrator of some branch of public or social affairs, there would then be a chance of two. At the same time Mill argues that this same belief by slave owners also is applied to the brave and strong when they think it is their station in life to have power, authority, and master status over the weak of the species.

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John Stuart Mill: The Subjection of Women

summary of the subjection of women

The only result would be that there would be fewer women than men in such employments; a result certain to happen in any case, if only from the preference always likely to be felt by the majority of women for the one vocation in which there is nobody to compete with them. In the case of women, each individual of the subject-class is in a chronic state of bribery and intimidation combined. But was there ever any domination which did not appear natural to those who possessed it? Whatever any portion of the human species now are, or seem to be, such, it is supposed, they have a natural tendency to be: even when the most elementary knowledge of the circumstances in which they have been placed, clearly points out the causes that made them what they are. By entirely sinking her own existence in her husband; by having no will or persuading him that she has no will but his, in anything which regards their joint relation, and by making it the business of her life to work upon his sentiments, a wife may gratify herself by influencing, and very probably perverting, his conduct, in those of his external relations which she has never qualified herself to judge of, or in which she is herself wholly influenced by some personal or other partiality or prejudice. In all things of any difficulty and importance, those who can do them well are fewer than the need, even with the most unrestricted latitude of choice: and any limitation of the field of selection deprives society of some chances of being served by the competent, without ever saving it from the incompetent. For example, if a doctor is needed in a town, wouldn't it be best for the town to have the best doctor, regardless of gender? Yet in this line of exertion they have fallen still more short than in many others, of the highest eminence attained by men. There is nothing which men so easily learn as this self-worship: all privileged persons, and all privileged classes, have had it.


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John Stuart Mill: The Subjection of Women

summary of the subjection of women

I have one question, there will probably be section where you have to explain why you came up with. Mill indeed was a man of true equality between the sexes. If so, the amenability to it would be a motive with the plaintiff to agree to almost any arbitration, but it would be just the reverse with the defendant. The social organization that puts men above women is wrong. In the cases, on the other hand, in which the unfitness is real, the ordinary motives of human conduct will on the whole suffice to prevent the incompetent person from making, or from persisting in, the attempt. And by their affections are meant the only ones they are allowed to have — those to the men with whom they are connected, or to the children who constitute an additional and indefeasible tie between them and a man.

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The Subjection of Women

summary of the subjection of women

If no woman has hitherto been a great historian, what woman has had the necessary erudition? Yet in all the great nations of Europe except England it either still exists, or has only just ceased to exist, and has even now a strong party favourable to it in all ranks of the people, especially among persons of station and consequence. In every respect the burthen is hard on those who attack an almost universal opinion. Yet not only was there a greater strength of sentiment against it, but, in England at least, a less amount either of feeling or of interest in favour of it, than of any other of the customary abuses of force: for its motive was the love of gain, unmixed and undisguised; and those who profited by it were a very small numerical fraction of the country, while the natural feeling of all who were not personally interested in it, was unmitigated abhorrence. It no doubt often happens that a person, who has not widely and accurately studied the thoughts of others on a subject, has by natural sagacity a happy intuition, which he can suggest, but cannot prove, which yet when matured may be an important addition to knowledge: but even then, no justice can be done to it until some other person, who does possess the previous acquirements, takes it in hand, tests it, gives it a scientific or practical form, and fits it into its place among the existing truths of philosophy or science. It may be asserted without scruple, that no other class of dependents have had their character so entirely distorted from its natural proportions by their relation with their masters; for, if conquered and slave races have been, in some respects, more forcibly repressed, whatever in them has not been crushed down by an iron heel has generally been let alone, and if left with any liberty of development, it has developed itself according to its own laws; but in the case of women, a hot-house and stove cultivation has always been carried on of some of the capabilities of their nature, for the benefit and pleasure of their masters Then, because certain products of the general vital force sprout luxuriantly and reach a great development in this heated atmosphere and under this active nurture and watering, while other shoots from the same root, which are left outside in the wintry air, with ice purposely heaped all round them, have a stunted growth, and some are burnt off with fire and disappear; men, with that inability to recognise their own work which distinguishes the unanalytic mind, indolently believe that the tree grows of itself in the way they have made it grow, and that it would die if one half of it were not kept in a vapour bath and the other half in the snow.

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Literature Summary: “The Subjection of Women.”

summary of the subjection of women

A woman's brain is sooner fatigued, sooner exhausted; but given the degree of exhaustion, we should expect to find that it would recover itself sooner. The generality of a practice is in some cases a strong presumption that it is, or at all events once was, conducive to laudable ends. Mill concedes that at present, it is actually impossible to tell what differences there may be between men and women with respect to their natural abilities and propensities, because of the great disparity between the ways in which men and women are educated and socialized. He takes an analysis of the historical conditions that have led to inequality within the male and female sex, the oppressive nature of marriage law in Victorian England and his proposals for marriage law reform. And even though women wouldn't get to vote in England until 1918, Mill's book did much to advance the conversation in the direction towards gender equality. They would neither be so prompt as women in thinking, nor so quick to feel. When we put together three things — first, the natural attraction between opposite sexes; secondly, the wife's entire dependence on the husband, every privilege or pleasure she has being either his gift, or depending entirely on his will; and lastly, that the principal object of human pursuit, consideration, and all objects of social ambition, can in general be sought or obtained by her only through him, it would be a miracle if the object of being attractive to men had not become the polar star of feminine education and formation of character.

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John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women: Summary & Analysis

summary of the subjection of women

Both cannot have their way, yet a decision one way or the other must be come to. The truth is, that the position of looking up to another is extremely unpropitious to complete sincerity and openness with him. Somerville, alone perhaps of women, knows as much of mathematics as is now needful for making any considerable mathematical discovery: is it any proof of inferiority in women, that she has not happened to be one of the two or three persons who in her lifetime have associated their names with some striking advancement of the science? The index on the right will also help you find your way around. But, it will be said, the rule of men over women differs from all these others in not being a rule a rule of force: it is accepted voluntarily; women make no complaint, and are consenting parties to it. Is not this enough, and much more than enough, to make it a tyranny to them, and a detriment to society, that they should not be allowed to compete with men for the exercise of these functions? The smallest acquaintance with human life in the middle ages, shows how supremely natural the dominion of the feudal nobility over men of low condition appeared to the nobility themselves, and how unnatural the conception seemed, of a person of the inferior class claiming equality with them, or exercising authority over them.

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The Subjection of Women by J S Mill

summary of the subjection of women

Left to himself he was sure to go wrong. Already in modern life, and more and more as it progressively improves, command and obedience become exceptional facts in life, equal association its general rule. As for moral differences, considered as distinguished from intellectual, the distinction commonly drawn is to the advantage of women. At any rate, it will serve as anything, else for a starting-point in discussion. Before I could hope to make any impression, I should be expected not only to answer all that has ever been said by those who take the other side of the question, but to imagine all that could be said by them — to find them in reasons, as well as answer all I find: and besides refuting all arguments for the affirmative, I shall be called upon for invincible positive arguments to prove a negative. History gives a cruel experience of human nature, in showing how exactly the regard due to the life, possessions, and entire earthly happiness of any class of persons, was measured by what they had the power of enforcing; how all who made any resistance to authorities that had arms in their hands, however dreadful might be the provocation, had not only the law of force but all other laws, and all the notions of social obligation against them; and in the eyes of those whom they resisted, were not only guilty of crime, but of the worst of all crimes, deserving the most cruel chastisement which human beings could inflict. In other countries, the taught opinion, or the requirement of society, may be the stronger power, but the promptings of the individual nature are always visible under it, and often resisting it: rule may be stronger than nature, but nature is still there.

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