Read The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill Free Online
Book Title: The Subjection of Women|
The author of the book: John Stuart Mill
Edition: Broadview Press Inc
Date of issue: February 23rd 2000
ISBN 13: 9781551113548
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 16.87 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.1
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I skimmed through The Subjection of Women but when I got to the passage on women's inferiority being that they don't produce original thought or works, I decided not to read the rest. If it's written from that paternalistic point of view, I can see that I would need to practice deep-breathing and that only delays the inevitable reaction. To sum up the book, Mill thought women were equal but... But the standards he used did not take into account this was not a level playing field. Ultimately he thinks that women are equal but they are better off in the kitchen.
Note. If you are skimming this then skip to the last-but-one paragraph. That is a greater commentary on the subjection of women and the times than I could write.
Imagine if John Stuart Mill had looked at the artistic and scientific life as it really was. Let's say we confine this to the upper classes, a tiny proportion of the UK. The boys had all been to school for a classical education. The women had generally been educated at home by a governess and taught to play piano, draw, sew, manage a household and recite poetry as their main subjects. Women were considered physically, socially and intellectually men's inferiors. They had many hurdles to jump should they want a career. Even novelists like the unmarried Jane Austen
For women any kind of career was almost always a choice between marriage and vocation. Not being married meant they had to have been rich in their own right, would deny themselves children (and mostly likely the act that produces them), and condemned themselves to being the spinster aunt socially. For men, no choice was necessary. They had very few responsibilities at home if they chose to delegate them to the household manager, the wife.
Even if the women were of the bent to enquire into science, they didn't have the education and even if they had husbands who were happy for them to travel to London and stay at their clubs (what clubs) and go to the various societies devoted to science it wasn't possible. Those societies didn't admit women.
With art the men had access to live-drawing. Naked models. This is a major part of any art education (view spoiler)[I went to art college, it still is (hide spoiler)] and women were absolutely denied this.
Most artists and scientists then and now did not produce any great original works. Just a few here and there, even with all that education, time, peer-support and practice, only a few did anything original. Mostly original work is of tiny steps and not a great earth-shattering discovery. Then as now.
But in any case, it wasn't true. From time immemorial there have been women artists and scientists of such stature that texts, from Pliny to the present write about them. But how many more were there denied public recognition, their achievements being credited to the men they worked with? The Wikipedia entry isn't very good, Caroline Herschell for instance (I read a book about her) isn't fully credited with her achievements or fight for acceptance. But nonetheless it is worth checking out.
So I didn't read this essay. If a man is going to write how women are unfairly treated as inferior from birth onwards, and then say that well they are inferior in this, this and this, I discount it. Mills' wasn't so much a forward thinker, an early feminist as one who was a protagonist of PC thought. Intellectually he knew that subjugation of females was wrong, but emotionally he still couldn't quite give up the idea of male supremacy.
One of the saddest things I've ever seen written:
"You know I am black and if it was known that a Negro woman patented the invention, white ladies would not buy the wringer. I was afraid to be known because of my color in having it introduced into the market, that is the only reason." Ellen Eglin
Ellen invented a wringer, the first labour-saving device for washing clothes that would be generally available. She sold it to a white man for $18. If Mills refused to recognise women's achievements as original, how much harder for Black people, Black women. How much of their history was subsumed beneath the weight of racism and sexism? I doubt we will ever know.
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Read information about the authorJohn Stuart Mill, British philosopher, political economist, civil servant and Member of Parliament, was an influential liberal thinker of the 19th century. He was an exponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham, although his conception of it was very different from Bentham's.
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