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Posts Tagged ‘subjection of women’

As I was reading John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women, all that came to my mind was how drastically the rights for women have changed over the 20th century.  This led me to think of how long it has taken for Mill’s ideas to actually come to pass; he was far ahead of his time in many ways as far as marriage laws and the equality of women went but what struck me the most was Mill’s notion of the effect of the law to the status quo as far as the treatment of women goes.  The equality in law, as seen in education (as the foundation of equality in the workplace), does not always equate to equality in the real world due to the societal acceptance.

Mill made me think of my own family’s history. If I look back three generation on either side there is a vast discrepancy between the rights the laws grant women and the way women were actually treated. On my dad’s side, my great grandmother, who was born in 1912, was not allowed to go to high school or college because her family did not want her to, but the law granted that right to her.  Whereas my grandma was able to go to high school, both by the permission of her family and by law, but was not able to continue on with college because her family felt that it was her duty as a woman to marry my grandfather.

Now on my mother’s side, my great grandma went as far as her small country school would allow her to. However, her daughter, my grandmother, was given the opportunity to go to college, which was extremely rare for women at that time.  I find the reality of this absolutely appalling. According to the American Association of University Women, women were allowed to attend higher education institutions beginning in 1848, but the Association also notes that by 1870 only .7% of the female population was going to college, then 2.8% in 1900, and 7.6% in 1920.  It was still considered quite rare for women to go to college when my grandmother went in 1947 and yet again when my mother went to college in 1976.  There is obviously a social constraint on women that the law alone was not resolving.

Mill was pushing for the law to ensure total equality between men and women, which seems odd for a man to be advocating for the rights of women in the 19th century.  It’s surprising to discover that Mill was writing for the equality of women in 1869 and then to realize that women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920.  We can see from looking in just four generation of women how far ahead of his time Mill really was in his regards to the advancements of the rights of women and his thoughts on the correlation between the status quo and laws for women.  I find it interesting that, from looking at my family over this past century, one can see that even though there were laws in place for women, society prevented them from being socially acceptable for in higher education.  What would Mill think of a society that has continually regarded women so poorly? I personally think Mill would just give women all the more credit that has been taken from women… Glass ceiling… Mill would shatter it!

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If Sarah Palin Was a Man

            Note: I’d like to say that this paper does not include quotes from Mill’s “Subjection of Women,” or from Professor LM’s article, even though it is about the same sort of thing, because neither of those prompted me to write this. I was prompted from talks that took place in discussion section, which are kind of hard to cite. Also, to keep the paper as short as possible, I did not support adequately some of the general claims I made. My apologies.

Throughout the governmental history of this country, a woman has never been president, or even vice president. Sure, in the early days of America’s life, women in general were viewed as less superior to men, and couldn’t even vote, let alone run for public office. However, even after the women’s suffrage movement, after a woman walked on the moon, after a woman serving on the Supreme Court, after women have held numerous lesser public office positions, people STILL don’t take women serious enough to hold the highest public office position in the land. In discussion section, we talked about how people who don’t consider women as possible leaders are essentially ignoring half of the population. This prompted me to write this paper as I ponder possible women I would want to lead me. I’ve decided that if Sarah Palin were a man, she would potentially win a Presidential election. I think Palin has the qualities that would allow her to win a Presidential election, but because she is a woman, it will be much harder for her to do so.

            First and foremost, I think the main reason that Palin would win is the fact that she is “inexperienced.” I put that word in quotation marks because it is often used to negatively describe candidates. She is just very different, as far as political history goes, than anyone else. I’ve heard many people say that this would hinder her ability to run the country, but to that I ask, what is the worst that could happen? The policies of these so called experienced leaders we’ve had for decades have left us in a bad economical situation. So, why not at least let Palin try? Her conservative polices wouldn’t throw us too far off even if she didn’t do a good job. So, as far as I’m concerned, it is time for a REAL change in the oval office. I’ve heard countless people say how Barack Obama is FINALLY the change we need. I acknowledge the fact that he is the country’s first black president, and that does help to lower the racial barriers, but as far as politics is concerned, he is just a liberal lawyer who has worked his way up the political ladder; which is something this country should be familiar with by now, I would think.  So if someone actually wants a change, I hope that they would lean towards a candidate like Sarah Palin. I think that since she hasn’t been feeding from the political trough for a long time, she would be better able to understand and help the private sector of the economy, which would be good for the country as a whole. I also think that it’s time for the country to start electing people who serve as better representatives of the average citizen. I know Palin isn’t perfect in this category, but she’s better than most candidates. For example, many can relate to her struggles with family problems. Her child having another child at a young age, as well as her child with down syndrome, helps to make Palin seem real. Also, she doesn’t seem to be as affluent as a lot of other politicians. Americans need a President that isn’t superior to the average citizen. We need to stop casting votes for the already rich lawyers and politicians that have had a strong hold on the white house for so long. How can we expect someone who doesn’t understand the everyday struggles of the average citizen to really effectively cater quality policy for us? Palin is so down to earth, and real, that it would be hard for anyone to say that she wouldn’t keep the average citizen’s interests in mind. After all, isn’t that what the government is supposed to do? Also, her education has nothing to do with law, and barely anything to do with politics. I mean, all she got was a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism. I’m not saying she’s dumb in any way, only that her education isn’t the norm for a politician.  I think these things bode well for Palin because I think America needs, and is ready for, a PRESIDENT WHO IS NOT A POLITICIAN. For these reasons, I think that Sarah Palin’s qualities would make her a tough opponent for any presidential candidate to have, and prime one to help change our country.

            I’ve tried to show the reasons I think that Palin would get elected, and now I’d like to offer the reason that Sarah Palin will probably not be elected: she is a woman. We have been reading about how women in our society are often ignored when it comes to big issues. It seems like most people think the idea of Palin being President is a joke. For this reason, she has been viciously attacked for quite a while. I mean, there are a lot of candidates and political figures out there, but none have been subjected to harsh mainstream media like Sarah Palin. She has been the butt of jokes ever since John McCain announced her as his running mate. From portrayals on SNL, to overall harsh criticism on many news shows, Palin has had to endure slander that is arguably worse than many politicians have had to endure. And I would like to know why? What has she done to warrant such hostility towards her and her family? I would like to think that the only thing she is guilty of is having a uterus. I believe that since people can’t find good enough things to make fun of her for regarding her policy or lack of education, they turn to the gender difference. I think that even though women’s rights have come a long way since the 1700’s, the seed of difference is still implanted in the back of everyone’s minds, which leads the majority of people to distrust the leadership of a woman. In discussion, we talked about how deep the differences between men and women really are, and I was surprised to learn that it basically stems from the fact that men are stronger than women. In the old days, women were inferior because they couldn’t complete all of the physical tasks necessary to survival as well as a man could. I think it is time to stop believing that men are inherently better leaders. By doing so, maybe the country will actually get the BEST person in office, regardless of race or gender. Also in discussion, we talked about how if women aren’t considered in Presidential talks, and women make up roughly 50% of the population, then that means we are potentially throwing out half of all the people in the country simply because of gender. Two heads are better than one, and with today’s crises we should not ignore half of the population when someone in that half could have the answers. I mean, if a woman is truly better, smarter, and more qualified, then she should get the job. However, she should not get the job just because she is a woman and is not qualified in other important ways (*cough* Nancy Pelosi/Judge Sotomayor *cough*). In my opinion, if people throw out the preconceived notion that men are superior to women, then Sarah Palin has a much better chance of getting elected and taking steps towards fixing the country.

            In conclusion, I think that if Sarah Palin’s qualities were to stand alone, it is likely that she would win a Presidential election. However, because she is a woman, she is often ridiculed, and therefore written off as a serious leader. I think that the way that she has been portrayed by the mainstream media makes her the laughing stock of the political world. The only way, in my eyes, for this country to really move forward is to throw out all gender notions and actually look at the person they are electing, as well as a good look at the reasons to elect them. As result, maybe the best leader overall will win the Presidency, not just the best male leader.

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                Throughout history, women have been discriminated against. From being denied the right to vote, to being restricted in job opportunities and dominated by their husbands, as Mill tries to address in Subjection of Women.  But where did all of this start? Men and women are obviously biologically different, but these differences have not always created a hierarchy between the two genders. Adam and Eve were created as equal partners, and ancient societies valued women and men for different things but they were equal.  But as we have progressed both in occupations and methods of courtship, men have had to prove that they would not abuse their physical superiority. From this came chivalry, which created a new relationship between the two genders, with the woman seen as needing to be taken care of, and the man her caretaker. As the world industrialized and many places adopted capitalism, the focus of work became money rather than doing only what was necessary to provide for your family. As men dominated what was originally a highly physically demanding work force, they not only set themselves up as the physically superior gender, but the socially dominant one and, as jobs became less physical and more intellectual, the intellectually superior one as well. What had originated as solely a physical difference became rationale for the suppression of women and the domination of men in society which persisted for centuries, despite attempts such as Mill’s to rectify this.

                Though steps are now being taken to restore equality between the sexes, it is a very different type of equality which feminists are fighting for than was experienced before these gender roles originally arose in society, and a different type of equality than Mill is fighting for. Feminists today are fighting for assimilation. They wish to have the same jobs, same opportunities, and same advantages that men have. The problem with the way feminists today are being active is that they are fighting for all of the advantages of equality but failing to accept the responsibilities that come along with these advantages. Not only this, but they are trying to take equality to an extreme and overlook the blatantly obvious biological differences between the two genders. For example, some people are fighting for women to be allowed to serve in the infantry branch of the military. In doing so, these people are overlooking the fact that a woman is biologically more emotionally connected to her actions, and is therefore more likely to face psychological problems during combat. She is able to bear children, causing a dangerous situation for both mother and child were the woman to be impregnated. She also interacts differently with men, and men innately feel more of a sense of protection of and sympathy for women, creating a dangerous situation in combat, should a soldier act on emotion rather than relying on his training. I believe that, if we are to fight for assimilation, we must take responsibility for the duties which come with the advantages of this type of equality, though this is not a solution at all when the biological differences between the sexes are ignored. Let me know what you all think on this topic. I would love to hear some other ideas.

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An article I read in New York Times today discussed the possibility that humans are inherently altruistic.  Hobbes, along with several of the authors whose work we have read this semester, would immediately disagree and assert that our own self-interest is behind all of our decisions and actions.  However, I think John Stuart Mill would be accepting of the findings in the article because they support some of his reasoning in “Subjection of Women.”  The main point in the article that led me to this conclusion was psychologist Micheal Tomasello’s suggestion that humans cooperated from an early age by hunting together.  Several men could help to kill large game that one hunter on his own would never have managed to obtain.  This parallels Mill’s utilitarian idea that the combined intellectual power of men and women (as opposed to that of only men) will provide the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people in the society.  The article does admit that people are not always nice to each other, but I think its overall argument adds strength to those in “Subjection of Women.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/science/01human.html?ref=science

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