The Subjection of Women (Paperback)
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The Subjection of Women is the title of an essay written by John Stuart Mill in 1869, possibly jointly with his wife Harriet Taylor Mill, stating an argument in favour of equality between the sexes. At the time it was published in 1869, this essay was an affront to European conventional norms for the status of men and women. John Stuart Mill credited his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill, with co-writing the essay. While some scholars agreed by 2009 that John Stuart Mill was the sole author, it is also noted that some of the arguments are similar to Harriet Taylor Mill's essay The Enfranchisement of Women which was published in 1851. Overview The Subjection of Women (1869) offers both detailed argumentation and passionate eloquence in opposition to the social and legal inequalities commonly imposed upon women by a patriarchal culture. Just as in On Liberty, Mill defends the emancipation of women on utilitarian grounds. Mill was convinced that the moral and intellectual advancement of humankind would result in greater happiness for everybody. He asserted that the higher pleasures of the intellect yielded far greater happiness than the lower pleasure of the senses. He conceived of human beings as morally and intellectually capable of being educated and civilised. Mill believed everyone should have the right to vote, with the only exceptions being barbarians and uneducated people. Mill argues that people should be able to vote to defend their own rights and to learn to stand on their two feet, morally and intellectually. This argument is applied to both men and women. Mill often used his position as a member of Parliament to demand the vote for women, a controversial position for the time. In Mill's time a woman was generally subject to the whims of her husband and/or father due to social norms which said women were both physically and mentally less able than (citation needed), and therefore needed to be "taken care of." Contributing to this view were social theories, i.e. survival of the fittest and biological determinism, based on a now considered incorrect understanding of the biological theory of evolution and also religious views supporting a hierarchical view of men and women within the family(citation needed). The archetype of the ideal woman as mother, wife and homemaker was a powerful idea in 19th century society(citation needed). At the time of writing, Mill recognised that he was going against the common views of society and was aware that he would be forced to back up his claims persistently. Mill argued that the inequality of women was a relic from the past, when "might was right," but it had no place in the modern world. Mill saw that having effectively half the human race unable to contribute to society outside of the home as a hindrance to human development. "... T]he legal subordination of one sex to another - is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.
About the Author
John Stuart Mill, FRSE (20 May 1806 - 8 May 1873) was an English philosopher, political economist and civil servant. He was an influential contributor to social theory, political theory and political economy. He has been called "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century". Mill's conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham. Hoping to remedy the problems found in an inductive approach to science, such as confirmation bias, he clearly set forth the premises of falsifiability as the key component in the scientific method. Mill was also a Member of Parliament and an important figure in liberal political philosophy.