J.S. Mill, "The Subjection of Women"
a. Written in 1869
b. Only man to devote a book to this topic in the history of political philosophy (Mill clearly a feminist)
c. Main argument: Legal (and social/moral?) subordination of women to men is wrong and a chief hindrance to human improvement
2. Mill's positive position on women's role
a. Replace subordination with perfect equality; No power or privilege or disability on one side rather than the other
3. Description of women's status in Britain in Mill's day
a. Authority of man over women: Women wholly under rule of men
b. No share of public concerns
c. In private under legal obligation to obey husband
d. Women barred by law from numerous occupations
e. Required to turn over property and earnings to husband
f. All women need to get married (except the most unattractive ones)
g. Wives pledge life-long obedience to man in everything (except participation in crime)
h. Can't own property without husband
i. Her property becomes his (not vice versa)
i. He is responsible for consequences of her actions (like owning an animal)
j. Children by law belong to the father (she must get his okay before directing them; she doesn’t necessarily get them with his death)
4. Description of women's subordination today
a. Other countries:
i. Places where women can’t vote, can’t get education, can’t participate in public life, can’t drive cars
ii. In Korea, wife-beating common and accepted
iii. Female genital cutting in much of Africa (90% Egypt)
b. This country (see Coontz, 2012)
i. Women's pay (average 90% of man’s)
ii. Occupations women barred from? (priests? military?)
iii. Rampant sex segregation of jobs
(1) Evidence of subordination?
iv. S.C. State Senate has no women (0 out of 46) (only state in the nation with a chamber absent women) (this changed with the recent election, now there is one).
v. Taking husband’s name; children get husband’s name
vi. Continued incredibly high rate of assault on women
(1) “One in four female students are sexually assaulted at U.S. colleges,” said Pamela Jacobs, executive director of the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Post and Courier 11/18/2012
5. Does the fact that subordination of women is widespread give us any evidence in its favor? (No)
a. Generality of a practice sometimes gives us a presumption that it serves good ends
i. Conservative view: lasting a long time and existing is something in favor of a situation
b. But only if it was adopted based on comparison with alternatives (equality, women over men)
c. And it wasn't; it's based on theory only, not experiential test of alternatives to see which produced best results
d. No presumption in favor of subordination of women from fact that it exists
6. Origin of subordination
a. Not adopted deliberately
b. Came about because in earliest human societies every woman was in bondage to a man
i. Due to his desire and greater strength
c. Women’s subordination is a primitive state of slavery lingering on
i. Law of the strongest that has lasted
d. Example where law recognizes existing relations and turns them into a legal right enforced by society
i. Those who were formerly compelled to obedience by physical strength and violence, now become legally bound to it.
7. *Objection: Women accept this subordination voluntarily, consent to it
a. Reply: Many women don't accept it and have written against it
i. Fact that they haven't rebelled doesn't mean they have consented to it.
b. *Reply: In so far as true women accept subordination, men have succeeded in making women into willing slaves
i. Not just service/obedience required of women, like other slaves
ii. But enslavement of their feelings and beliefs as well
iii. Men don't rule out of fear, but out of desire on the part of the ruled
iv. Greater degree of slavery (willing slavery)
v. Enslave the mind
vi. Using force of education to enslave
8. *Women's education about women's nature (536)
a. Taught that women’s character is opposite of men’s
b. Not self-willed or self-governing or in control
c. But submissive and yielding to control of others
d. Women’s nature is to live for others
i. Deny oneself and live for husband and children
ii. Success and ambition can only be gotten through husband and children
e. Socialize young girls with dolls, frilly dresses, etc.
9. *Women's job is to get a man; wherein lies her fulfilment
a. So appearance and sex appeal become of paramount importance
b. That women pay so much attention to their appearance is a sign they are subordinate to men–agree?
c. "Polar star of feminine education and character formation is to become attractive to men" 536
10. *Men use a certain conception of sexual attractiveness to further solidify women's subordination
a. *Men exploit the fact that women must have a man to succeed by making meekness and submissiveness an essential part of their (sexual) attractiveness
b. Very powerful means of subjection
c. True of males today?
i. Vulnerable meek women more attractive?
ii. strong, tough assertive women aren't attractive?
iii. Interested in dating a woman who is assertive and a leader and strong and powerful?
iv. Interested in dating a women who is in an elite fighting unit?
11. Women’s power of retaliation does not give them equality
a. By being scolding and shrewish (ill-tempered)
i. “Power of the scold and shrewish sanction”
b. But this works best over least tyrannical husbands (where least needed)
c. Withholding sex (their peculiar from of power)
12. *Mill on ideal marriage: Between two equals is by far the best
a. Marry someone of equal power and stature as you
b. Each can lead and be led and each look up to the other
c. If man marries an inferior woman, she drags him down
d. Do you accept this? Marry a woman with a career as important as your own? Marry a man whose career is no more important than yours?
e. Need leader in family?
i. Why one leader on all issue, instead of splitting role?
ii. Why man the leader? Why by law?
13. *Does the nature of sexes justifies subordination?
a. Yes: Women by nature are inferior and subordinate to men
i. Look around; this is how women are; look at your typical mother
a. Can't know nature of the sexes, when only seen them in socialized condition (where nature and nurture are mixed)
b. If women are by nature subordinate, then we don't need laws to keep them that way
i. The will automatically be that way; Giving them freedom will let this natural condition unfold
c. That we are so concerned to educate women to keep them in their place shows that it is not their nature to be subordinate
15. *Ways women/wife worse off than slaves
a. May be treated better than slaves, but
b. Willing slave (they like being enslaved), control of inner mind
c. Wife’s property (earnings and inheritance) becomes husbands (slaves can own property apart from master in many countries)
d. No off duty where have own time after job is done
i. 24 hours a day; no slave is as fully a slave as is a wife
e. Wife can't refuse sex from husband; female slave can refuse sex.
i. Today in the U.S., husbands can be convicted of raping their wives in all fifty states, although in some states, punishment is less severe
16. Homemaker's job takes more physical/metal energy than wage earner's job
a. Bears children
b. Responsibility for rasing and educating children
c. Decides how to spend the $ he makes for what's best of the family
d. If she starts to earn money too, seldom does this result in him taking over some of the household work
i. The super mom of today
17. Stay-at-home wife a suitable division of labor?
a. In just situations (marriage an equal contract) not desirable for wife to work
i. Is the traditional role of women as homemakers and child raisers a career of equal stature to a career in the paid working world?
b. In unjust situations, working is her way of getting power and becoming more valuable to the man (who likes the $)
18. The power of earning is essential to the dignity of women (if no other means of property)
a. In general, first duty should be to the family, and outside work shouldn't interfere
b. Some exceptional women with special talent can have a career, as long as make other arrangements for home duties.
c. He seems to be assuming that default is women must arrange for child care, instead of joint decisions
19. Mill seems to have some remaining sexism.....
20. Is women making their way in world outside the home essential to their dignity?
21. *Women should not be prohibited from any occupations
a. Preventing women from doing this is a way to continue the subordination of women
b. Agree? Any jobs you think are unsuitable for women? Or men?
22. Exclusion of women from occupations can't be justified by the argument that women are not as good on average as men 539
a. Must argue that no women are fit for those jobs/roles
b. And that the most inferior man is better than best women
23. Subordination of women great loss and harm to society
a. By banning ½ humankind from using talents to the fullest is a great loss
b. Double the amount of mental ingenuity available to benefit society
24. All selfish tendencies and self-worship has source/root in unjust relation of men to women
a. Boy growing up knows that he's better than ½ human race totally independent of merit, simply because born a male
b. Bad effect on character by this lesson
25. Moral regeneration of humans an only begin when most basic social relationship is ruled by justice/equality
J.S. Mill, The Subjection of Women
1. What is Mill’s response to the argument that women voluntarily accept the subordinate role in their relations with men?
2. In what way does Mill think women are better or worse off than slaves?
3. What is Mill’s response to the argument for the view that women are subordinate to men by nature based on the fact that most women are subordinate to men in actual relationships that we see around us.
4. How does Mill think men's ideas about sexually attractive women contribute to the subordination of women?
5. What does Mill think about the argument that women are not suited for certain occupations because on average, women can’t do the job as well as men can?
6. Why does Mill think the subordination of women is a great loss to society? Why does he think women’s equality is important for other moral relationships?