Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reclaiming the Enlightenment for Feminism & Challenging Masculine Aristocracy

Karen Offen incorporates many of the authors we have previously examined to form an argument for the feminist movement during the French Revolution and the enlightenment. Offen argues that it was during this time that the French realized that the sexes were not determined exclusively by nature but a socially structured behavior. In that aspect I placed this reading on my list for Gender. She also looked into the view of the French on marriage and how they were still so relient on men for all that they had or could claim. This reliance became a topic of discussion for women when men declared for themselves rights, excluding women from those rights. With the beginning of a separation of church and state the topic of marriage was again examied. Men worked to retain their control over the state and thereby, marriage, while women sought a break from the churches ideals of male dominated marriages. Offen also discusses the work that women did outside the home and how this was also slightly changing. Women were being asked to spend more time on their education but this was emphasized only for civil reasons not for individual betterment.

Overall I believe this reading fits under many categories, such as Gender, Employment and Work, Marriage and Family, Law, Education, and Citizenship, and because is was largely based in France and not spread until later times, Categories of Differene in region.


  1. I definitely believe women received benefits from the Enlightenment. When I read this reading, I couldn't help but think of the painting we saw in class and how it directly interacts with what the reading tries to express. Though the Enlightenment started out as a time for men to thrive, their intellectual advancements rubbed off on the women around them. This could not be squandered or helped. Women rose to prominence because of the advancements around them. And though women in the Enlightenment are practically never discussed, they laid the foundation for many prominent female thinkers to later build on.

  2. I disagree about the strength of the connection between marriage and government. However much I might disagree with Hatlen on the role of marriage patterns in Europe on society, I do agree with her that the family is the basis of all social change, that it is the most fundamental aspect of society. Thus, while men may have "worked to retain control over the state," I do not think this amounts to control over marriage.

    In fact, the opposite may be true. We have seen sever times in this class how, when especially threatened, the role of manhood projects itself through heightened rhetoric. Think Tosh on the dying British Empire. If French revolutionaries were fighting so hard for validation in government, it may be that they were not finding fulfillment in marriage, i.e., they felt less relevant at home than in government.