Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Emergence of Modern Women

The time for me to blog has come! And thankfully, I have been selected to blog on our readings from Becoming Visible ch. 9 and the article, "Education for All" by Christine Mayer. Although I have previously never read extensively on the Enlightenment, I felt a distinct excitement as I read about the eighteenth century. Just as my title points out, this truly is a time when we begin to see an emerging of what would become the modern women of today.

I, like probably many of you, glanced at the title of "Education for All" and immediately wrote on the top of my paper: "EDUCATION", expecting this entire article to fit neatly under this heading. However, with further study came the realization that during this time period, the greater topic for discussion was gender roles and women's nature. The struggle in proper education became representative of a greater underlying topic of discussion: the role of women in society. It was through the topic education and the acquisition of knowledge that men tried to prolong their reign over women. However, the Enlightenment opened a door to a world of educated women. Now the article, "Education for All" spoke directly on Germany's slightly delayed Enlightenment. There were two main groups of reasoning behind the education of women. The first declared that women needed to be educated in the Lord's gospel so that she could teach her children to be God-fearing and for a women to be a vital asset in a man's ideal household. The second, more humanistic, group pushed for education for future employment of women and helping the poor help themselves.

The enlightenment truly was a time for "social critique" of all that had once been accepted as is; the church, the home/family, and the state. Writers such as Diderot and René Descarte, tried desperately to break away from tradition and social restrictions in order to find true freedom and rights. In the Nun, Diderot boldly describes the evils found in current society by having his main character experience the lesbian mother superior and a corrupt family, trying to reach her God-given "natural right" and "human freedom" (Becoming Visible, 252). Descarte pushed more for the "radical" view that men and women complemented each other; that each were vital to the other. The "Education for All" article mentioned those who broke through social norms to declare that "men's and women's intellectual capabilities were fundamentally the same" (741).

While women did not gain most of their rights at this time, it is evident that the Enlightenment encouraged people to speak against the harsh restrictions of society and become free-thinking. With this open atmosphere for critique came the advancement of women.

1 comment:

  1. The education made accessible to women during the Enlightenment was the initial construction of the bridge that would allow men and women standing on opposite riverbanks to meet in the middle to enjoy the benefits of critical thinking about gender. The Enlightenment first created a new intellectual arena that allowed men and women to converse about topics of reason at clubs, salons, coffeehouses, etc. Goodman stated that this "required that people passionately committed to the truth learn to engage with each other critically and still remain friends" (236). Women participated in these conversations to a degree and this ushered in a new phase, a time full of peace and civility. Then the rise of the printed word introduced an avenue for women to express themselves through books and articles. Because of the Enlightenment era, women could reach higher levels of education and could participate in a conversation and occupation long dominated by men. This period featured women starting to think and project their ideas on a male-dominated society. We still refer to this age of Enlightenment as the beginning of reason where popular authors like Rene Descartes and Mary Wollstonecraft argued about women and their roles in society that is still disputed, debated, and mulled over by present-day thinkers. Without popular debates during this era such as "The Woman Question," would ideas about women have evolved to the same degree to usher in the freedoms women now enjoy today?