The age of Enlightenment, also known simply as Enlightenment, was centred on the power of reason as the primary source of knowledge, intellect, and progressive ideas of liberty and progress in the society. In line with this principle, Mary Wollstonecraft challenged the enlightenment thinkers in understanding its real essence.
In light of the value of reasons, Wollstonecraft dares men’s intellect and reason regarding enlightenment principles and ideals of liberty and equality. She argues the rationale behind women’s exclusion from discussions about universal rights of freedom, solidarity, and parity. I believe that such principles were not applied to all men but only to those members of the elite group who can afford expensive education.
So far, one of the Enlightenment’s challenges, up to date, is the issue of equality of the sexes, which Wollstonecraft clarifies. In her argumentative essay, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” women’s right to education is her crucial point. It merely means equal opportunity to rational knowledge for both men and women. Given that chance, education will unlock women’s intellectual capability and moral endeavours toward their independence from men, eventually releasing men’s authority over them.
Wollstonecraft defied the thoughts of enlightenment thinkers about women’s inferiority. She presented a solid argument that such inferiority of women, in her time, was an outcome of impartial upbringing and deprivation of proper education. I agree that women are inferior. It is because the society of men made them so. The domestic functions, submissiveness to men, and a restricted public involvement characterize women’s upbringing, which Wollstonecraft emphasized. Similarly, I truly understand that women are incapable of using their reason objectively. It is so because men do not allow them to voice out and respond by excluding them in intellectual and moral discussions.
Thoughtfully, setting aside one’s own biases and pre-conceived ideas on the role of men and women in the early societies, women as rational beings and having human brains like that of men, undeniably, have the capability to rationalize. For instance, in raising children, women are more credible in explaining and describing the subject matter than men’s acquired knowledge based on lived experience. Here, men’s ego holds them to accept women’s human capacity to rationalize things. Wollstonecraft plainly expresses that the same people who debate on universal principles disregard the same code when it does not benefit them.
In my other way of looking into it, Wollstonecraft’s expression of thoughts was highly motivated by lived-experiences, such as her abusive father and ill-fated marriage life, among other things, kindled by the enlightenment principles of liberty and the power of reasons. Her attempt to bring women’s rights to intellectual discussion established the groundwork for women’s universal rights, which hammered men’s dominance in women’s personal and social life today.
The power of reason is Enlightenment toward human liberty and virtue. Wollstonecraft created the Enlightenment movement as an academic arena to challenge every elite class’s educated men, who deemed their reasons are more potent than others, particularly than that of women’s. One way or another, men’s early recognition of women’s intellectual potentials, human society might have a more reliable and holistic foundation, where women are as virtuous as men.
Enlightenment, then, is a recurrence of understanding things through factual and analytical reasons that liberate people. Remarkably, it becomes an avenue to vindicate women’s rights and freedom. As a final point of reflection, unless men completely accept women’s human capacity to reason out morally and intellectually, still the Enlightenment challenges its character – sovereignty of reason – which has not yet ultimately achieved. It is Wollstonecraft’s advantage, indeed.