Legacy: “And They Lived Happily Ever After…” Scratch That, Women Are Getting Smarter.
Mary Astell made her argument at a very young age that, despite centuries of cultural practice, women’s rights were just as important as men’s.”In Some Reflections Upon Marriage”, she questions why women are “taught to think marriage her only preferment, the sum-total of her endeavors, the completion of all her hopes.” Astell explains how women are taught less even though they face serious repercussions within society, and men are taught all they need to know about the world and have hardly any repercussions. Also, at this time Astell urged for an all female academy where unmarried women “might develop their reason, deepen their knowledge, and nurture their faith free from the distractions imposed by social conventions.”
In 1837 educator Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke College, which was the first of the Seven Sisters, meaning it was the equivalent to any male Ivy League School. Mary Lyon’s famous words “Go where no one else will go, do what no one else will do” portray what Mary Astell was trying to get across in her text. Astell was the “pioneering feminist” she paved the way for women and gave them the courage to get educated and learn about the world. From the time the all female academy opened in 1837 it was almost a century before women gained the right to vote. Women education started to become a thing of the future just like Astell wanted when she questioned the inequality between men and women especially when it came to marriage.
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett was published in 2009, but the storyline takes place in the 60s in a small Mississippi town. I know when you think of “The Help” you instantly think about racism, but have you ever thought about how educated the women are in the novel? Skeeter was a determined writer just returning home from college. Her education and the want to educate the people about how black maids were treated instantly turned her into “an object of scorn to the wealthy locals who viewed her actions as directly disturbing the social order.” Skeeters mother being a traditional women encouraged her to straighten her hair and find a man, and to stop writing. Starting to sound familiar? I know this movie reflects upon racism, but it also reflects how education in women is still looked down upon. Men are basically nonexistent in this novel, except for Skeeter’s boyfriend Stuart. Stuart being a Senators son quickly learned of Skeeters civil rights leanings and ends the romance because women shouldn’t be trying to go against the social order. Skeeter refuses to let the social order rule her life. She rebels and faces the repercussions. Like Astell, Skeeter was determined to educate people with her writing. “The Help” is a novel Astell could be proud of.
Too much of something can be a bad thing. Is too much education in women a bad thing? In 2007 Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers discussed how education in women leads to higher divorce rates and greater gender inequality between couples. They stated many reasons towards why they believed this was true, like because women are becoming more educated they are making more money, which is making the men in the relationship feel inferior causing gender inequality, causing divorce. Also, the education of contraceptive pills, they believe if women would not be educated about their bodies it would be better. Men want women to be inferior and stay at home and have their babies. With education of contraceptive pills it prolongs pregnancy which causes divorce rates to raise. Basically, what I took away from this article was that it is strictly the females fault if a marriage fails. But, isn’t that how it has always been? Women have always been the one to educate the children properly and to fit into society. They teach there daughters starting at a young age that finding a husband is the only thing we have to look forward too. If this system fails women are the ones to blame. Men simply cant handle being inferior to women in my opinion is what causes higher divorce rates. Is this what Mary Astell wanted? When it came down to it, did she just want men to feel inferior to women for a change?
“None of Gods creatures absolutely considered are in their own nature contemptible; the meanest fly, the poorest insect has its use and virtue.” I think she answers that question with those few words. Mary Astell didn’t want gender inequality, she wanted equal rights, and for women to have the choice to be educated about the world like men are. She wanted women to realize the choices they have besides marriage. It is our fault that women for generations and generations were taught that marriage, and the “big day” were the way of life. Since the tables are turning men cant fathom women being educated because like daughters sons were taught that women were inferior beings.
In 2013 Aimee Groth said, “women are more educated than ever before earning more college degrees than men annually.” With more earning power, education, and stability women are beating the system and are waiting later to get married, and are getting out of bad marriages. I think this is all Astell wanted when she wrote “Some Reflections Upon Marriage.” She just wanted women to have the same education as men, and she definitely got what she wanted. Marriage is a beautiful thing but not when its strictly for the glitter and lights of the “big day.” Women are starting to realize there is so much more to think about than the fairy tale life they grew up believing was the completion of their whole being. I would personally like to thank Mary Astell for creating the path for women to gain confidence and understand their rights as a woman.
I can only hope more women become educated about the opportunities they have before they marry. I hope they realize the hype of the big day is only a temporary high, and without education they will be stuck being inferior to man. It is time women are equal to the almighty man.
Astell, Mary. “Some Reflections Upon Marriage.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature, fifth edition. New York: Longman 1999. 2283-2291. Print.
Coontz,Stephanie. “The Disestablishment of Marriage.” The New York Times. The New York Times. 22 June 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Gorth, Aimee. “Female Education Has Completely Changed Marriage in America.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc. 22 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.