Mary Wollstonecraft’s Feminism Legacy

Mary Wollstonecraft’s book “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” was the first to argue for women to be on the same playing field as men, to have an equal footing. Her book was published in 1792 almost half a century before the word feminist was coined in the 1840s. Wollstonecraft’s arguments were well before her time, yet after the emergence of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, feminists were drawn to her work even gaining inspiration from it. Without the works of Wollstonecraft, a feminist would lose a core building block to their ideals. Wollstonecraft left a legacy that impacts women to this day as a feminist fight for equal rights. Characters such as Diane Nguyen in a Netflix original series titled Bojack Horseman embodies Wollstonecraft’s hopes for women as Diane is an educated writer. Yet, Diane faces her challenges being a third-wave feminist from Boston.

Fig.1 Book Cover
“A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”

Wollstonecraft states that women are not naturally inferior to men, they simply appear to be because they lack education. That a lack of education is a grand source of misery. The world thinks that women don’t need an education and that their looks are the only aspect of themselves that needs to be cared for. Looks are what help women collect a husband and he will have an education, therefore, he can take care of her. Wollstonecraft knows that women are a great deal more capable than simply only worrying about their looks. That the mind of a woman is capable of exceptional ideas and concepts. Intentionally excluding women from education is harmful to their state of mind, making women themselves think that they are lesser to men. “Evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state; for like the flowers which are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and the flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk” (Wollstonecraft pg. 306). Today this idea is portrayed in television shows, movies, and books. The woman that devotes her time completely to looks has no brains of her own and the smart woman devotes none of her time to her looks. Beauty is essential for women in a world where women’s only way to rise is by marriage, becoming useless once their beauty expires. Since the day they are born women are raised to believe that obedience, softness of temper, and beauty are all that is needed, with everything else being useless in obtaining a man. An educated woman does not have to lose her love of her beauty, beauty and education can coincide. The only thing that will be lost by women being educated is their blind obedience. They will be able to think on their own and contribute to their community. 

Fig 2. “Quite Contrary”
Mary Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft goes on to say that an educated woman will be a better mother as she can pass on her education to her child, since the mother is usually the parent that is home with them the most. Education enables her to manage her own home, and become a friend to her husband instead of a dependent. A relationship built on friendship, instead of a necessity will have a stronger love. Nevertheless, a woman with proper education can live a single life with dignity if she so chooses. Furthermore giving women a fighting chance in the world if her husband is to die. Women need the tools to be able to take care of the home and the children in the men’s absence. “A double duty devolves on her; to educate them in the character of both father and mother; to form their principles and secure their property” (pg.321). Wollstonecraft sees education as the key for women to break out of the tyranny of men, letting women have some independent principles. 

Unfortunately, education is only a stepping stone for women’s fight to gain equal footing to men. Women have many hurdles to jump over before winning equal treatment. “Women’s liberation, according to socialist theory and practice, is a long and complicated process because it is interlocked with liberation of all social subjects, which would amount to a total dismantlement and transformation of capitalist and other forms of patriarchal socioeconomic structures at both local and global levels” (Lingzen pg.2). Diane Nguyen faces the ongoing battle for equal rights for women. Today women are educated yet nonetheless they face a world not wanting to listen to what they have to say. Diane is a well-reasoned intellectual, writer and third-wave feminist. Diane has to fight against a world that wants to hear about the feminist movement but from the mouth of a man. She faces backlash every time she tries to open the eyes of the world to feminist issues. In episode seven of season two “Hank After Dark” BoJack Horseman during her book QandA Diane mentions that a beloved television star, Hank Hippopopalous has had accusations against him made from all his former assistants. The News spins the story as if Diane is personally attacking the star asking what she has against Hank. The allegations are quickly dismissed and Diane becomes a disgrace for implying something like that of “a national treasure”. During another QandA a man stands up saying “Women are always making broad accusations to get attention and when they don’t have proof they just slink away” (00:10:59-00:11:02). Diane states that eight different women all said the same thing, yet is told there is not enough known about these women to trust their accusations. This shows a perfect example of how even an educated woman still finds the world not wanting to hear what she has to say. Diane isn’t the only one that’s not being heard, all of the former assistants that made the accusations were pushed to the side, because a treasured male star reputation is at risk. In episode four season five “BoJack the Feminist” Diane faces yet again the world not wanting to hear her voice. Vance Waggoner a former big star has a habit of speaking on hypocritical topics with no remorse for his actions and is receiving an award, the “Forgivie,” forgiving him for all of his actions. Diane wants to take Vance down because Hollywood lets famous men do as they please with no consequences. No matter the amount of fame a man has, he needs to be held accountable for his actions and not simply forgiven. Yet as a woman, the world sees Diane as shrill and naggy when she tries to address the issue. She needs a male’s voice to get her points across. “All they need to listen to women is the right voice, a man’s voice” (00:11:42-00:11:43). With Diane’s feminist brain and BoJack’s male face, they can say things that people will listen to, and the world starts to listen. 

Fig. 3 Diane Nguyen eating a messy sandwich

Mary Wollstonecraft left behind a legacy that feminism grew upon and took inspiration from. Wollstonecraft’s book A Vindication of the Rights of Women opened the door to feminism, without her work characters such as Diane Nguyen wouldn’t exist. Wollstonecraft opened the discussion for women to have the opportunity to receive an education. Diane is an embodiment of what a woman can achieve with education under her belt, yet women face new challenges in today’s world.

 

Works Cited

Adams, Nick. “BoJack the Feminist.” Bojack Horseman, season 5, episode 4, Netflix, 14 Sept. 2018. 

 Damrosch, David, and Kevin J. H. Dettmar. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. Pearson, 2012. 

 Galuska, Kelly. “Hank After Dark.” BoJack Horseman, season 2,                                           episode 7, Netflix , 17 July 2015. 

Lingzhen, Wang, et al. “Women's Liberation.” Afterlives of Chinese Communism, ANU Press, 2019, pp. 315–324, 0-www-jstor-org.library.uark.edu/stable/pdf/j.ctvk3gng9.54.pdf?ab_segments=0%2Fbasic_SYC-4801%2Ftest2. 

 
 


 
Images Cited

 Fig.1 “Book Cover, A Vindication of The Rights of Women.” Amazon, 7 Aug. 2007, www.amazon.com/Vindication-Rights-Women-Forgotten-Books/dp/1606200275.  

 Fig.2 Keeman, John. “Quite Contrary.” NewStatesmanAmerica, 11 June 2015, www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2015/06/finding-vindication-intertwined-lives-mary-wollstonecraft-and-mary-shelley.   

 Fig. 3 U/healingpotion34. “Diane Eating a Sandwich.” Reddit, 17 Jan. 2019, www.reddit.com/r/BoJackHorseman/comments/agzy0n/i_think_netflix_r    eally_dropped_the_ball_not_using/.