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Old 05-13-2019, 11:03 AM
Manda JO is offline
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 11,436
monstro, have you read Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women? It's really interesting, because Wollstoncraft was all about toxic femininity. Much of the book is slagging on (upper-class) women, as society has shaped them and Wollstoncraft has some really interesting observations about what happens when you deny intelligent creatures an education and offer them only indirect and subversive avenues to power. She very much makes the argument that toxic femininity exists and is in fact a logical and predictable response to a social structure that doesn't offer much else:

Pleasure is the business of a woman's life, according to the present modification of society, and while it continues to be so, little can be expected from such weak beings. Inheriting, in a lineal descent from the first fair defect in nature, the sovereignty of beauty, they have, to maintain their power, resigned their natural rights, which the exercise of reason, might have procured them, and chosen rather to be short-lived queens than labour to attain the sober pleasures that arise from equality. Exalted by their inferiority (this sounds like a contradiction) they
constantly demand homage as women . . .

And, made by this amiable weakness entirely dependent, excepting what they gain by illicit sway, on man, not only for protection, but advice, is it surprising that, neglecting the duties that reason alone points out, and shrinking from trials calculated to strengthen their minds, they only exert themselves to give their defects a graceful covering, which may serve to heighten their charms in the eye of the voluptuary, though it sink them below the scale of moral excellence? . ..

Fragile in every sense of the word, they are obliged to look up to man for every comfort. In the most trifling dangers they cling to their support, with parasitical tenacity, piteously demanding succour; and their NATURAL protector extends his arm, or lifts up his voice, to guard the lovely trembler--from what? Perhaps
the frown of an old cow, or the jump of a mouse; a rat, would be a serious danger. In the name of reason, and even common sense, what can save such beings from contempt; even though they be soft and fair?
Wollstoncraft is not perfect--she's very much the product of her own times--but she's really got some brilliant observations about how social systems and gendered expectations shape people.

We excerpt it in my class and pair it with 19th C American Feminism--which is much more about how women are inherently different than men, and how the "feminine element" needs to be included in government and society. It's one of my favorite readings all year.