In preparing for this weeks blog post, I decided to dig back in our archives to a post from one of our first weeks of the semester. Instead of researching a particular ethical theory we covered, I choose to look back at the prompt that asked us to find a fun and or interesting fact about one of our big thinkers. In my post, John Stuart Mils & Feminism, I discuss that although we usually associate JS Mills with his concept of utilitarianism, he actually was one of the earliest proponents of feminism and women’s rights. In his 1869 essay, The Subjection of Women, Mills stresses that the union between a man and a woman should be equal and that parity should be recognized within the home and in social settings. Mill’s support of women’s rights ultimately correlated with his ideas of utilitarianism, which preach that, “the best actions and policies are defined as those that promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” (ABC-CLIO, 2012).
Despite the fact that I believe I wrote a pretty solid description of his points, I failed to really include those critics of his ideas. Although I do present how some of his ideas did not complement his general assertion of equality, I wanted to explore this point further. Therefore, I turned to Google Scholar to help me gain a better understanding of how other reacted to his writings.
In my search, I found an article entitled Martial Slavery and Friendship by Mary Lyndon Shanley. Unfortunately, I could not get access to the entire essay (I would have had to have paid nineteen dollars for it), but the preview provided me with a brief but straightforward synopsis of her intentions. When I initially researched Mills and feminism, most historians and scholars praised the philosopher for his belief in equality because for the time, they were radical statements. To support a woman’s progress within society, her desire to break from the shackles of domesticity and have equal opportunity in the public and private spheres was atypical for the era. When Shanley first presents is that, “Some contemporary feminist have denigrated the work, questioning the efficacy of merely striking down legal barriers against women as the way to establish equality between the sexes.” These critics go further to say that Mills does not extend his critique of inequality to within the home itself, that being the division of labor in the private sphere and how most women should choose marriage as a career.
What Shanley argues, which I did not initially conclude from my original research, is that The Subjection of Women was not just about asserting equality between men and women. Rather, it was about the corruption of the male-female relationship and the intent of creating a solid friendship through marriage. Furthermore, this friendship created through marriage was the essential tool to the progression of human society.
Often times, when I research or analyze feminist ideals, I often am blinded and rarely see the other side. Reading the article above allowed me to realize that when I’m doing research, I need to include all sides of the material. My blog posts would have been well rounded if I had included the other side to the point I was presenting. Using a cited reference search enabled me to come to this realization, as well as find materials I could use in my future endeavors.