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“The Subjection of Women”

Mill, John Stuart, written 1869, ed. Jonathan Bennett, 2009 | published on line


pp. 7-8

“Some will object that it’s not fair to compare the government of the male sex with the other forms of unjust power that I have discussed, because it is natural while the others are arbitrary and brought about by mere usurpation. But was there ever any domination that didn’t appear natural to those who possessed it? There was a time when the division of mankind into a small class of masters and a large class of slaves appeared, even to the most cultivated minds, to be the only natural condition of the human race! Aristotle, with his great intellect and his great contributions to the progress of human thought, held this opinion without doubt or misgiving; and his reason for it was the reason usually given for the dominion of men over women, namely that there are different natures among mankind, free natures and slave natures; that the Greeks were of a free nature, the barbarian races of Thracians and Asiatics of a slave nature. . . . It will be said that the rule of men over women differs from [other authority] in not being a rule of force, that it is accepted voluntarily, that women don’t complain, and are consenting parties to it. Well, the first point to make is that a great number of women do not accept it. Ever since there have been women able to make their sentiments known by their writings (the only form of going-public that society permits to them), increasingly many of them have protested against their present social condition; and recently many thousands of them, headed by the most eminent women known to the public, petitioned Parliament to allow them the vote. The claim of women to be educated as well and as broadly as men as men is urged with growing intensity and with a great prospect of success; while the demand for their admission into professions and occupations that have so far been closed to them becomes more urgent every year. [Mill speaks of movements along these lines in the USA and in some European countries. Then:] We can’t possibly know how many more women there are who silently have such hopes, but there are plenty of signs of how many would have them if they weren’t so strenuously taught to repress them as improper for their sex. It may have occurred to you that these examples concern only certain parts or aspects of the subjection of women, not the whole thing. Nothing much follows from that, however. No enslaved class ever asked for complete liberty at once.”