Feminist Political Theory: An Introduction by Valerie Bryson

By Valerie Bryson

Feminist Political conception presents either a wide-ranging historical past of western feminist inspiration and a lucid research of up to date debates. It deals an obtainable and thought-provoking account of advanced theories, which it pertains to 'real-life' matters suc

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It lies at the very foundation of all progress' (in Rossi, 1973, pp. 392-3). In one sense this position can be seen simply as a logical extension of the premises of liberal individualism, whereby the idea that an individual has rights in his or her person gains specific meaning when applied to women. The issue could therefore be expressed using the language of the liberal tradition; thus Lucy Stone, who was generally seen as a more 'moderate' and 'respectable' feminist than Stanton, wrote: 'It is very little to me to have the right to vote, to own property etc if I may not keep my body, and its uses, in my absolute right' (quoted by Wheeler, 1983).

The movement for the abolition of slavery was also related to the growth of feminist ideas in a number of ways. Most obviously, at a time when a married woman was effectively her husband's possession, there was a clear analogy between the situation of women and slaves. The movement was both a moral crusade and a liberal republican campaign, for the institution of slavery could be seen not only as an affront to God, but also as a violation of the spirit of the American constitution; in both cases the arguments against negro slavery could be used on behalf of women, while the frequently cited argument that slavery involved the sexual exploitation of women (both of the female slave by her owner, and of his wronged wife) introduced a gender-specific aspect to the debate.

However, her best-known work was preceded by her Vindication of the Rights of Man (1790) which defended equal rights against the claims of hierarchy and privilege, and attacked inheritance and property as causes of poverty and misery for working people; her last novel (The Wrongs of Woman: or Maria, published posthumously in 1798) was concerned to explore the predicament not only of the middle-class heroine, but also of a servant girl drawn to prostitution; so that a wider awareness of social issues is to be found if we look beyond the pages of the Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

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