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In other words De Beauvoir sees the opportunity of secretary, shop girl, teacher, or nurse as wholly unlikely to offer women a real sense of independence and will likely continue to be treated as temporary positions held until the woman is married, at which time she will likely give up this vocation (surrender her body) and tend to a family.
Mill like De Beauvoir speaks of the extreme vocation of the wife and mother as one that offers much work and little independence. He says that women already share a larger burden than men with regard to living and in addition, and by virtue of this, necessary and natural role of the woman as wife and mother she is but should not be further barred from interests that could make her a better person.
…in addition to the physical suffering of bearing children, and the whole responsibility of their care and education in early years, the wife undertakes the careful and economical application of the husband's earnings to the general comfort of the family; she takes not only her fair share, but usually the larger share, of the bodily and mental exertion required by their joint existence. If she undertakes any additional portion, it seldom relieves her from this, but only prevents her from performing it properly. (Mill 88)
Mill, rightfully contends that there are no social and familial supports for women with regard to the responsibility of the family.
According to Mill, when women choose to seek outside employment, education or any number of other pursuits they, by virtue of the enormity of the task of running a household, are then seen as neglecting their duties, as the household gets neglected because no one else recognizes these duties as anyone's but the wife. So, Mill contends that her labor outside the home simply gives men fodder for believing she is better suited to the home and family, when her duties become derelict at home and could result in further abuse of power. Mill even goes so far as to say that a woman working outside the home is unjust, when the marriage contract is unequal, which it clearly is, according to Mill. Mill contends that the situation of marriage must be equalized for women to have the freedom to choose a vocation, outside the home or her vocation will be looked upon as a way for the husband to simply reject his own earning responsibilities and be idle. Mill asserts that women will not be free to seek employment until there are appropriate supports available to her to make up for her absence from the home.
…the utmost latitude ought to exist for the adaptation of general rules to individual suitabilities; and there ought to be nothing to prevent faculties exceptionally adapted to any other pursuit, from obeying their vocation notwithstanding marriage: due provision being made for supplying otherwise any falling-short which might become inevitable, in her full performance of the ordinary functions of mistress of a family. These things, if once opinion were rightly directed on the subject, might with perfect safety be left to be regulated by opinion, without any interference of law." (Mill 88-89)
Mill also contends that these changes do not require the force of law but the force of opinion, basically a redirection of society's opinion of the role of women and the role of wife and mother. De Beauvoir on the other hand delves deep into these issues, even discussing the situation as an adversary of woman, who in her society allows herself to be judged for so many things, including mostly her appearance and the appearance of her home, as well as allows her to be dominated by sexual need and procreative need. De Beauvoir delves deeply into the concepts of the expectations that society has for women and how they uphold them, placing extreme burdens upon themselves to "present well," in a myriad of ways, issues that men simply do not have to face.
Women according to both Mill and De Beauvoir are trapped by convention and laws will not prove enough to break that bondage. Yet, as much as these two thinkers agree they also seem to disagree on one very important aspect of women's emancipation, that women should not be forced by convention to be wives and mothers, as according to De Beauvoir in this state there is no possibility for equality. Mill, on the other hand accepts that this is a feminine role that should not be set aside, but should be equalized by opinion to make it possible for women to pursue vocation.
Mill, John Stewart, the Subjection of Women. New York, NY: D. Appleton and CO. 1869.
De Beauvoir, Simone, the Second Sex.…[continue]
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