Paradox Of Rousseau's Roles For Women In Emile

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Jennifer Hare Professor Penelope Deutscher Philosophy 230 / Gender Studies 233 17 April 2012 Assignment #1, Question 6: The Paradox of Rousseau’s Roles for Women In Rousseau’s Emile, he describes the prescribed roles for women to serve their husbands by remaining appealing and creating a proper familial environment as being based on natural feminine characteristics. However, his argument is inherently paradoxical, because women must artificially feign and amplify these characteristics in order to successfully fulfill their prescribed roles. Rousseau bluntly states his role for women on page 322 by proposing that, “woman is specially made for man’s delight”. His view is that women’s role should be, “to be pleasing in his [man’s] sight…to train him in childhood, to tend him in manhood, to consel and console, to make his life pleasant and happy, these are the duties of woman for all time” (328). Rousseau justifies this role by testifying that, “this is not the law of love, but it is the law of nature, which is older than love itself” (322). Furthermore, he states that, “Nature herself has decreed that woman, both for herself and her children, should be at the mercy of man’s judgment” (328). By saying that women’s role to serve men is governed by nature, Rousseau has created a paradox in his argument. To him, for a woman to be pleasing to man comes with various responsibilities, including a fairly demanding adherence to female behaviors, and a need to be manipulative in order to manage male desire. Although Rousseau states that these characteristics of a girl’s behavior, such as being timid, weak, etc., are natural, he also notes that women have to actively employ these traits manipulatively in order to remain appealing to man and thus continue service to him. The contortion of character that women have to perform in order to encourage masculine qualities in men
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