Females Fight for the Revolution The struggle of being a woman in a male dominated society is never ending: it is not only a modern issue for feminists, but something that has affected humans for generations. The notion that women are less than their gender counterparts was a big portion of the struggle that females experienced during the French Revolution. Women felt limited and isolated with no voice in their society and personal lives. These feelings accumulated and drove women to fight for change in their lives.
The political, economic and social position of women in France during the 18th century made them more motivated for evolution, as opposed to the men, because they were treated as passive citizens by men, were, and are stillI, forced to uphold certain expectations of society, and were without opportunity to obtain standard jobs due to little rights. To begin the chain of inequality, women were unfairly treated as second class citizens in comparison to men. For many years, women were viewed as submissive to men, no matter their class in society (Racz 151).
The reasoning as to why this is so is not quite clear, but one explanation is that due to the fact that women are biologically different from men means they should be socially different too Censer, Hunt 1). Yet, women had always hoped for laws to protect their rights to be enacted: “There had already been something of an intellectual tradition which questioned the justice and validity of subjecting women to and inferior status”(151). The French Revolution gave them an outlet to raise these problems of injustice with content behind it (151).
Some rights that men had that women hoped to gain during the revolution included access to a better education, the legal rights to own their own land, and the ability to vote and be involved in government roles and offices (3). No matter a woman’s job or lass in society, they could never participate in voting. Those who could vote are as follows; “The entire male peasantry and the city dwellers who paid the requisite head tax were permitted to vote”. Women were placed in the same category as workers, artisans, and elders that could not pay the tax.
They are automatically placed in a economically, and therefore socially, “less than” status (152). It did not help that the tradition of the patriarchy was held strong in France and men’s influence over the government was extremely prevalent (11). To break this pattern of oppression, female activists began to write and istribute pamphlets based on enlightenment ideals. In the article, The Rights of Woman by Olympe de Gouges, the author challenges the custom of men being viewed as the only true citizens: ” Tell me, who has given you the sovereign power to oppress my sex? Your Strength?
Your ability?… Woman is born free and remains equal of man in rights”(155-156). Woman also banned together through clubs that meet to help establish their place in society and empower one another. Events such as wearing trousers in public as a symbol of independence (155) and rioting against food prices were other actions taken to help park the change that the Revolution brought (5). The slogan of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, truly represents to spirit of revolutionists (Rogers 3). All in all, women truly strived for dignity within their sex when fighting for equality in rights and treatment.
But, they also wanted to be free of the burdened expectations placed on them as women in French society. Women had always been expected to uphold traditions and outdated expectations of society. They were “destined to play domestic roles inside the family rather than public, political ones. ” The responsibility of being the actual head of a ousehold, the person who raises and cares for the children, does the work around the house and otherwise, is a huge role and very difficult job. Women were expected to want to take on this role, despite any other outside interests or ambitions.
Multiple pre- revolutionary philosophers and writers believed in emphasizing women bringing up the children, limiting their opportunity outside the house for occupations (1). Many women felt this was unfair and an unreasonable expectancy: “We could never resign ourselves to bringing into the world children destined to live in a land subject to tyranny. ” The question not nly proves that they didn’t appreciate the presumption that they would bear children but that they also opposed the male dominated rule (159).
The men really did rule france because it was thought “that women belonged in the private sphere of the home and therefore had no role to play in public affairs”(2). It was deemed that they were somewhat undeserving of a life outside the home. Because they could rarely obtain jobs, getting food to feed their children was a struggle. Revolutionists really pushed for the guaranteeing of food for families by lowering the high prices of food staples, such as bread and milk (5). Besides facing difficulties with raising their kin. women also had trouble with their spouses.
It was tradition to remain subordinate to your husband and not question their authority. Divorce was almost a foreign concept pre – revolution. The legal tyranny of the role of husbands in matrimony was challenged in the year 1791(156). The issue of prostitution and human trafficking also received attention during the revolution. Society expected the woman to give it up for men, no matter their physical and mental state. A basic reasoning for wanting to abolish prostitution was simply the dignity and independence that emales were losing when they succumbed to sex for money, just because they needed to provide for their family (152-153).
Lastly, it was ordinary that women had little to no property rights on land that they rightfully owned. All of this was passed onto a man related to the woman (Yalom 26). Females united to fight hard for their natural born rights a refused to go with what was expected of them. This included getting a job. Opportunity in the workforce was limited due to no rights and lack of education of women. If one got the chance, they were shopkeepers, peasants, and laundresses that were overseen by heir partners. Despite this, it was normal for women to be defined primarily by their position in marriage, not any occupation, if they even had one (2).
Possibly, it would have been easier for women to break into the workforce if they had been educated more properly. “Their education is either very much neglected or very defected.. They continue going until they can read the service of the Mass in French.. The primary duties of religion have been fulfilled, they are ought to work: at the age of 15 or 16, all they can earn are 5 or 6 sous a day.. We demand enlightenment and jobs, not in order to usurp authority of men, ut to be held in greater esteem by them, to have the means to earn a living”(154).
If given these jobs, that would never be offered to a man because they are so inferior, they had to work for 18 hours or so. They used the small portion of money they received to feed themselves and their family (155). To aid the difficulties that women endured, clubs of women formed to develop trade and workers unions, spread documents about rights of women, and stage riots and strikes (174). A goal of these women’s club was to get females included in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. This statement only guaranteed free and equal rights to males (222).
After pushing for these things, women’s clubs were disbanded and deemed dangerous by officials. In truth, it is probable that males were intimidated by the damage that women could do to their current prejudiced system (10). As time went on, males began to step up on behalf of women and join them in their fight for equality amongst the sexes. In conclusion, the status of women in French society before the revolution was lesser than a man’s because of the unrealistic expectations placed upon them and their lack of rights, which led to small job opportunity; these factors motivated women to have a revolution.
Women felt fed up with he sexist oppression, and rightly so. The power of unity was proven when females stood together to get what was just. Nowadays, the wage gap between men and women is still a very real issue. With the help of women’s rights activists, this problem can be solved, thanks to the example set by revolutionary women. The tancity that women demonstrated in the revolution validates the well deserved position in society that some females have today. The fight is not quite over yet; equality may be on the horizon in the United States but it is something that should be made global for current and future generations of females.