1792 and 2014
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” – Virginia Woolf
Mary Wollstonecraft called for equality among the sexes in her book, A Vindication for the Rights of Woman, I can’t imagine what Wollstonecraft would think if she could see the world now; she would probably be hospitalised for shock. Seeing mobiles, televisions, computers, Apple, cars, women driving cars, and modern hospitals is enough to frighten any Victorian woman. But then she’d recover, after all this is the same woman who tried to drown herself in the River Thames. Wollstonecraft was truly fearless, she wasn’t fearless in the meaningless way that the word is used now; Mary Wollstonecraft opened a school to make a living and had to close that same school when her friend and partner, Fanny Blood married and left the school. Blood died of complications in childbirth. Wollstonecraft when on to write, despite the fact that few women were able to support themselves as writers, she overcame her struggles. I’m not sure how she survived, sheer determination or her desire to argue women deserved an education.
It was a precarious time to be a woman in Wollstonecraft’s world, husbands had their wives locked away in asylums for disobedience or acts of rebellion such as asking for a divorce. Women weren’t allowed to seek divorces in court and technically that’s still the case for women in some countries; I suppose Wollstonecraft would love that we have female judges…but she might not be too happy with the social system. Children carrying uzis is a terrifying sight; actually, anyone with a gun is a terrifying sight. She would probably call for freedom within moderation but realise she’s safely tucked away in England and far away from those gun touting individuals in America. After all, if Wollstonecraft joined Twitter she would try to establish a dialogue and maybe even have a debate only but find herself completely disappointed when she discovers they are bordering on insane. I can see her forging Twitter friendships with Michael Moore, Ronan Farrow, and Salman Rushdie. Why Farrow? Wollstonecraft was known for her wit and unconventional thinking, which is why they would have a pretty cool friendship.
It would have taken some time but I think she could get used to the technology; although she may have been leery of FaceTime, but rightly so, we really don’t know who’s watching (NSA, hackers, etc.). It could be anyone.
When the celebrity nude photos leaked, I wondered what Wollstonecraft would say. So many of her philosophies are still relevant today; autonomy for women remains elusive. The female body is still objectified only now it’s seen as permissible since the models and actresses are being paid for their services. It was troubling to see stolen pictures on social media and websites, but what was even more disturbing were the comments people made, so many on Twitter praised Jennifer Lawrence’s body and pointed out she nothing to be ashamed of while failing to realise that was not the issue. Her photos were stolen, they were private and not meant for public consumption. I wonder what Wollstonecraft would say about how technology has been used to exploit women in ways that no one could imagine. She would probably publish an opinion piece in The New York Times. We’ll never know but I’d like to think she’d take women to task for shaming these actresses. Wollstonecraft was passionate about establishing a sisterhood among women, which was as improbable then as it is now.
Everyone defines ‘celebrity’ differently, I tend to separate the individual from their job and realise that I don’t have a right to judge their lives. We don’t know these people and while interviews offer a glimpse into who they might be, their interviews are carefully crafted. The questions and answers are vetted by publicists (maybe I suffer from British cynicism and these celebrities are giving heartfelt answers, I don’t know). But now they are victims being judged by an unsympathetic public.