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Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only... Options
Daemon
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's scepter, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

Mary Shelley (1797-1851)
Liuks
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 3:02:04 AM
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It's quite difficult to understand this quotation... Maybe someone can explain?
MTC
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 5:35:38 AM
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Liuks wrote:
It's quite difficult to understand this quotation... Maybe someone can explain?


It is difficult, isn't it? A little background would be helpful. Mary Shelley (maiden name Wollstonecraft) was an early feminist who in 1792 wrote a tract called A Vindication of the Rights of Woman from which the quotation is taken. (See context below.) The word "scepter" refers to the staff held by a sovereign symbolizing his (or her!) authority. Beyond that "scepter" means authority, generally. So the first part of the quotation means "the realm of a woman's authority" as defined by society. Women, Shelly says, are taught from an early age that their bodies are all they have, their realm of authority. That is the meaning of women's minds being shaped to their bodies. This, of course, is a very limiting self-concept. In fact, so limiting it becomes a woman's prison or cage. Shelley metaphorically compares the limiting self-concept women are taught by society with a gilded cage or prison. Think of a beautiful bird preening itself in its gilded cage. A woman's role them becomes quite simple: she must "adorn (her) prison," or in other words beautify herself superficially. That is the meaning of the quotation.

"Women are every where in this deplorable state; for, in order to preserve their innocence, as ignorance is courteously termed, truth is hidden from them, and they are made to assume an artificial character before their faculties have acquired any strength. Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adore its prison. Men have various employments and pursuits which engage their attention, and give a character to the opening mind; but women, confined to one, and having their thoughts constantly directed to the most insignificant part of themselves, seldom extend their views beyond the triumph of the hour. But was their understanding once emancipated from the slavery to which the pride and sensuality of man and their short-sighted desire, like that of dominion in tyrants, of present sway, has subjected them, we should probably read of their weaknesses with surprise. I must be allowed to pursue the argument a little farther."

http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/3420/pg3420.html

Here is a quick summary of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman from Wikipedia:

"A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the 18th-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th century who did not believe women should have an education. She argues that women ought to have an education commensurate with their position in society, claiming that women are essential to the nation because they educate its children and because they could be "companions" to their husbands, rather than mere wives. Instead of viewing women as ornaments to society or property to be traded in marriage, Wollstonecraft maintains that they are human beings deserving of the same fundamental rights as men."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Vindication_of_the_Rights_of_Woman

I hope you find this explanation helpful.
Liuks
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 6:54:23 AM
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This answer is really help me to understand quotation. Moreover, I am interesting in this person because I had few lessons about feminism at university 2 years ago. It is very helpful Applause Thank you Angel
nomadwa
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 11:24:19 AM
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This is a quote from Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), not Mary Shelley (the former's daughter and wife to the poet).
jcbarros
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 1:21:42 PM

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Aftertaste of a distant time.
MTC
Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 7:04:27 PM
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nomadwa wrote:
This is a quote from Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), not Mary Shelley (the former's daughter and wife to the poet).


I and The Free Dictionary stand corrected. Confusion arises (and now I see it) because Mary Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, is often referred to as "Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley." Still, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was written by Mary Wollstonecraft, not Mary Shelley.

Glad to hear that the information was otherwise useful.

Romany
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 5:38:56 AM
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Dineshlohar -

In the above quote Wollstonecroft is echoing a sentiment that had enraged women for centuries. Almost 200 years before her, Mary Astel wrote in exasperation:

"How can you be content to be in the world like tulips in a garden, to make a fine show, and be good for nothing?"

While Margaret Cavendish, one of the most outspoken of the early feminists, expanded on this in 1655:-

"We are shut out of all power and authority, by reason we are never employed either in civil or martial affairs, our counsels are despised, and laughed at, the best of our actions are trodden down with scorn, by the over-weening conceit, men have of themselves, and through a despisement of us."

Amazing that women have been protesting and fighting for hundreds of years and yet, even in 2012, we still haven't gained the right of equal pay in most countries in the world!

As another feminist said in 1611: -

"How can a Man respect his Wife when he has a contemptible Opinion of her and her Sex?





Margaret Cavendish who was far more famous than Shakespeare at that time, for instance reflected long before Greer or Pankhurst or Wollstonecraft “…men… keep us in the hell of subjection, from whence I cannot perceive any redemption or getting out…we may complain and bewail our condition, yet that will not free us…our words to men are as empty sounds… and our power is so inconsiderable as men laugh at our weaknesses” and, rather wistfully “I wish Men were as harmless as most beasts are, then surely the world would be more happy and quiet than it is”
Romany
Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2012 5:44:37 AM
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(Apologies - that last bit of my post I pasted in error. I tried to delete it because it isn't needed, but for some reason I can't edit it out.)
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