The equality of the sexes debate did not commence by accident
I introduce a story about the life and times of the eminent French philosopher and author Francois Poullain de la Barre. I feel it is not likely many of my readers have heard of this great figure in French history but those who have been actively involved in women’s studies at tertiary level probably have. I understand the feminist movement considers this author to be amongst the most important figures in their long struggle to obtain equality with men. Poullain wrote his original thesis in 1673. I do not pretend to understand the history of the women’s movement. The little I know has been principally derived from television programmes I have watched from time to time.. The translators from the original text are A. Daniel Frankforter and Paul J Morman.
Pollain’s ideas are that men and women do not differ intellectually, and sexual inequality has no basis in nature. He believes that female inferiority came from social inertia and historical conditioning, and that women are intellectually and physically capable of serving as heads of state, clergy, military officers and college professors. Pollain says women were relegated to an inferior role at some early point in human history, and have acquired habits from that period which have developed into permanent institutions such as those that exist today. In other words the historical acceptance of women being inferior to men has been perpetuated by society and in doing so has transformed the historical secondary role of women into self-fulfilling prophecies. It appears, perhaps to a lesser degree these same words apply in 2014.
It seems that at the time Poullain was hoping to convey to his readers that they should programme (re-adjust) their thinking relating to women’s issues and by doing so help counter prejudices against women that he felt were rife at the time. I feel the contents of the blog remain relevant to the same gender debate today.
I have created two separate files for readers who are interested in this topic. The first one is a file that contains extracts from the original work that I feel are most relevant and the second one is the complete article itself.