Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Roots of Rousseau's Anti-feminism - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1
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The Roots of Rousseau’s Anti-feminism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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The Roots of Rousseau’s Anti-feminism
“‘Made for Man’s Delight’: Rousseau as Anti-feminist.” The American Historical Review 81(April 1976):266–291.
The reactionary stand of Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s anti-feminist philosophy has been considered a major influence in retarding women’s rights in the late eighteenth century. Rousseau has generally been interpreted as a classical chauvinist from his writings, particularly from his earnest epigram, “Woman is made for man’s delight.”
Wexler revaluates this conception by examining Rousseau’s novels and autobiographical work, revealing the personal life of Rousseau to be rooted in an overwhelming fear of women. Rousseau was never capable of sustaining an intimate and sexual relationship with a woman he both loved and esteemed. He regarded emotional stability as the greatest value in contemporary society, a value he felt women inherited intrinsically. “Their (women) strength came from their indifference to sexual pleasure, which allowed them to govern what Rousseau believed was the passion-dominated sex.”
Rousseau’s personal life was marked with tragedy. His mother died the week after his birth, his indifferent father abandoned him at age ten. His body was deformed because of a painful urinary disorder, and by age twelve he showed signs of psychological maladjustment by experiencing sexual pleasure through sadomasochism.
It has long been contended that Rousseau demonstrated the symptoms of latent homosexuality. “Not only his paranoia, but his sexual passivity, his reference to himself as effeminate, and the fact that he took the place of his mother in his father’s affections. . . tend to support this contention.”
Far too aware of the power women had over his emotional stability, Rousseau extended his experience on a universal level for all humanity. In his conception women are already educated with natural qualities of rationality that men must strive for years to achieve. Thus, he contended, women must not be allowed to be educated, or to compete outside the realm of motherhood. A world dominated by women would create havoc and disharmony in society, crippling men into a degenerated state.
Wexler concludes that what students of Rousseau have interpreted as a traditional stance of anti-feminism must be understood in the full context of his ideas, experiences, and personal life-style.