Mary Wollstonecraft likens the situation of soldiers under a tyrant king to women under a tyrant husband (1792)

Mary Wollstonecraft

Found in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Mary Wollstonecraft likens the situation of soldiers under a tyrant king to women under a tyrant husband - both want blind obedience from their subjects (1792):

Standing armies can never consist of resolute, robust men; they may be well disciplined machines, but they will seldom contain men under the influence of strong passions, or with very vigorous faculties. And as for any depth of understanding, I will venture to affirm, that it is as rarely to be found in the army as amongst women; and the cause, I maintain, is the same. It may be further observed, that officers are also particularly attentive to their persons, fond of dancing, crowded rooms, adventures, and ridicule. Like the fair sex, the business of their lives is gallantry. – They were taught to please, and they only live to please. Yet they do not lose their rank in the distinction of sexes, for they are still reckoned superior to women, though in what their superiority consists, beyond what I have just mentioned, it is difficult to discover.

In a startling aside Wollstonecraft breaks off her discussion about the lowly condition of women to compare their situation to that of many man in the army. Like many classical liberals in the 18th century Wollstonecraft was opposed to standing armies, seeing them as the symbol of absolute royal power. A man who serves in a standing army (most likely conscripted) is discouraged from thinking independently, he is encouraged to admire and emulate gallantry, and to “blindly submit to authority.” Wollstonecraft argues that the same could be said about women who are kept in a position of “rank and file” by their fathers and husbands. And just like the liberal revolutionaries she saw around her who were trying to free men from this “blind obedience to authority” she was encouraging women an to do likewise. She concludes by saying “blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing.”