Languages Of Rights Essay Research Paper The

Languages Of Rights Essay, Research Paper

The Language of RightsThe Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen, adopted on August 26, 1789, abolishing feudal rights, was one of the fundamental texts adopted by the Constituent Assembly formed in the wake of the meeting of the Estates General. The declaration of the rights of the women, composed in 1791 by Olympe de Gouges, a radical revolutionary women, denounced the unfair and unjustified treatment of women. Over the past centuries, historians have been separated in their opinions on whether one event is more important than the other is. The Declaration of the Rights of Women is more important than the Declaration of the Rights of the Man because the latter one is an incomplete statement relative to the rights and status of women. Also the Declaration of the Rights of Women was one of the first liberal movements of women in Europe, which saw the emergence of women as an active part of society. For centuries, women have been oppressed, kept ignorant, and vulnerable to poverty and starvation. At the time of the revolution, it was the universality of rights that preoccupied feminists. Revolutionary ideologues had stressed the universality of rights in challenging the Ancien R gime system of particular rights. De Gouges Declaration of the Rights of Women brought about new ideas and ways of looking at women s rights that had not been made possible with the Declaration of the Rights of Men. The issue of the rights and role of women was being introduced and discussed for the first time for it had been forgotten by the Declaration of the Rights of Men. The place of women has never been fully secured through the texts arising from the various ideologies and theologies in which a comprehensive framework for rights is laid out. Men had already had rights defined by society and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The Declaration of the Rights of the Women is important since it brings up the subject of the equal natural rights. Another justification for the importance of the Declaration of the Rights of the Women over the Declaration of Rights of Man is that its writing represents the first feminist movement in European History. Never before, were women considered an active and intelligent part of the French society. The French Revolution saw the emergence of women from all around the country participating in every riot and organizing their own ones. Women s active participation in the revolution furthered the emergence of a collective female consciousness.Women in the preindustrial age were the key to the survival of the family. Once married, wives were involved in their husband s occupation. Women were never given any rights for education nor betterment. The Declaration of the Rights of the Women is more important in a sense that it was crucial in the development and awaking of women s mind. Men were much more highly educated and received higher wages. If a woman did not marry she was forced to beg and was considered an outcast. Article XI of the Declaration on the right of free speech stands out for the attention it draws to the distinctive needs of women: The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious rights of woman, since this liberty guarantees that fathers will recognize their children. Any citizen (citoyenne) can thus say freely: I am the mother of your child, without being forced by barbarous prejudice to hide the truth (Baker, 263)

Naming the father acknowledged the power of law and exposed the transgressions of the powerful. Without the right to speak, it insisted, women were powerless to enforce paternal duty, to call men back to their obligations, the obligations on which social cohesion and individual liberty depended. Naming the father was both a claim on paternal obligation and an exposures of the abuses of patriarchal power; it also arrogated to women a masculine prerogative (Scott, 235). None of the articles in the Declaration of the Rights of the Man were clearly lacking on that matter. Under de Gouges declaration, men could no longer deny their children or obligation to their wife without a due process of law. The closing statements of the Declaration of the Rights of Women told Women to stand up and be recognized. That it wasn t morally right for married women to contribute so much to a marriage just to be walked out on and left to starve. One other aspect that makes the Declaration of the Women s Rights more important concerns De Gouges acknowledgement that the power for change laid in the hands of the men that betrayed them, but she hoped that their morals would be restored and that men would do the right thing (Gutwirth, 235). The Declaration of the Rights of the Man only defined liberty as the right to do anything that does not harm another person. De Gouges Declaration of the Rights of the Women clearly redefined the right to liberty as incomplete without a corresponding reference to justice. She therefore asserted that: Liberty and justice consist of rendering to persons those things that belong to them; thus the exercise of woman’s natural rights is limited only by the perpetual tyranny with which man oppresses her; these limits must be changed according to the laws of nature and reason.” (Baker, 263) One could argue that the Declaration of the Women s Rights had little influence on events. Men had just been liberated and the idea of women having equal rights was absurd. Everything was still too new and the world was not open to women s issues. However, a female consciousness had begun to develop. De Gouges did spark new interesting ideas about women and society. The results of her declaration were great, the proof being women s acquirement of their rights. The Declaration of the Rights of the Women was of a much greater importance than the Declaration of the Men s Rights. The Declarations of the Women s Rights challenged prevailing views, it had helped women emerged from a society with a supremacy of men, they were no longer slaves nor uneducated. Finally, women had obtained a greatest status in society.

The Old Regime and the French Revolution. Ed. Baker Michael. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Gutwirth, Madelyn. The Twilight of the Goddesses. New Brunswick, N.J, 1992 Kagan, Donald, Steven Ozment, and Frank M. Turner. The Western Heritage. New Jersey, 1998. Scott, Joan Wallach. A Women who has only Paradoxes to Offer : Olympe de Gouges Claims Rights for Women. Rebel Daughters. New York (1992) : 102-116.


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