Show Summary Details
Page of

Printed from Oxford Politics Trove. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 22 June 2024

4. Mary Wollstonecraftfree

4. Mary Wollstonecraftfree

  • Emma Spruce

Abstract

Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory draws upon critical scholarship to bring together diverse ways of thinking about and critiquing key thinkers from the canon of political theory. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular thinker and their work, and encourages students to explore the limitations of the canon and ask important questions about whose views might be marginalized, ignored, or sidelined in the construction of ‘canonical’ thought. Pedagogical features include author tutorial videos and end-of-chapter questions to prompt students to develop their own voice and challenge dominant ideas.

4.1. Introduction

In November 2020, a memorial sculpture was unveiled on a small square in North London, UK: the sculpture consists of a silver, lava-like column which rises from a black plinth. The writhing tower is capped by a petite, naked, silver female figure. This public artwork, by Maggi Hambling, was commissioned to commemorate the activism and writing of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797). Although emerging to a mixed reception, Hambling’s sculpture was intended to respond both to the marginalization of women in London’s memorial landscape, where more than 90 per cent of public sculptures commemorate men, and to the erasure of Wollstonecraft as an important political thinker and social activist. Despite her short life, Wollstonecraft wrote extensively and across genres: her contribution to political theory lies primarily in her arguments for the extension of civil and political rights, and her identification of access to education as a central pillar for socio-political development. In both cases, she focuses primarily on challenging the rationales that were given for women’s systemic exclusion. As such, and against the backdrop of her erasure from mainstream (malestream) attention, many have claimed Wollstonecraft as a ‘feminist foremother’ (Mary on the Green, n.d).1 Inscribed on the statue’s plinth are the words ‘I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves’. This quotation comes from Wollstonecraft’s most famous work, A Vindication on the Rights of Women … (1792), which, approached via the critical language of queer theory, is also the focus of this chapter.

Watch this video to learn more about the memorial sculpture and the questions it raises around connecting query theory and Mary Wollstonecraft’s text.

4.1.1 Introducing Queer Theory

Queer theory is, by definition, difficult to pin down. In terms of disciplinary location, it has been most extensively—although by no means exclusively—elaborated in the humanities and social sciences, where queer theory sits amongst other critical, post-structural approaches. Coined in part as a response to the compromises that ‘women’s studies’ and ‘lesbian and gay studies’ made in the pursuit of academic and political legitimacy in the 1990s, ‘queer’ is intended to be radical, reactive, and dynamic: a critique that moves in response to sexual and gendered norms that are deeply political and changeable across time and place (Berlant and Warner, 1995). Varied in their foci and methods, queer theories challenge the notion that sexual categories merely describe a pre-existing internal truth, instead drawing attention to the social norms that give meaning to sexual practices and interrogating the way that (hetero)sexuality is stabilized and reinforced by institutional arrangements (Jagose, 2005).

Without aiming to provide an exhaustive or definitive account of ‘queer’ here, it is nevertheless useful to identify the key questions that this approach poses for political theory, and therefore the role that queer theory might play in ‘critiquing the cannon’. The first thing that a queer critique demands, then, is an examination of the ways that gender and sexuality function in canonical texts. Initially, this might direct us towards a consideration of the significance of the author’s gender and sexuality, the gendered and sexual characteristics of their (imagined) audience, and whether gender and/or sexuality are engaged as topics in the text. From this, we can move into a deeper exploration of the way gendered and sexual norms inform and are reproduced in the theoretical material: as it is often the unstated significance of gendered and sexual norms that frame canonical thinking, this requires that we do more than ‘CTRL+F’ for these terms. A queer critique instead pushes us to uncover how—even in areas that don’t explicitly reference gender and sexuality—political theory frequently assumes and reaffirms the value of privileged kinds of gendered subjects (most likely men, perhaps women, definitely not trans or non-binary) and sexual relations (typically heterosexual, coupled, and child-rearing).2

A queer critique doesn’t just aim to expose political and intellectual investments in gendered and sexual normativity, however; it also challenges visions of progress that are premised on widening access to the existing system. This reflects the emergence of queer as a critique of versions of identity politics that appeal for the inclusion of some LGBT people whilst leaving exclusionary logic in place (Duggan, 2004; Puar, 2007). Instead of seeking inclusion, queer critiques set out to explore the radical potential of doing things differently. As such, queer also directs us to trouble what counts as political theory and what delimits the canon. Therefore, a queer approach to political theory, I argue, incites a refusal to abide by not only disciplinary boundaries (is this political theory or social theory?), but also by the hierarchies that distinguish and rank academic above popular, public above private, abstract above applied, and even theory above practice. Rather than making a bid for the superiority of any of these, a queer critique approaches their borders with irreverence, exploring what can be learnt when we are open to taking ‘long detours’ from the ‘tried and true paths of knowledge production’ (Halberstam, 2011: 6).

Taking this dual definition forwards, in this chapter I outline a queer critique of A Vindication of the Rights of Women … by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) [hereafter: A Vindication]. Following a discussion of the text as well as the political context in which it was written, I initially consider the ‘queer’ potential of this essay, which is Wollstonecraft’s best-known work. Continuing to develop a queer critique, I then reflect on the significance of Wollstonecraft’s—often belated and sometimes begrudging—inclusion in the canon of political theory. The chapter closes with a series of questions and readings that extend the discussion.

4.2. Overview of A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Although frequently referred to in its abbreviated form, the complete title of Wollstonecraft’s most famous text—A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects—provides the reader with a better sense of the scope of Wollstonecraft’s intervention, which both makes the argument for women’s rights and reflects on the conditions needed to cultivate political and moral values. Throughout her extended essay, Wollstonecraft argues that women are capable of reason, knowledge, and virtue. Engaging with those who saw women as innately ill-suited to public life, Wollstonecraft counters that women’s political and moral development is restricted by gendered expectations. Whilst women are capable of rational thought and moral fortitude, in other words, for Wollstonecraft this potential is thwarted because society makes sex a self-fulfilling prophecy: presumed to be inferior thinkers, women are both excluded from the education that would allow them to hone their reasoning skills and directed towards seeking fulfilment and self-worth in shallow pursuits.

For Wollstonecraft, as for many other thinkers in this period, it is a God-given capacity for reasoned thought that distinguishes humans from animals and provides the basis for rights and duties. In A Vindication Wollstonecraft therefore argues that the ‘rights of man’ must be extended to women both on the basis of justice—women, too, are capable of reason—and on the basis of progress—mankind’s development depends on both sexes cultivating stronger political and moral characters. As such, Wollstonecraft’s argument for women’s rights is inextricably bound up in a call for reforms that would enable women to emerge as full citizens. In particular, she argues that women must have access to a full education, and that women and men must stop diminishing women to the status of ‘alluring objects’ who are best confined to domestic concerns (1792: 28).

To some extent, by arguing that women’s development is limited by their social positioning, A Vindication offers us a precursor—more than 150 years earlier—to Simone de Beauvoir’s famous assertion that ‘one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’ (1949: 295). For both Wollstonecraft and de Beauvoir, the differences between men and women are solidified by gendered expectations. ‘Women’, Wollstonecraft argues, are taught ‘from their infancy and … by their mothers’ example’ to be ‘gentle, domestic brutes’ (1792: 37); they become ‘foolish or vicious’ (1792: 185) as a frustrated response to their limited sphere of influence. At points, A Vindication reads, therefore, like a manifesto for a radically ‘de-gendered’ society (Johnson, 2019: 108). Wollstonecraft also, however, remains deeply attached to the ‘most sacred duties’ that mothers and wives have in relation to child-rearing and as companions to husbands (1792: 148). As I discuss in more depth in Section 4.4, her argument for women’s rights is ultimately, therefore, founded on a vision of heterosexual complementarity and imbued with a strong dose of sexual morality.

4.3 Context to A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Published in 1792, A Vindication is amongst an extensive body of texts written in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that debated the notion of natural rights: inalienable rights that are ‘God-given’, universal, and independent from legal, political, or cultural interpretation. Challenging those who would dismiss her views because of her gender, in A Vindication Wollstonecraft wilfully anoints herself ‘a philosopher’ (1792: 50) and inserts herself into these debates by actively citing, critiquing, and addressing other key thinkers. Notably, she opens A Vindication with a letter to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a French Bishop and politician who shared Wollstonecraft’s belief in the emancipatory value of education but, much to her frustration, only applied his argument to men. In the body of the essay, she goes on to challenge several of the ‘big names’ of natural rights, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Milton, striking a conversational tone that demands her recognition as their equal.

Although the term ‘feminist’ was not yet in use, Wollstonecraft was, unsurprisingly, not the only thinker to advocate for the recognition of women as rights-bearing subjects. Indeed, in the twenty-first century A Vindication is frequently cited alongside Olympe de Gouges’ Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen, which was published just one year earlier in 1791. Whilst Wollstonecraft doesn’t directly reference de Gouges in A Vindication, both texts argue that women are capable of reason and therefore entitled to natural rights; they also share the conviction that mass civic education—across sexed and classed distinctions—is vital for social and political progress (Bergès and Coffee, 2022). Although it would take more than a century before even voting rights for women were achieved in England and France, de Gouges and Wollstonecraft are, therefore, frequently identified as dual forces in a ‘first phase’ for women’s equal rights—a fight that continues to this day.

Whilst Wollstonecraft’s work was quite well received during her lifetime, the guillotining of de Gouges for ‘seditious writing’ in 1793 serves as a vital reminder that A Vindication was written as living theory. At the end of the eighteenth century the theorists of natural rights were not, in other words, just in dialogue with each other, but were also engaged with the political movements of the day. Foremost amongst these, and directly evoked in A Vindication, was the French Revolution (1789–1799). The political upheaval of this era is legible in Wollstonecraft’s writing, through both the passionate tone of argumentation and the presentation of her ideas as ‘in development’.3 For a contemporary audience, A Vindication has, perhaps, more in common with a social media post than an academic essay. Indeed, reflecting the interplay between her writing and activism, Wollstonecraft abandoned a subsequent volume on women’s rights to travel to Paris and witness the Revolution first hand (Carroll, 2019: 146). As she died from complications after the birth of her second child in 1797, the follow-up to A Vindication was never written.

4.4 Critique of A Vindication

Focusing on the first dimension of a ‘queer’ critique presented in the introduction, in A Vindication the gendered and sexual characteristics of author and argument are explicitly identified. Wollstonecraft writes that she ‘plead[s for rights] for my sex’ (1792: 24). Even this recognition distinguishes her essay from much of the cannon of political theory, where a male author—who is not called to reflect on his gendered location—remains the norm. In A Vindication the constraints Wollstonecraft faced as a woman in the eighteenth century and her disidentification from stereotypes of femininity clearly ground her argument. Again, this incorporation of experiential knowledge deviates from the more common ‘god trick of seeing everything from nowhere’ (Haraway, 1988: 581), which disassociates author from argument in order to claim objectivity. Wollstonecraft, moreover, demonstrates women’s capacity for reason by responding to existing theorization as a female philosopher: to paraphrase Descartes, she thinks, therefore she is evidence of women’s ability to reason.

Turning in more detail to the function and formation of gendered and sexual norms in A Vindication reveals a contradictory combination of stabilization and resistance. On the one hand, Wollstonecraft challenges a conceptualization of natural rights that identifies ‘reason’ as a male attribute. Beyond this, she troubles normative understandings of what it means to be a woman: contesting biologically essentialist understandings of femininity, challenging the stigmatization of female masculinity, and suggesting that ‘sexual distinction … is arbitrary’ (1792: 185). As such, A Vindication seems to offer a queered account of gender: less binary, less static, more social product than biological fact. Wollstonecraft presents, moreover, a theorization of gender and rights that calls for doing gender differently. Her belief that alterations in everyday practice will effect radical change again resonates with queer strategies for social and political transformation (Marso, 2019: 292).

The place of sexual norms in this essay is, however, much less amenable to a queer reading. Indeed, A Vindication is as much an argument about sexual morality—which for Wollstonecraft is closely associated with married, monogamous, and reproductive formations—as it is an argument about rights. She entreats men to support the emancipation of women on the basis that it will make women ‘more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers’ (1792: 145). Perhaps this is strategic, designed to reassure men that even the ‘revolution’ Wollstonecraft calls for won’t disrupt sex roles, but the inclusion of this argument affirms the social significance of women as inextricably attached to the fulfilment of their relationship to men (cf. Jagose, 2002). Her consistent framing of heterosexuality as complementary, moreover, stabilizes the gendered distinction Wollstonecraft otherwise disrupts and precludes the worth of relationships that are not heterosexual or coupled. Rather than—as in much queer scholarship—destigmatizing sexuality and recognizing the power of the erotic (Lorde, 1984), A Vindication emphatically argues for the moral and practical superiority of platonic bonds, cautioning that women should not focus on sexual attraction when they choose a husband (1792: 119–128). For Wollstonecraft, sexuality is best deprioritized and subsumed into the production of a family unit: this is a vision of sexuality that is chaste, wholesome, and a world away from the provocative force attributed to sexuality by queer theory.

As many have noted (see, e.g., Taylor, 2003), A Vindication gives little detail about the actual constitution of the rights that Wollstonecraft seeks to claim for women. The text does, nevertheless, point to the significance of social rights, in her emphasis on the provision of full and equal education; political rights, in her claim that ‘[w]hether married or single’ women should be given ‘[c]ivil existence in the state’ (1792: 145); and economic rights, as she argues that, for women, being able ‘to earn their own subsistence … is the true definition of independence’ (1792: 92). A queer approach to rights would, however, push us towards further interrogation of the relationship between sexuality and rights. In the first place, this could entail expanding or nuancing existing frameworks to account for people whose gendered and sexual identities, performances, or practices diverge from the norm and consequently face erasure or repression. This would open-up broader discussions about reproductive rights, sex workers rights, and rights to gendered self-determination (cf. Cooper et al. 2020; Corrêa et al., 2008). Beyond this, and of vital importance at a time where a global backlash against progressive gendered and sexual rights is in evidence, queer approaches also recognize the limits of the language of rights itself as a vehicle for sexual and gendered justice (Spade, 2015; Waites, 2009).

4.5 From Queering Wollstonecraft to Queering the Canon

At this point, it is important to acknowledge that A Vindication holds a less secure place in the canon of political theory than many of the other texts discussed in the series ‘Critiquing the Canon: Political Theory’. Wollstonecraft and Hannah Arendt—the other ‘woman theorist’ in this volume—often appear to be belated and tokenistic additions to undergraduate survey courses that otherwise continue to field an all-male line-up. On the one hand, the argument could be made, therefore, that it is premature to subject A Vindication to a ‘queer’ critique; that the canonical texts authored by men with racialized and classed privilege, which make no attempt to engage with the ways that power routes through gender and sexuality, should be tackled first. On the other hand, we could argue that the inclusion of A Vindication, a text written by a white British woman in dialogue with white European men, which pays scant attention to the rights of women that are not white, Western, and middle class, barely merits celebration, and that we would do better to call for its replacement than to critically engage it. And yet, queer—particularly post-colonial queer (Dhawan, 2016), queer of colour (Ahmed, 2012), and poor queer (Brim, 2020)—approaches make a strong argument for disrupting and distrusting a sequential account of political progress, which would either hail Wollstonecraft’s inclusion in the canon as inherently either a step in the right direction or an empty gesture. Encapsulated in her deployment of the rhetorical device ‘even as … also’, Nikita Dhawan’s ‘plea … for a complex, multidirectional politics’ (2016: 51) is helpful here: even as the sexual, classed, and racialized norms repeated in A Vindication require critical engagement, Wollstonecraft also makes much-needed space for a discussion of gender and sexuality in the theorization of rights.

Finally, the passionate tone, turn to the everyday as both a source of evidence and a site of intervention, and prominent place given to morality in the text have all been used to question the extent to which A Vindication belongs in the canon of political theory (Halldenius, 2020: 182; Johnson, 2019). Feminist political scholarship usefully frames and intervenes in the terms of these critiques, which map onto the privileging of masculinist versions of politics (abstract/public/institutional) and the dismissal of those versions that are more widely associated with, or accessible to, women (impassioned/private/local) (Enloe, 2014).4 Building on these feminist critiques, a queer approach directs us to learn about norms of knowledge production from Wollstonecraft’s non-conformity, and even to use her ‘failure’ to belong (Halberstam, 2011) as a catalyst for exploding the boundaries of political theory. Realizing some peoples’ worst fears, A Vindication could, in other words, create a ‘slippery slope’ that opens the canon up to new content. Theorizations of gender, sexuality, and rights in, for example, manifestos for social movements, ’zines, or popular culture clarify political theory as necessarily invested and located in particular times and places, rather than neutral, abstract, and ahistorical. Used in this way, whilst—at most—an ambivalently queer text itself, A Vindication offers us a point of departure for troubling the cisgendered and heteronormative myopias of the canon.

4.6. Conclusion

In its traditional form, the texts that make up the political theory canon are written by men and pay little or no attention to the significance of gender and sexuality. By leaving them unquestioned, this scholarship overwhelmingly reproduces and affirms gendered and sexual norms. Although there have been some moves to diversify the canon, such as the inclusion of A Vindication, the boundaries of what counts as political theory remain quite inflexible. Theory that deviates from the standard—in tone or topic—is included largely as an afterthought or counterpoint to more conventional texts. Through an exploration of Wollstonecraft’s essay, in this chapter I connect these two observations to reflect on the ways that a queer critique can draw out the significance of gender and sexuality in political thought and productively disrupt the canon, bringing new approaches and analyses into view.

4.7. Discussion Questions

1.

Why do you think the canon of political theory is dominated by men? If we included more diverse work, how might the canon change?

2.

What does Wollstonecraft mean when she argues that gender is socially entrenched? How much do you think this is still the case?

3.

This chapter argues that political theory often draws on and entrenches sexual norms. Can you find evidence of the significance of sexuality in the texts discussed in other chapters?

4.

What kinds of sources could you explore as alternative sites for theorizing the significance of gendered and sexual rights? What kinds of rights do they suggest are needed to enable gendered and sexual freedom?

5.

Wollstonecraft argues that rights should be dependent on ‘reason’ but in recent years, from Bolivia to Canada, multiple nations have granted rivers and other natural entities rights. What other contemporary subjects trouble ‘reason’ as the grounds for rights? What criteria would you set?

4.8 Further Reading

  • Bergès, S., Botting, E. H., and Coffee, A. (eds.) (2019) The Wollstonecraftian Mind (London: Routledge). The Wollstonecraftian Mind is a wide-ranging edited collection which provides contextualized analysis of the key strands in Wollstonecraft’s political and philosophical thought.
  • Corrêa, S., Petchesky, R., and Parker, R. (2008) Sexuality, Health and Human Rights (London and New York: Routledge). This book traces the changing ways that sexual rights have been understood and deployed across a number of contexts in the Global South and Global North.
  • Kapur, R. (2018) Gender, Alterity and Human Rights: Freedom in a Fishbowl. (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing). This book examines a range of queer, feminist, and post-colonial campaigns for sexual rights, arguing that international human rights law has been used to pursue political and cultural agendas, rather than empower disenfranchised groups.
  • Madhok, S. (2022) On Vernacular Rights Cultures: The Politics of Origins, Human Rights, and Gendered Struggles for Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Building on decolonial approaches and exploring the contemporary struggles of marginalized women in India and Pakistan, this book both challenges the Eurocentrism and sexism of ‘traditional’ rights theory and provides a rich, alternative account.

Sexuality Policy Watch. Sexuality Policy Watch is a forum of researchers and activists from a wide range of countries and regions of the world. As well as providing insightful analysis, the website is a credible source for information on a variety of contemporary sexual rights around the globe.

  • Spade, D. (2015) Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (Durham: Duke University Press). Drawing primarily on cases in the USA but with relevance to other national contexts, this book provides a critical interrogation of the ‘promise’ that civil rights hold for gender non-conforming and trans people.

4.9 References

  • Ahmed, S. (2012) On Being Included (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • de Beauvoir, S. (1997 [1949]) The Second Sex (New York: Vintage Books).
  • Bergès, S. and Coffee, A. (2022) ‘Cocks on Dunghills–Wollstonecraft and Gouges on the Women’s Revolution’. SATS—Northern European Journal of Philosophy 23 (2): 135–152.
  • Berlant, L. and Warner, M. (1995) ‘Guest Column: What Does Queer Theory Teach us about X?’. PMLA 110 (3): 343–349.
  • Bérubé, A. (2017) ‘How Gay Stays White and What Kind of White It Stays’. In M. S. Kimmel (ed.), Privilege: A Reader (New York and Oxford: Routledge): 180–208.
  • Brim, M. (2020) Poor Queer Studies: Confronting Elitism in the University (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Carroll, R. (2019) ‘Epistolary and Historical Writings’. In S. Bergès, E. H. Botting, and A. Coffee (eds.) The Wollstonecraftian Mind (London: Routledge): 145–158.
  • Cohen, C. (1997) ‘Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: The Radical Potential of Queer Politics’. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 3: 437–465.
  • Cooper, D., Kondakov, A., Molitor, V., Quinan, C. L., van der Vleuten, A., and Zimenkova, T. (2020) ‘“State Regimes of Gender: Legal Aspects of Gender Identity Registration, Trans-Relevant Policies and Quality of LGBTIQ Lives”: A Roundtable Discussion’. International Journal of Gender, Sexuality and Law 1 (1): 377–402.
  • Corrêa, S., Petchesky, R. and Parker, R. (2008) Sexuality, Health and Human Rights (London and New York: Routledge).
  • Dhawan, N. (2016) ‘Homonationalism and State-Phobia: The Postcolonial Predicament of Queering Modernities’. In M. A. Viteri and M. Lavinas Picq (eds.), Queering Paradigms V (Oxford: Peter Lang Verlag): 51–68.
  • Duggan, L. (2004) The Twilight of Equality?: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press).
  • Enloe, C. (2014) Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press).
  • Halberstam, J. (2011) The Queer Art of Failure (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Halldenius, L. (2020) ‘Political Theory’. In N. E. Johnson and P. Keen, (eds.), Mary Wollstonecraft in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 182–188.
  • Haraway, D. (1988) ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’. Feminist Studies 14/3: 575–599.
  • Jagose, A. (2002) Inconsequence: Lesbian Representation and the Logic of Sexual Difference (New York: Cornell University Press).
  • Jagose, A. (2005) ‘Queer Theory’. In M. Cline Horowitz (ed.), New Dictionary of the History of Ideas Vol. 5. (Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons): 1980–1985.
  • Johnson, N. (2019) ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’. In S. Bergès, E. H. Botting, and A. Coffee (eds.), The Wollstonecraftian Mind (London: Routledge): 104–115.
  • Lorde, A. (1984) ‘Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power’. In Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (USA: Crossing Press): 53–59.
  • Madhok, S. (2017) ‘On Vernacular Rights Cultures and the Political Imaginaries of Haq’. Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 8 (3): 485–509.
  • Madhok, S. (2022) On Vernacular Rights Cultures: The Politics of Origins, Human Rights, and Gendered Struggles for Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  • Marso, L. J. (2019) ‘Simone de Beauvoir’. In S. Bergès, E. H. Botting, and A. Coffee (eds.), The Wollstonecraftian Mind (London: Routledge): 283–294.
  • Puar, J. (2007) Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Taylor, B. (2003) Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
  • Waites, M. (2009), ‘Critique of “Sexual Orientation” and “Gender Identity” in Human Rights Discourse: Global Queer Politics beyond the Yogyakarta Principles’. Contemporary Politics 15 (1): 137–156.
  • Wollstonecraft, M. (2019 [1792]) A Vindication of the Rights of Women. In The Feminist Papers: A Vindication of the Rights of Women (Ebook: Gibbs Smith).
  • Notes

    • 1 This is somewhat misleading as the term ‘feminism’ only became used to describe a political commitment to women’s equality in the mid-nineteenth century.

    • 2 These ‘ideal’ forms of gender and sexuality also implicate ‘other’ axes of power, including race and class. For more on this see, for example, Cathy Cohen (1997) and Allan Bérubé (2017).

    • 3 This is implied by the term ‘strictures’ in the title.

    • 4 Sumi Madhok (2017, 2022) provides a particularly illuminating decolonial critique of ‘what counts’ as a political theory of rights, arguing that ‘vernacular’ approaches in the Global South provide an alternative point of departure.

    © Oxford University Press 2024