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Olympe de Gouge and the French Revolution

March 29, 2016 | Author: | Posted in east european studies, history

Olympe de Gouges and the French Revolution

Oh , women , women ! When will you cease to be blind ? What advantage have you received from the Revolution ? A more pronounced scorn , a more marked disdain

-Olympe de Gouges , The Rights of Women , 1791 (Levy et al . 1979

Advocating feminism nearly 200 years before it emerged as a mainstream movement in the West , Olympe de Gouge may appear to us way ahead of her times . Yet by no means was she so . Her idea of equality of men and women could be seen as very [banner_entry_middle]

much a product of Enlightenment in so far as they conform to the norms dictated by reason . However , the age-old prejudice against women was so deeply entrenched in the minds of her contemporaries that even the progressive forces of Renaissance and Enlightenment could do nothing to dispel it . The people of France sought revolution , but could not see that all social and political revolutions were bound to fail as long as a half of humanity is crippled , subdued and subjugated under the yoke of prejudice and discrimination . By abandoning the cause of women ‘s liberation , even while clamoring under the banner of liberty and equality , the French Revolution did not simply betray Olympe de Gouge and other women activists of the time , but it betrayed itself

The chief aim of the French Revolution was to bring back the democratic form of polity , which was originally developed by the people of Athens and was fully functional around 5th century B .C . Based on the principle of equality of all people , democracy was a revolutionary concept at that point of human history . It shifted the basis of government from privilege to reason , and marked a decisive step ahead in human evolution . Yet the Athenian approach to life was benighted by two fundamental atrocities which corrupted and undermined its democratic system : extensive degradation of women and practice of slavery . As difficult as it may be for us to believe , the supposedly enlightened Athenian society , which has been considered as the role model of Western civilization down the centuries , had many bizarre aspects to it . The most critical of such defects in the framework of Athenian society was the deliberate and systematic suppression of women . The French revolution , as imperfect and skewed as it was , heralded the beginning of the modern era of human history , in many ways . Yet once again there were no significant efforts to ameliorate the condition of women and to treat them as equal to men . A few women , among whom Olympe de Gouges features very prominent , raised their voices championing the rights of women – but they were effectively suppressed . The French revolution failed in many ways , but its inability to recognize the equality of women with men was one of its most crucial failures

It was so difficult to demolish the barriers that restrained women in every aspect of their lives because these barriers were founded not just on psychological reasons but also on philosophical thinking . In… [banner_entry_footer]

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