Feminine and masculine
The first few times I read Mary Wollstonecraft I was disturbed by her use of the word “feminine” to disparage ideas and behaviors. She calls bad writing “feminine.” She urges women to get a “masculine” education so they can be more manly. What does she mean? If I step back from our ideas about gender and place myself (as best I can) in 1790, I get it. These are not just Mary’s terms. This is how the world she lives in regards masculinity (strong, bold, virtuous) and femininity (weak, timid, and vulnerable). Mary’s angry because middle class women have been relegated to the margins of the world — margins that are traditionally designated “feminine.” So, courtship, dress, romances, romance novels, appearance — these are “feminine” concerns/ female territory. Nonsense, Mary declares. The “masculine” world of politics, art, and religion should also be the province of women.