A British Literature professor assigned John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women to her 9:00am class, and during her discussion wanted to know how they felt about his comparison of women in the Victorian era to slavery.
One student felt it was okay because he could see how the women were treated like slaves. They weren’t given the proper education, they were abused, etc.
Another pointed out that it was accurate because mentally, women were unaware of a different life (as most slaves only knew life as slaves). Subjection is still subjection whether it’s women or black people.
A third disagreed with the comparison. He stated that they were two different social issues on two separate platforms, and they shouldn’t be compared. He felt that Mill was only speaking for white women because there were no specifics. He’s comparing this to slavery, but was he fighting for the black woman’s right to equality?
The professor and a few other students jumped to Mill’s defense. He was a big advocate for the abolition of slavery and he did feel that everyone should be equal. The only people he felt shouldn’t vote were those labeled “crazy.” He was for everyone! Don’t take that away from him!
The professor asked another question: Where in the text does he make it seem as if the subjection of women is somewhat worse than slavery? The examples given were that “a slave woman could tell her master no, whereas a wife couldn’t tell her husband no,” and that even after slaves were beaten, their souls were still “intact.” In the end, they still knew slavery was wrong and eventually tried to rebel. However, women just believed this was how it should be.
No one pointed out that slave women could not tell their masters no. They were property. They had no right to say no. If she said no, she’d be forced, so many said yes because they had no other option. Although many slaves knew slavery was inhumane and escaped/attempted to escape, many of them were loyal to their masters. It was all they knew. Many of them didn’t live with their souls intact. Many were so beaten that they just gave up, mentally, and accepted their fate for what it was. No student pointed this out. None defended it. But they defended the hell out of the idea that Mill was only focused on white women and the idea of their equality.
The two black students in the class didn’t offer an opinion on the subject. They were too tired.