John Stuart Mill and Utilitarian Equality

Author- John Stuart Mill, lived from 1806- 1873, English philosopher, member of British Parliament, firm believer in utilitarianism, wife Harriet Taylor Mill was a women’s rights advocate and aided in his writings

Context- Written in 1869, the belief at the time was that women were subordinate to the men in their lives, not much support for women’s right to vote
Language- Attempts to apply logic to the situation, since he is making claims that there is no evidence behind not giving women rights he works towards creating a humanitarian angle that shows the logic behind equality
Audience- Written to enlighten the public but also to gain support in Parliament, he was in the minority when attempting to pass women’s rights into British law
Intent- Mills saw that the public believed that women were not able to accomplish as much as men and attempted to explain that they have never been given opportunities to show otherwise, wanted to convince the public (and Parliament) that women deserved similar opportunities to exhibit their equal societal worth
Message- Mills’s belief in utilitarianism is the root behind all of his claims in this writing, he believed that intellectual and voting opportunity would create a better society for everyone where everyone could defend their rights, he wanted to show that individual development would raise society overall
“That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes–the legal subordination of one sex to the other–is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.” – Mills
This quote directly proves his utilitarian point- of- view regarding this issue as he specifically says that not allowing the advancements of women is detrimental to humanity as a whole. His argument revolved around how women deserved these rights and giving those rights is a societal duty to increase the standard of living for everyone.

The Subjection of Women

Author: John Stuart Mill was an Englishman, living from 1806 to 1873. He worked as a philosopher, political economist, civil servant, and member of Parliament. Taught by his father, he experienced a rigorous, home-schooled education. His close relationship with his wife influenced his writings on women’s rights. Mill was an atheist.

Context: 1869. Britain was prosperous and was continuing to experience effects of industrial revolution. During period of British imperialism.

Language: Mill writes in a tone that is intelligent, thought-provoking, and subjective. He includes many hypothetical questions in this work in an attempt to make his readers understand his point of view. Furthermore, he admits in many instances throughout his paper that many people may disagree with him.

Audience: Mill writes for a well-educated audience, and having been well-educated himself, he incorporates some challenging concepts and vocabulary. He appeals mainly to men, for they are the only ones with enough power capable of changing the situation at hand.

Intent: The purpose of The Subjection of Women is to make society aware of the unjust inequalities between the sexes, and also the wide range of capabilities that women possess.

Message: Women are born into subordination, and this subordination extends into marriage, where they have no property rights or control over their children. Mill makes the argument that equality in the institution of marriage would be beneficial to the happiness of both men and women, and would further society’s progress. He mentions that religion imposes obedience on women. Circumstances and education are the factors that explain the psychological differences between men and women. Mill recognizes that women, given that they have adequate education, possess capabilities that would allow them to hold positions of responsibility in society.