Westernization and Women's Rights: Non-Western European Responses to Mill's 'Subjection of Women', 1869-1908
Eileen Hunt Botting
University of Notre Dame
February 1, 2012
Political Theory (August 2012)
The publication in 1869 of Mill's Subjection of Women gave rise to philosophical and political responses beyond Western Europe on the relationship between Westernization and women's rights in developing, colonial, and post-colonial countries. Through the first comparative study of the Subjection of Women alongside the forewords to six of its earliest non-Western European editions, we explore how this book provoked local intellectuals in Russia, Chile, and India to engage its liberal utilitarian, imperial, Orientalist, and feminist ideas. By showing how Mill's Western European biases and instrumental reasoning establish problematic rhetorical models for women's rights arguments, we are able to explore the ethical dimensions of women's rights issues in the context of cultural and political imperialism. Most importantly, this reception history illustrates how cross-cultural and culturally sensitive dialogue on women’s rights can push us beyond Western bias and imperialism in advocating for the end of women's subjection around the globe.
Keywords: John Stuart Mill, the subjection of women, non-western political thought, women's rights, westernizationAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 20, 2012 ; Last revised: November 28, 2012
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