Mill’s Liberal Feminism: Its Legacy and Current Criticism

Prolegomena 5 (2):179-191 (2006)
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This paper highlights John Stuart Mill’s views on the problem of gender equality as expressed in The Subjection of Women, which is commonly regarded as one of the core texts of Enlightenment liberal feminism of the 19th century. In this paper, the author outlines the historical context of both Mill’s views and his personal biography, which influenced his argumentation for the emancipation of women, and considers Mill’s utilitarianism and liberalism, as the main philosophical background for his criticism of social conditions that subordinated women. She reflects on some of the philosopher’s ideas and arguments for equality and friendship between women and men which may still be considered noteworthy and relevant. Attention is also given to the main lines of contemporary reception of Mill’s liberal feminism from the perspective of current feminist philosophy, within which certain critical views predominate. Despite some problematic points in Mill’s considerations, his essay on women’s subjection may be regarded as one of the philosophically most interesting conceptions of liberal feminist thinking
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