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Mill In the Here and Now

December 3, 2010

Upon reading The Subjection of Women, some interesting thoughts began to arise in my mind in regards to it’s applicability to our modern day world. For instance, the dominant role of one sex over the other seemed to still be relevant:

All men, except the most brutish, desire to have, in the woman most nearly connected with them, not a forced slave but a willing one, not a slave merely, but a favourite (Mill 659).

However, whether or not this could simply said just for men was really a recurring thought I had. In our world, would it not be possible for a woman to feel just the exact same way? To me at least, it seems like the roles of man and woman that Mill talks about could easily be reversed in modern society, with the woman wanting to have a man that was her ‘favorite slave’. The euphemism of ‘cougar’ for an older, successful woman who is on the prowl for relationships with attractive, less experienced men readily supports this.

Many aspects of Mill’s thought on the subjection of women seem to be just as readily applicable to men in today’s world. However, some do not. For instance:

All women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite to that of men; not self-will, and government by control, but submission, and yielding to the control of others (Mill 659).

It seems like this statement is outdated and really not relevant at all to society today. At least from my experience, I have never witnessed girls being raised in such a manner as this. Passages similar to this one really made me contemplate whether or not what Mill had to say about the subjection of women could be supported by modern life. Even if what most of what he has to say about the subjection of women is relevant to us, it still seems obvious to me that the roles of man and wife are merely contingent, and at least some of what he has to say about women being subjected is somewhat off with respect to our world today.


  1. Melissa Glassman permalink
    December 3, 2010 4:24 PM

    I agree very much with your idea that Mill’s theory of men having power over women may not be relevant today. As you mentioned within your post, cougars are woman who are attracted to men younger and often less successful. We believe this is because within their relationship with a younger man, the woman (cougar) possesses the power over the relationship (they possess the age and financial support). An interesting aspect of this “cougar” phenomenon is that often cougars are presented in a negative light. Certainly, like Courtney Cox’s show cougar, there are many who look 25 when they are actually 50, still though, cougar holds a negative connotation. Even though, in this case, the woman holds the power, it is interesting to relate the public’s reaction of when a man dating a younger women (ex. tom cruise and Katie Holmes) to that when a older woman “hunts down” a younger man (Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore). I believe women who act as cougars are looked upon much more negatively than an older man “rockin the cradle”. It is strange to notice that even though in a cougar scenario the woman would possess the power, according to society it is wrong.

  2. Lorna Malja permalink
    December 3, 2010 7:23 PM

    I really enjoyed this post! I definitely agree with Melissa above; cougars are seen negatively in our society today. I mean, women tend to be more mature so when they go for a way younger man it’s clear they want to be in power/control. This is not always the case, but they know that they will be the dominant figure in the relationship. Usually, back in the day men had all the power. Our world has changed and this is not the case anymore so it’s very interesting t0 see the reverse. I still believe that in our society today, cougars are looked down upon when they are dating a way younger guy. It’s more normal for us to see an older man with a younger women.

  3. reedmarcus permalink
    December 4, 2010 6:58 PM

    While it is certainly true that the term “cougar” holds a negative connotation in terms of the way in which they are looked at by society, the term does infer that women have begun to taken part of the power from men in terms of relationships. While in the past, a relationship was for the most part always dominated by the male, as time has progressed, women have started to take some of the share of power, and the example of being a cougar certainly is evidence of the slow but steady shift of power in relationships. This country has began to change the way in which gender is associated with power and this was exemplified in this past election with several women running for positions to run this country.

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