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Are Boys better than Girls?

April 20, 2011

But really, are boys better than girls? Ever since the second grade when the “cooties” were a rampant disease and proving that your gender was superior to the other was a sport, the debate of whether boys are better than girls has been ongoing. A major factor in this dispute as a whole is that women have not always had the same rights as men. So, historically speaking, women have always been considered less apt to participate in certain aspects of society than men. But does this actually constitute that men are better than women? According to John Stuart Mill, in his 1869 piece, The Subjection of Women, the sexes SHOULD be equal! So, in my opinion, much like Mill’s, boys are not necessarily better than girls.

In order to fully explain why I believe that Mill is correct in his thinking, we must first briefly examine his work, The Subjection of Women. In this 1869 essay, Mill asserts that during this time women were generally seen as submissive to their husbands and fathers due to the status quo that said that women were both bodily and intellectually less able than men. He continues on in his essay to explain that this prevailing social norm has no substantial evidence to deem it true. I consider this to be Mill’s strongest argument against the case that boys are better than girls. In Mill’s time, the notions that women had to be “taken care of” and biological determinism (the hypothesis that biological factors such as an organism’s individual genes (as opposed to social or environmental factors) completely determine how a system behaves or changes over time) reigned. In today’s world, these ideas would be considered irrelevant to the argument, not only because biological determinism is now considered an inaccurate understanding of the biological model of evolution, but also because 21st century women are now in major positions of power in the work force and tend to take care of their entire family, including their husbands. This shows that women are just as capable as men to taken care of themselves as well as become respected professionals. Finally, one of Mill’s most compelling arguments in favor of girls being just as “good” as boys, is that women in his time were not given the chance to do certain things because men innately believed that women were naturally worse at specific tasks. He goes on to explain that if women are not given the opportunity to prove that they can complete such jobs, there is no substantial evidence that can establish that they are physically or intellectually inferior to men. To further substantiate his claim, Mill states, “The anxiety of mankind to intervene on behalf of nature is an altogether unnecessary solicitude. What women by nature cannot do, it quite superfluous to forbid them from doing” (Chapter 1). By this, Mill suggests that men believe that women are in fact capable of doing certain activities that are usually reserved for men, but men do not want women to engage in these jobs. It is clear from Mill’s arguments that women (in his time) should not be considered inferior to men on the grounds that women are not “allowed” to perform tasks similar to men.

Now that we are familiar with Mill’s arguments, it is now worthwhile to address, based on his arguments, whether or not Mill is a feminist. In terms of today’s standards, I believe that Mill would not be known as a feminist, but in the 19th century, yes, Mill went against the norm and would be considered a feminist. For example, in today’s society women have the right to vote and therefore are clearly trusted enough to have a say in government alongside men. However, in 1869, women did not have the right to vote. In his essay, Mill addresses this issue and contends that everyone should have the right to vote except for barbarians and uneducated people. This is because he believes that every reasonable and sound person should have the chance to defend his or her own rights through the power of the vote. For the time, this would be considered a controversial statement because women were not seen as voters but rather solely as homemakers, wives, and mothers. In my opinion it is commendable that Mill had the guts to go against the discourse of the time and not only address the subjection of women, but to rally against it and make a case that women are just as able as men.

Although Mill makes an excellent case for why girls are just as good as boys, in reality, the only way to know who is “better” is by allowing both men and women to perform the same tasks and then evaluate “who did what better”. — follow this link for a girls vs. boys debate video!


One Comment
  1. aaronbrozoar permalink
    April 22, 2011 1:18 AM

    I’d like to throw John Locke into the mix here as well, who advocates strongly for the equality of “all mankind”, which we can safely take to include women. His case hinges on the fact that, in the state of nature, regardless of any “negligible” genetic differences between two men, both are always capable of besting one another and gaining the upper hand. Thus, assuming women are people (which they are), we can also assume a woman, too, is fully capable of defeating and killing any other man at any given moment, and therefore, women are equally capable as men, just as all men are equally capable as each other.

    And although we’ve not read anything to suggest he has a particular, documented opinion on the subject, I’d like to believe that Locke would also side with modern feminists and argue that the social subjection of women forces them unwillingly into a contract whereby they sign over their natural rights to the “sovereign man”, and is, therefore, unjust.

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