Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wollstonecraft: Fondness and friendship

"To gain the affections of a virtuous man is affectation necessary?" In formulating this question, Wollstonecraft put her finger on an ancient question that even today populates advice columns. Courtship involves playful pretense and mystery to stimulate mutual interest. But when does coquettishness cross the line into affectation, that is, a false persona that hides the true self?
Asking if a woman should "condescend to use art and feign a sickly delicacy in order to secure her husband's affection", Wollstonecraft answered, "Fondness is a poor substitute for friendship!"

In the search for romantic partnership, many people (both male and female) display their own weaknesses and are attracted to weaknesses in others, to some extent because they are searching for a partner who can tolerate, complement, or even fix their problems. This is not an entirely bad desire. Everyone is imperfect, and everyone has needs; these facts certainly influence our choice of partner, and our behavior with our partner! Yet, we have all seen examples of how the simple admission of vulnerability can go awry, in certain couples where one of the partners behaves in a manner that just seems annoyingly fake and therefore desperate.

Mary Wollstonecraft. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (1792) Chapter 2: The Prevailing Opinion of a Sexual Character Discussed.

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