‘Neither Male, Nor Female’: Rational Equality in the Early Spanish Enlightenment

  • Mónica Bolufer Peruga


In Spain, as elsewhere in the early Enlightenment, the rational equality of men and women was crucial to discussions of gender or, to use the term of the day, the ‘woman question’. Early modern pro-woman positions had been based on women’s moral worth and spiritual equality. Now they focussed on intellectual equality and, later in the eighteenth century, on women’s entitlement to education and public participation in literary and social circles. Enlightenment arguments for equality — like earlier arguments for women’s ‘excellence’ — were invariably polemical, designed first to be weapons against popular and learned assumptions of women’s necessary inferiority. Like other social inequalities, gender differences were traditionally thought of in terms of a simple hierarchy of power relations, social roles, and ‘natural’ aptitudes: women’s inferior physical, moral and rational abilities. Women’s natural inferiority, usefully explained as natural and divinely ordered, was widely touted in both popular and learned texts, from proverbs to scriptural and patristic references, Scholastic philosophy and humeral medicine.


Eighteenth Century Gender Equality Rational Equality Economic Society Woman Writer 
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© Mónica Bolufer Peruga 2005

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  • Mónica Bolufer Peruga

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