*WINNER* Toxic Attitudes: Martineau's "Criticism on Women" and the Rhetoric of Shame


  • Kinsey Potter


Martineau’s view that patriarchal society limited women’s status coincides with Wollstonecraft’s observation of how female minds were dulled in a society that prohibited them education. Martineau also saw that women choose an obedient place over education. Contemporary studies of shame, like Merleau-Ponty’s, which observe shame causes a woman to “lose ... [a] sense of reality” (165), explore shaming of women-- still a powerful tool in discrediting women. Both Martineau and Wollstonecraft demonstrated intrinsically in their works that society needed to be analyzed and perfected before women could achieve rights. Both expressed their vision of a better future for women, and the more liberated position of women today is undeniably due to them. Paradoxically, both writers underscore Kristeva’s conclusion that shame can “preserve what existed in the archaism of pre-objectal relationship” and allow women to embrace their power as a real human being (15) by subverting patriarchal power structures.