children, then they have little incentive for caring very much about an education that prepares
them for endeavors outside of the home. Similarly, women will not be able to develop all of their
skills and talents if they do not work outside of the home.
- Mill should be open to experimenting in this area as he is in other areas of women’s freedom
and equality. We can only know what men and women are naturally fitted for, and whether they
are in general naturally fitted for any role unless we have a society in which men and women are
allowed to choose their own roles. If society encourages, education and equips men to take care
of children, then raising children can be shared more equally by men and women, and both men
and women can raise children successfully and pursue successful careers outside of the home.
The government could accomplish this, for instance, by requiring businesses to provide liberal
parental leave policies for fathers and mothers.
Should the Government Take Affirmative Action to Remedy Women’s Inequality?
- The last point about governmental policy suggests a more general approach to Mill’s approach
concerning HOW TO/THE MEANS of achieving women’s rights. Mill focuses solely upon the
problem of LEGAL inequality between men and women. He ignores the equally serious problem
of ECONOMIC inequality between men and women. If women do not work outside of the home
and earn an independent income, it is likely that they will be highly dependent upon their
husbands even when they have equal legal rights to their husbands. This will perpetuate the
problem of a domination-subjection relation between husbands and wives that Mill is so
concerned to eliminate. The relationship between men and women can only be made truly equal
if women earn an income independent of their husbands, and society devises some scheme
whereby women can either be paid for their labor, or have their work at home recognized
appropriately by society. Mill’s wife Harriet Taylor realized the importance of economic equality
for women, and was far more progressive than Mill on this point. She stressed that women would
only be equal when they had an income independent of their husband’s.