It’s one of those dramatic laws, like how women in movies only ever talk to each other about a man one is romantically attracted to, unless they are making a point about the Bechdel test. (Of course, movies/tv assumes their audience is pretty much all male because the director, producer, writer..., investors, studio owner ... are all male, in general.
I always thought Jane Austen must have read Wollstonecraft’s Maria introduction too and decided to write Pride and Prejudice as a result, Austen's book about women gaining full time employment, literally. Most people only see Pride and Prejudice as a romance. It has some romance but generally this is a deeply political novel about women gaining full time employment in a time when many women died in child birth, for example Mary Wollstonecraft died soon after childbirth (giving birth to her famous daughter, the one who wrote Frankenstein and who we know now as
Mary Shelley) and Emilie du Chatelet who knew she’d die after finding out she was pregnant to name just two women.
So, getting back to the idea of women falling from grace being an historical artifact that I assumed was over. I stupidly thought women could pass through life making mistakes, being forgiven and those mistakes would be forgotten in due course. But I was wrong.
I think I always knew that. But I thought it was true in general for everyone, male or female. Of course, when Wollstonecraft originally wrote her introduction she was talking about the standard literature of the day, where women were constantly being warned of all the dangers of being thrown out of good society because they were too casual with the other gender, the one where getting a notch on their belt is a bonus... the gender whose transgressions are truly forgiven and forgotten. It was Elizabeth Bennett's aunt who suggested Lydia Bennett’s fall from grace could all be covered up and forgotten, Austen wrote this about 20 years after Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her introduction.
But a female friend of mine who is a co-leader of a very male gamer group found out recently, that 200 years might fly by but very little has changed. And everything that might be construed as a mark against her character had been written down, taken to extreme and held firmly against her. And definitely not forgotten. Ironically said co-leader stepped into a verbal sexual innuendo mess and that was probably her worst offense.
For some reason women have their legacy erased because of sex. I am thinking of Mary Wollstonecraft having her named banished from all good society for over a 100 years because of her love letters; Hillary Clinton, yes people actually believed pizzagate; I knew about Catherine the Great’s horse before I knew who she was. Why is sex definitely not for women and their reputation so easily damaged because of it? Yet we struggle to remember the names of men who have been found out to be sexual predators or violent with their partners? We forget so easily why Madonna divorced Sean Penn, why that black dude who gave those women date rape drugs, Bill something, ah yes Cosby. And the guy who basically raped all those actresses, Weinstein? Are they all out on jail yet? Does anyone care? Yet Monica Lewinsky’s name flows off my tongue so easily, but she didn’t do anything wrong, not like Cosby, Weinstein, Pitt, Depp, .... and Penn did.
We seem to remember Sudusky’s and Kevin Spacey’s name (although I used google to look up Spacey’s name and it seems like google erased his name from the usual suspects, but they couldn’t from moon). Perhaps it's more about the victims?
But why do we over look the wrongs of these men and yet I can’t imagine what Monica Lewinsky is doing? Apart from having a relationship with a married man she didn’t do anything wrong. She was a consenting adult with a crush on a president. Is there a woman in her stage of life who hasn’t done something stupidly similar? Fortunately for most of us, it is never known and it’s covered up and forgotten. Fortunately some men stood up for my co-leader friend. Nevertheless when she gets the highest score in war it is never acknowledged, yet when a man does, he is acknowledged applauded and congratulated.
No matter how things change, most things stay the same.