Restricted Women in the Perfect World

I have known that Utopia is an idealworld for my whole life, so to see the details of Utopia through The history text book, “Western Society” by McKay was interesting.  In McKay, Utopia is an ideal socialistic community on an island somewhere off the mainland of the New World. It is a society with absolute social equality. The writer, Thomas More, also thought “the key to improvement and reform of the individual was reform of the social institution that molded the individual.”(McKay, 417) The quote from Thomas More, “A good place is which no place,” (McKay, 417) made me curious what he meant by that. As I am doing a research on ‘Economics of Marriage, Divorce, and Inheritance in Victorian Era,’ for English class, I wondered about Thomas More’s view about marriage in Utopian Society. I found Julie Sikkink (The high school history teacher) and talked about Utopian society with her.

According to Julie Sikkink, Utopia by Thomas More was first written almost as a joke to fool his humanist friend. He and his friend were imagining an ideal world and criticizing his own society of greed, wealth, and richness. When Thomas More brought the word “Utopia” from Greek, he was playing with the words good (eu), not (ou), and topos (place)(“Utopia”). Thomas More was a serious catholic and was a very pious man of his society where men have more power over women. Interestingly he educated his two girls, but still restricted women in Utopia. He said women are not supposed to be educated and should only support the men, such as their husbands. The fun fact that I found out during the conversation with Julie is that More was describing the perfect ideal world but he did not really change his social world. For example, there are still slaves in Utopian Society, but More gave them golden chains as a way to criticize wealth and greed in society.

In the Utopia text by Thomas More, there is some gender equality. For example both men and women had restriction on the age of marriage and both will punished if they violate the rules,Their women are not married before eighteen, nor their men before two-and-twenty, and if any of them run into forbidden embraces before marriage they are severely punished.” Also, they both had to show their naked bodies to their families: “before marriage some grave matron presents the bride naked, whether she is a virgin or a widow, to the bridegroom; and after that some grave man presents the bridegroom naked to the bride” and “so cautious that they will see every part of him” (More).

However, More argues the idea of marriage in advantage of the men choosing women.  For example, the women were not allowed to get education, but to give birth and support her husband. He talks like to not get a bad deal, men should look carefully when they choose their wives, “all men are not so wise as to choose a woman only for her good qualities; and even wise men consider the body as that which adds not a little to the mind”(More).


Work Cited

More, Thomas. “Utopia – Thomas More – Google Books.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=wohh_LqPjQIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=utopia+thomas+more&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JX45T-eFG9TWiALLnL2aBg&ved=0CD8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=utopia%20thomas%20more&f=false&gt;.

Skkkink, Julie. Personal interview. 9 Feb. 2012.

“A History of Western Society, Volume B: From Renaissance to 1815 – John P. McKay,Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks – GoogleBooks.” Google Books. N.p., 17 Oct. 2007. Web. 13 Feb. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=p5EdejRMzkIC&dq=a+history+of+western+societ +mckay&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Xno1T4qPIYziQKhyoGmCg&sqi=2&ved=0CFIQ6AEwAw>.

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7 comments

  1. avaz121

    It is very interesting to know the idea of Utopia first came up in an ironic way. I would like to know how you think differently after researching Thomas More and his life. What is your opinion on Utopia in the modern days?

  2. matthewthemadscientist

    Is it just me, or does the concept of a “free society with Catholic values” sound a bit oxymoronic?

  3. erinwritesagain

    I think it’s very interesting that Thomas More didn’t really change his own world in his book but still made it an ideal place. How did he do that?

  4. davidz123

    Hi Jinny! Nice post! I like how you use your interview source in the article. Actually on page 404 in McKay, there is more information about what women should do in the Renaissance, and I think it’s going to be helpful for your topic!!

  5. katiereindeer

    Hey Jinny, I really liked your topic! I always find it interesting to see different views on the importance of women throughout history, especially from people who were radical thinkers of their time. You mentioned that More did not really change his social world. Do you think this is because he was commenting on what was wrong with the current society rather then trying to propose a truly ideal society?
    I really like that you brought attention to the fact that More educated his daughters, but that in his ‘ideal world,’ women were not supposed to be educated. This is quite the contradiction.
    As I mentioned before, I love learning about views on the roles of women; however, I feel that these points draw on something that is possibly even more interesting. Thomas More’s ‘ideal world’ of Utopia does not seem to match what we would guess would be his actual view of a an ideal world, based on what we know of his beliefs and how he lived his life. This seems to connect to what Julie said about it being written as a joke.

  6. dan1418

    Hi Jinny, Nice post! I notice that you said Utopia is a society with abosolute social equality, however women are not supposed to be educated. so it’s not really equal. What about in the present. Do you think men and women are really equal?

  7. abbie95

    Hey Jinny, I really enjoyed reading your post! I found it most interesting that Utopia was first written as a joke and that he decided to educate his daughters, yet still restricted the women in Utopia. Why do you think he decided to describe his ideal world, but didn’t to make it a reality?

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