Damage that Vanity Inflicts both Socially and Personally on Women
In his poem “To a Louse”, Burns reveals the extent of damage that vanity inflicts socially and personally on women (Burns 1). An exaggerated feeling on the personal appearance that comes with excessive pride can damage women’s social perspective. A poor personal perception can bring about the wrong presentation before the public. The aspect of considering personal beauty over other important aspects of life can be dangerous to the extent of damaging social image. It is this aspect in women that has fueled men’s tyranny in important events and subjected women to inferiority and isolation. It is a most unfortunate situation when women use vanity to achieve selfish ambitions in their lives.
As Wollstonecraft argues, “women are in fact so much degraded by a mistaken notion of female excellence that I do not mean to add paradox when I assert that this artificial weakness produces a propensity to tyrannize, and give birth to cunning…” (7). Men take advantage of the women’s egotism to dominate areas of great influence in both the political and social sphere. For instance, from Wollstonecraft’s observations, woman focuses on their beauty while men tend to have a focus on important issues which makes them be ahead of the women in many matters. In itself, focus on beauty does not soil their social wellbeing. However, when this takes precedence over the normal relationship between men and women, it ends up causing a social gap. Nevertheless, both in social and political spheres, the women believe that they can do better in areas that are considered to be men’s positions.
Vanity in women, and particularly on those who are considered to be wives and mothers, can greatly affect their social institutions of marriage. It tends to draw women’s attention on personal attraction and ignores the purpose of marriage and the roles that a woman should play in a family. According to Wollstonecraft writing, such behavior in women jeopardized the efforts of making healthy families, where the woman understands her role as a wife or a mother. It is not proper for the woman to use their beauty to gain affection of their men. Vanity leads to lack of responsibility that a woman should have towards the family and the community in general. Though Wollstonecraft treaties support women’s efforts to fight discrimination from men, the aspect of discrimination finds its strength in the manner through which women present themselves. Some women think that by honoring the roles of a family and making themselves presentable is the ultimate goal in life. Such notion portrays moral great irresponsibility since there are many roles even of leadership that women can play in the society.
Robert Burns displays vanity in women as meaningless and a consequence of shame. He insinuates that vanity brings blunder and foolish notion that complicates life. Vanity displays falseness of person’s manner and ignores the reality of life. Sometimes women value themselves better that other by the virtue of decent dressing and expensive look. But Burns (1993) argues that, “if only some powers would give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us, it would free us from many a blunder, and foolish notion”. Self-importance or vanity is more of all ingrained protection that women obtain, to cover themselves against situations such as pain and rejection; and in the course they become the instrument for hurting and definite rejection. When the women discovers that people have a different opinion from what they think of themselves they turn to hatred. Therefore, vanity has a negative implication on women’s personal representation and it may lead to rejection by the society.
Burns ironically advices the women to be simple and walk out of cocoons of the Self-consciousness that may otherwise turn their respect to shame. Extravagance is obviously involved where beauty and appearance is cherished, and in order to maintain standards a great cost must be incurred. The poet, as portrayed by Robert Burns, watches a disgusting louse comfortably walking over a lady’s fine bonnet. The fineness of the bonnet portrays a great cost that had been incurred by the lady to look presentable though the little shameless creature did not care about the fineness. This is a clear implication of how many people do not care about person’s outward appearance but rather the substance the she can offer. Outward appearance does not represent a person’s moral behavior and cannot be used to gauge reasonable expectations from a person. From Roberts’s point of view, there is a greater cost incurred by women as a result of vanity. The craving to look special creates a demand for expensive and valuable things which a woman may major on rather than other important developments that might benefit the society.
From the writing of Wollstonecraft the implication of vanity leads to wrong behavior and manners of women, such that, usefulness is sacrificed to beauty (Gaber 1). Comparing vanity of women to flowers planted in good soil, which look pleasant but for a short time. When women get into self satisfaction zones, their personal esteem is weakened especially when they get rejection from the society.
Gaber P., “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”. 1993. Web. 4 September 2014 http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/wollstonecraft/woman-a.html
Burns, Robert. “To a louse.” Eighteenth-Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology (1936): 500-501.