In his first public statement as a political philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau condemned the public entertainments of his time and railed against a decadent culture in which “men have sacrificed their taste to the Tyrants of their liberty.” In a footnote to this statement, he offered an intriguing aside:
I am far from thinking that this ascendancy of women is a harm in itself. It is a gift bestowed upon them by nature for the happiness of the human race: better directed, it might produce as much good as today it does harm. We are not sufficiently aware of what advantages would arise from giving a better education to that half of the human race that governs the other. Men will always be what is pleasing to women: if then you want them to become great and virtuous, teach women what greatness of soul and virtue is. The reflections this subject provokes, and which Plato made in bygone times, greatly deserve to be better developed by a pen worthy of following such a master and of defending a cause so great.