You've been reading a book called A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , so you're correct if you assumed that women and femininity are major themes in this book. Gold star for you!
The issue at the heart of Wollstonecraft's writing is how society should treat women, and that women's minds are just as capable of reason and virtue as men's are.
Wollstonecraft states that women are less physically strong than men, but that strength isn't really all that important in a modern society. It's not like we're strangling one another for food or running away from predators that want to eat us (at least not when things are going well). What matters to Wollstonecraft is the quality of a person's mind, and there is no difference between the quality of men and women's minds.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft shows us that even though there might be a physical difference between men and women, modern civilization relies on intelligence and physical differences don't really mean anything.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft essentially argues that gender is a societal construct.
Now, just to set the record straight: Wollstonecraft doesn't dislike men. She believes that most men are truly good people. That's exactly why she wants women to receive the same education and the same rights as men: to be as excellent themselves as excellent men. She fully believes that, if given the chance, women could be just as smart and virtuous as men are. So what does the world have to lose by giving rights to women?
Multiple passages in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman are directed towards men. Wollstonecraft was no dummy: she knew that the majority of the people reading her treatise would be dudes.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft celebrates all the great men of history and claims that all she wants is for women to have the chance to be just as great.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft argues that men are wholly responsible for how women are (mis)treated.
For women of Wollstonecraft's time, marriage was the only future for women, and the only way they could get a taste of the public world. At the same time, it was an institution that completely pushed them into the private world, since it was understood that the husband was always the public face of the family. Now Wollstonecraft doesn't say that women should stop getting married, but she does insist that wives shouldn't be slaves to their husbands in the way that traditional British society expected them to be.
In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , Wollstonecraft also insists that women should marry out of love for a man's mind and not his appearance. Good thinking, W. Otherwise, these women might doom themselves to bitterness and resentment once their husband grows old. The same goes for men, too, who should choose a wife based on her mind instead of her looks. Notice here how Wollstonecraft constantly shifts focus from a person's gender and outward appearance and places it on their mind.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft shows us that for women, marriage is a path to slavery and not happiness.
Vindication shows us that if we rethink marriage as an institution, we can rethink all of society.
Wollstonecraft tends to use the word "love" in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman when what she really means is (heterosexual) sexual attraction. When she's talking about mutual respect and admiration, she tends to use the word "friendship."
That's why she constantly advises women not to marry for love, because she's certain that in the long run, physical attraction can never sustain a marriage. The only way for two people to spend their lives together is if they admire each other's minds and support each other morally. Sex just ain't going to cut it for very long.
In Vindication, we learn that physical attraction can never be the basis for a good marriage.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft shows us that a "prim and proper" female education actually makes women way more likely to have sex before marriage.
For Wollstonecraft, women of her time were slaves to men: they were the legal property of men and forced to obey them. If men had a good reason for treating women like slaves, Wollstonecraft maintains she wouldn't argue with this inequality. But the fact is that men oppressed women without giving any logical reason why. In the end, they just act like bullies and tyrants.
It's important to remember here that Wollstonecraft was writing right after the American Revolution and during the French Revolutions: a time when tyranny and unjustified authority were being questioned like never before. So she hopped on the anti-tyranny bandwagon with A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and demanded that men stop treating women like slaves.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft argues that slavery can be justified—just not in the case of women.
In Vindication, we learn that there is no difference between gender inequality and full-blown slavery.
Wollstonecraft states as a matter of fact in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that women in her time care deeply about their appearances. But this preoccupation with appearances makes total sense, considering that society denies these women a good education and any opportunity to gain influence in the public realm. The only power these women have is to marry rich and to control their husbands using their beauty. The major problem here is that these women will never learn to improve themselves or to think more critically about their world because all care about is being pretty and popular.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft thinks that appearances are important… just not as important as the power of reason.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft shows us that there is a fundamental difference between style and substance. Style is on the outside and substance is on the inside. Period.
In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman the question of women's rights centers on education. There is nothing Wollstonecraft wants more than for women to have access to the same kind of education as men. Wollstonecraft was an extremely educated woman, and she felt that if all women had the opportunities she did, more of them would turn into great and productive members of society.
In her mind, all of women's worst qualities come from the fact that they lack proper education and are taught only to care about superficial things. If women had proper training in math, philosophy, art, and science, Wollstonecraft is confident that they could become every bit as good as men.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft shows us that the only way for a human being to improve her or himself is through education.
Vindication shows us that education can be both a blessing and a curse, because with education comes responsibility.
Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman during a time when reason was considered the greatest power a human could have. But people believed that reason was a gift from God, and all arguments for social change had to, in one way or another, say that God was somehow in favor of the change. That's why you'll see all kinds of references to religion in Wollstonecraft's argument for women's rights.
Also, Wollstonecraft understood God to have been incapable to making 51% of the human population without a capacity for rational thought. To make more than half of humanity unreasonable would constitute a major design flaw, and Wollstonecraft wasn't big on the idea of God letting design flaws slide.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft falls back on religious arguments whenever her reason starts to fail her.
In Vindication, Wollstonecraft uses religious arguments to back up her overall point simply because most of her readers would have been religious.