Evidence suggests that the feminist consensus on Jean-Jacques Rousseau “misogyny” is breaking down.New studies are emerging that bring to light the many sympathetic portrayals of women in Rousseau’s works and the important role he ascribed to women within the family. Some modern feminists are even ﬁnding ways of reading Rousseau that speak to women’s concerns today. Overturning the notion that Rousseau was an arch-misogynist will be an uphill battle, however, given how very widespread it has become. Moreover, before we can arrive at a coherent and convincing appraisal of Rousseau’s views on women, a curious paradox needs to be addressed: even feminist admirers of Rousseau tend to accept the established feminist canon on him, and in fact build upon it. Therein lies a fundamental problem for Rousseau scholarship and for women’s studies in general.
This article contributes to the recent reevaluation of Rousseau’s attitudes toward women by reconstructing the historical context of Rousseau’s Letter to d’Alembert, in which some of his most outrageously “misogynist” statements are made.