chapter  7
Female identity between sexuality and maternity
BySilvia Vegetti Finzi
Pages 20

The ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’, ratified on 26 August 1789 by the Assemblée Constituante of France, proclaimed for the first time that human rights were natural rights which predated, and existed independently of, any law passed by the state. Article 1 declared that ‘men are born and remain free and equal in their rights’. No mention was made of women, but the term ‘man’ was understood to be gender-neutral and to include both sexes. Women were therefore being offered, in the name of equality, two possibilities that had not as yet been explored: freedom and citizenship. The offer, however, remained a merely formal one until a much later date, and even then was only partially translated into concrete and tangible rights. One need only remember that in July 1789 the French National Assembly had reconfirmed the Salic law, which denied women the right of inheritance,3 and that the declared equality of rights did not bring with it the basic right of female suffrage.