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How radical is Plato’s account of women? Introduction Plato is among the most celebrated and the most influential philosophers in the Ancient world. He has radical views on the capabilities and nature of women. Being a champion of the female cause, Plato promoted feministic approach in a rather patriarchal society. In the Republic, Plato argues that women are equal to men and has to take on similar social roles as their male counterparts in the ideal state[1]. The ideas of Plato are based on the view that men and women possess similar nature with regards to acting as the guardians of the state. The only difference is that one gender is stronger while the other is weaker[2]. The essay looks to discover if Plato was really an early feminist by concentrating on his thoughts of women together with their capabilities. How radical is Plato’s account of women? Plato is regarded as the father of the feminist school of thought because, in his literature, he pushes for the idea of both men and women are equal in the society when given the same training or chances[3]. This forms his basic reasoning in the Republic – that if provided with similar opportunities, education, and training, appropriate ladies could be similarly suited to the position of guardian just like their male partners. Therefore, if a woman was to be educated, just like a man, or rather trained in the same field, there can never be a difference between these two sexes. Despite being given the same training as men, women must be given lighter duties than the men because of the weakness of their sex. According to Plato, this is not a derogatory remark; rather it is a reality. He realizes that men are physically naturally stronger, and even if ladies can be trained to be strong too, it is physically impossible that they could be as strong as men who have undergone the same training[4]. Some tasks can be physically challenging, putting men in a more favorable position than women to adequately handle them. It would, however, be valuable to have females undergo training in warfare, to act as reinforcement to the society in times of trouble. Although Plato seems, by all accounts, to indicate a belief that ladies can be male’s 2 equal, he identifies that they cannot be as capable as me. Therefore, in Plato’s ideal state, one sexual orientation is far better that the other in pretty much every sphere and that is why the society trained men to be able to handle tools and weapons[5]. Plato struggled to change the mindset of the society, arguing that other than the physical realm, both men and women should be considered as equal, which is the root of his feministic approach. Although he informed us that ladies are physically weaker than their male counterparts, he infers that it is not an adequate reason for keeping them from undergoing training in warfare. For instance, in the Laws, Plato mentions ladies from Pontus who have undergone training in weapons. He is barely stating that ladies are also equipped for taking in these arts, regardless of the possibility that they may not be quite as great as them as men[6]. Therefore, he believes that women can be trained to take positions that men hold, as they are capable of giving the same results. It is clear that Plato decided to look at gender from a different point of view, pushing for the idea that men and women be defined by their souls, rather than their physical abilities. In his ideal state, he believes that everyone is equal as the soul is sexless[7]. It is because of this line of thought that the philosopher saw no need for the society to try and separate the social roles of men from those of women, as they are all considered the same. As a result, Plato saw no need of trying to define gender boundaries in regards to anatomical attributes. According to Plato, women and men are superior in their own unique ways. He uses the process of procreation as a basis for justifying this point of view. He makes it clear that women are superior to men when it comes to child bearing. In the Republic, he clearly states that men are incapable of bearing children, leave alone nurturing them into adulthood[8]. On the other hand, men are said to be superior because they can beget children, a role that cannot be played by their female counterparts. In the long run, the philosopher also sees these sexes as equals because in certain tasks they both need each other to maximize on the results. On the other hand, he gives education a greater role in his works. According to Plato, education can be used by women as an instrument to achieve equality. He then pushed for the idea that both men and women should pursue the same goals, making him a proponent of education among all sexes[9]. In a bid to complement his stand, the philosopher pushes for the idea that, in an ideal society, education should be put in a higher pedestal. It is stated that in a good society, everyone should be educated, regardless of their sexes[10]. He further lists training and education as factors that are useful in transforming the society. It is noted 3 that Plato recognizes that women are weaker compared to their male counterparts; however, with education, their physical weakness does not count much. Plato’s take on the idea that women should be included the workforce still stands out as the most treasured ideologies in the work place, even today. According to Plato, it is a waste of resources to subject women to duties that saw them stay at home[11]. In the olden society, women were expected to stay at home while men went out to fend for the family. The society was made to believe that the place of a woman in the society was at home, taking care of house chores. On the other hand, it was almost illegal to find a man handling such duties as taking care of the children or cleaning the house. In an ideal setting, Plato envisioned both men and women working together when it comes to taking care of the young ones and providing for the family[12]. He mentions that women can easily perform just like men. Women are valued in the workplace because they bring in their own unique perspectives such as good communication skills. One of Plato’s most controversial statements is found in Timeous that coward men in this life time would reincarnate and come back as women in the next life. For a philosopher who has always been considered to be feminist, this statement contradicted most of his points because it made women to be seen as inferior to men[13]. It can be deduced that his sentiment compares a cowardly man to a woman, an idea that is truly controversial. In the same line, Plato is seen to refer to women as overly emotional and promiscuous by nature. In this regard, the philosopher is seen to deviate from his general position that promoted women as men’s equal. These controversial sentiments tend to support the ideologies presented by the likes of Aristotle[14]. Notably, Greek philosophers incorporated the idea of arguing both sides of the coin. However, in the case of Plato, it can be concluded that some of his views are aligned to typical Greek stylistic modes, rather than simply bringing forth his position. Today, Plato’s school of thought is still being used as a foundation for most forums that promote women’s rights. They are considered to be less radical in comparison to Aristotle’s arguments. Plato still stands out as the father of the feminist school of thought[15]. Conclusion Plato is celebrated as one of the most famous contributors in the world of philosophy. According to his school of thought, women are equal to men. The philosopher believes that the common idea of treating men as superior to women is uncalled for. In his works, Plato pushes for the idea of everyone being equal, which is achieved by focusing on the souls, rather than the physical attributes. His point of view is not radical like Aristotle’s point of view[16]. Throughout the literature of Aristotle, women are portrayed as weaker beings than 4 men who dominate over them[17]. Aristotle was part of a society that believed that women are better in taking care of house chores, while men are better in fending for the family. To a larger extent, Plato’s point of view is essential for the contemporary women[18]. The Plato’s ideal state advocated for incorporation of women in the workplace because of their excellent people and communication skills. To a larger extent, as a feminist, Plato’s point of view on women is not entirely radical, but rather a school of thought that promotes equality in a somewhat imbalanced society.

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