The idea of Plato's Republic being one of the true first pro-feminist arguments seems to have some steam in modern times. However, there seems to be major flaws with these theories. The fact that modern feminism is not grounded in Platonic feminism is perhaps the most striking issue. For, if he were a feminist, one would certainly see some basis of modern feminist ideology in the Republic. It is rather on the contrary, Plato himself seems to be just as critical of the female gender as any of his contemporaries such as Aristophanes and Solon. From claims of women being weaker than men in every possible way, to the fact that there is mythology written to justify women as the evil given to men by the gods, there is no possibility of a pure feminist ideology at the time of Plato. In this paper I will argue that even though Plato shows tendencies towards gender equality, he is far from supporting a fully fledged idea of equality, and at best we can only claim that Plato was a proto-feminist.
[...] From the Epic poets Homer and Hesiod we are given a male dominated, menacing perspective of women. Therefore, even Plato would have been contaminated by the stereotypical issues of the time. So, we cannot claim that he argues for true feminism in the Republic. It is, as Julia Annas correctly points out, far from a feminist ideal (Annas 4). Even if his argument perhaps promotes a shortening of the gender gap, it is far from anything any feminist would argue as feminism today. Thus, Plato was not the first feminist. [...]
[...] Therefore, one can see how the opportunity for feminism to arise during the time of Aristophanes as well as Plato existed; however, there is no specific proof in either of these authors to validate the rise of feminism during their time, there is only a contextual implication that there are tendencies towards the equality of women. Another clear example on how the Republic is not a feminist argument is the fact that Socrates states in regards to eliminating the nuclear family. [...]
[...] We see Socrates identify the periods in which both genders are in their prime for such a breeding when he states women is to bear children for the city from the age of twenty to the age of forty, a man from the time that he passes his peak as a runner until he reaches fifty-five" (460e). This is in regards to reproduction in order to perfect the lineage of the Guardian race. Therefore, one must naturally identify the women who by nature have the capacity of becoming philosophers or Guardians. [...]
[...] Naturally, both he and his interlocutors find this ludicrous and he goes on to explain the reasons for difference in gender as not a difference in the physis of the individual. We can observe this in his comparison of the impact which gender differences might have to any professions to the impact any other biological trait may have. He clearly states that: . if the male sex is seen to be different from the female with regard to a particular craft or way of life, we'll say that the relevant one must be assigned to it. [...]
[...] This argument is not implied in the Republic, but it could be viewed as a natural evolution of the idea if the initial idea was based in a feminist argument. However, as we have previously seen, Socrates seems to mention at a multitude of times that women are rarely to never better at their jobs than men, and seeing from the cultural context of the time, even if the rules of the Republic were to be implemented, this would not necessarily be the case. [...]
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