Thursday, October 13, 2005

Socrates: Feminist?

Travis Larkin
Is Socrates a feminist?

In book five, Socrates radically states that women should receive the same training (geometry, gymnastics, and music) as men in society. For this reason it is the common misconception that Socrates is a feminist. He supports women and argues that they should have active roles in the republic. He is not after them to have active roles in society because he is a feminist or believes they deserve it because of centuries of uneven status in society. He sees that men and women are the same except for physical strength, and he knows that they will all fall into one of the three parts of the soul making them either spirited, rational, or appetitive, and the city will find uses for them. He recognizes and believes in biological essentialism and sees that even though women are not as strong as men they are a vital part to the city and its success.
Socrates analyzes women on the whole and sees them to be of use in a perfect society. While not as strong as men they must be allowed to participate in the Republic. He states that there is no one thing that only women or only men can do in the republic, “there is no practice of a city’s governors which belongs to a woman because she’s a woman, or to a man because he’s a man…but in all of them woman is weaker than man.” (455 c) Socrates radically speaks against gender roles that are still relevant in today’s world. He states that no career or task is suited solely for man or for woman. In today’s world women are paid less than men, until recently were not allowed in combat, are still not drafted, and continue to fight these gender discriminations. Sounding ike a true biological essentialist, Socrates states that men are physically stronger then women, and typically this is true. I really like this point of view that no one task is a job that can only be done by one sex, i.e. men can cook and women can fight, but there are certainly tasks which are rightfully dominated by one gender. Army’s were full of men because men are proven to be stronger on the whole than women. Socrates is not a feminist but instead a biological essentialist who has believes that even though men are stronger than women, it doesn’t mean that women should be denied participation to their full potential.
Socrates is no feminist, in my opinion he is more of a realist in that he speaks the truth. Still, he was so radical for his time that his ideas can still be seen at play in issues in modern times, such as woman’s suffrage and woman getting paid less then men for the same job. I believe the quintessential example of Socrates’ philosophy on women occurred during WWII. Almost every able man had been drafted into service leaving the American economy without a workforce. This is where women proved their competence and stepped into jobs thought once to be male-only professions and proceeded to run the American economy for the extent of the war. Rosy the Riveter was a popular female role model who represented a strong woman who worked the factories of America. Women also showed their competence in Socrates’ ancient component of training in gymnastics by forming the Women’s Baseball League and entertaining the country. Unfortunately these women were told to go back to the kitchens and retain their position of housewife when the men returned home and the gender roles which had been broken were reformed.
Socrates was not a feminist by any means. He was a very smart and perceptive man who recognized the true abilities of women instead of seeing the stereotypical image portrayed by society. If only there were more men like Socrates we could break the gender roles that have kept woman down up until this very day.


At 1:24 PM, Blogger Samantha said...

Realist = feminist

Feminism is solely an idea that females deserves equal treatment in society because the ideological differences are solely that- ideological. Nothing prevents women from what men can do, even combat. I think that females who exhibit the necessary strength and fitness should be allowed to partake in combat.

Your article suggests that feminism is based on the idea that women want rights solely because we have been denied them when, in fact, we know we are fully capable of receiving the same rights and are intellectually on the same playing field as men.

In short, Socrates was a feminist.

At 2:33 AM, Blogger Bruno Bentley said...

Socrates was a kind of feminist. He believed that women and men share eqaully in the capacity to learn. Given that Socrates believed education = virtue, this means that women are just as good as men and should not be discriminated because of gender.
For this reason women should be allowed an eqaul role in the Republic as men. This role would depend on the qaulity of their soul.
In this way he was a feminist. At the same time, his interactions with his wife Xanthippe suggests that he thought women, as they lived in Greece, did not develop their knowledge and virtue.
It is important to note that many feminists believe that Socrates' emphasis on rationality is patriarchal and subordinates female knowledge

At 11:55 AM, Blogger I. R. Thinking said...

Is it actually reasonable to use the dictionary definition of feminism or being a feminist considering the feminist political movements and those who hold leadership positions in such (according to sales etc..) are clearly not using that dictionary difference? As well as the fact that most of the public do not use the term in the same way?

It is the misuse of the term, the misdefinition of that term and the lack of understanding why that term is "charged" and who it is who would use that term without qualifying clearly, that makes "feminism" a term one should eschew in using.

Crazy people everywhere... none so much more than the modern day feminist - who has no inequality, but sees everything as if there was an inequality.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Anna Lam said...

I don't think Socrates was advancing a feminist argument by any means. I agree that he was a biological essentialist in a way. I do think, however, that he has an important part in the feminist narrative nonetheless. His argument is an important predecessor to later feminist thought.

At 8:50 PM, Blogger John B said...

All BS, Women are unstable. If you marry she will cash out when the time is right. A man cannot build wealth in an unstable relationship with uncertainty about her commitment. You level up she cashes out and the man if left holding the bag of debt.
Women are not our equals concerning these issues.


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