Plato’s Attitude Toward Women
Plato’s attitude toward women has been a topic of interest throughout history and continues to be debated in present day society. His opinion of women has been interpreted in a number of different ways with some scholars hailing Plato as a feminist and one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights while others criticize his outlook on a woman’s role in society. An understanding of the origins of western views of women, Plato’s ideal state and the intentions behind his proposals, and the status of women in Athens during Plato’s time can give insight into Plato’s position on women.
The position of women in ancient Greece has evolved throughout western history. The Homeric poems which were composed in the eighth century B.C. give insight into the attitude toward women during this time in Greece. Traditional heroic code portrayed a society that was exclusively male and only valued male conduct. However, in the Iliad Homer presented a new type of Greek hero with his character Hector. Hector was portrayed as both a warrior and a family man, and this resulted in a new warrior code. Hector presents a new warrior code in which affection for family, and particularly the wife, were incorporated. As a result, women’s traditional duties were reevaluated, and they were more included in society as a whole. Greater value was placed on the nuclear family, and there was a new attention to the wife’s social function. Men were still the only ones involved in socially relevant transactions and the woman’s role in society did not explicitly change; however, there was a greater importance placed on family and an ideological upgrade of the position of women (Arthur).
The Hesiodic poems of the seventh century B.C. portray a society in which there was greater class division. Competition among the members of this society placed women in a different role focused on bettering the economic and social status of their husband. The most crucial function of the woman was to provide an heir in order to maintain the rights to family land. In this society, women’s sexuality was viewed as a threat, and there was a general hostility and distrust toward women. Women were seen as needing to be regulated and controlled by the men, and as a result, a greater dichotomy between male and female arose (Arthur).
In the following century, Solon presented a society with new legislation. Under Solon’s legislation, women without brothers had the right to inherit their father’s land, but these property rights were limited. Furthermore, this inheritance was deemed as more of an assertion of the father’s rights and was an attempt to keep the woman in the family. The established duty of women was to be wives and mothers. This was a society in which the inferiority of women was not only implied, it was recognized. In this state, the social role of women did not fundamentally change; however, women were not seen as individuals, but as an aspect of man’s existence...