Was Plato a feminist?
In some aspects, Plato supported the feminist’ view, that men and women are equal. When analyzing Book V of Plato’s Republic, many people argue as to whether or not Plato can be considered to be the ‘first feminist’. Martha Nussbaum claims that Plato is the ‘first feminist’. This essay will explore Book V of Plato’s Republic and will provide evidence to prove Martha Nussbaum’s claim that Plato is the first feminist.
Firstly, what is a feminist? According to the oxford advanced learners dictionary, a feminist is “a person who supports the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men”. However, during the times of Aristotle and Plato, women and men were treated differently, men were considered to be superior to women, men were the guardians as well as provided food by means of hunting. In Plato’s Book V, he mentions “our intention, I take it, was to make the men in our hypothetical city into some kind of Guardians of the heard” (Plato, the republic, book V, 451c) – the word ‘guardians’ can be considered as a job belonging to the men of their society, however, the first evidence one can use to support Nussbaum’s claim that Plato is the first feminist is when Plato states “if we’re going to employ women for the same tasks as men, we must give them the same teaching’’ (Plato, Republic, Book V, 451e) – here, Plato is not only claiming the possibility of women have the same jobs/tasks as men but also that if a women has the same tasks as men (like being the ‘guardian’) then they should be educated the same way that men are educated.
In Plato’s Book V the republic, it states: “different natures ought to pursue different occupations, and a women’s nature is different from a man’s nature. But now we are saying that these different natures ought to pursue the same occupations” (Plato, the republic, book v, 453e). Plato responds to this statement by saying “I think lots of people fall into it quite involuntarily” (Plato, the