Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/6329
Feminism in Classical Antiquity? A critical assessment of Plato's and Aristotle's views on women
Although the term “feminism” was first employed in the 1890s and it is broadly associated with the sociopolitical movement — which, based on the proposition that the two sexes are equal, campaigned for equal rights for men and women — that emerged in Europe and the United States of America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there is no doubt that there had been expressed beliefs and views that advocated gender equality before this period and which did not develop in a period actively debating gender issues. If we follow these beliefs and ideas back in history, they will lead us to classical antiquity, where Plato and Aristotle developed their views about women. Here the question arises whether Plato and Aristotle are feminists or not and whether we are able to talk about feminism in classical antiquity.
The aim of this study is to give a negative answer to this question. The first part will be dedicated to Plato, the classical philosopher who is frequently characterized as feminist. By focusing mainly on the Republic, the Laws and the Symposium, I will argue that such a characterization is inaccurate. The second part will be dedicated to Aristotle, where, by focusing mainly on the Politics, the On the Soul, the Generation of Animals and the Nicomachean Ethics, I will argue that he is a conventionalist. In conclusion, I will claim that Plato’s and Aristotle’s views on women do not differ significantly and that classical antiquity is devoid of feminist or proto-feminist ideas or beliefs.