The role of women in Ideal Society is an extremely important excerpt of ideologies taken from Plato’s famous book ‘The Republic’. Plato presents Socrates and Glaucon discuss on how women should fit into the Ideal Society. In the course of their discussion, they also talk about the role women should play in their ideal society.
Plato as a visionary person visions an ideal state that the society with perfection. So his ideal state is the state of Republic that must be ruled by justice and truth. He says that the success of an ideal society depends on its member and their contribution to it for the productivity of the society imagined by him; every member must be productive and play their respective role that the men and women should go hand in hand together. They should share everything. Hence, the society can only be productive when it makes uses of its entire member.
Plato compares men and women to male and female watch dogs. This is an analogy which Socrates uses to show the gender roles provided to male and female in the ancient time though prevalent in some of the male-dominated contemporary society. An analogy is certainly a comparison to something familiar to something unfamiliar in order to find or explain a common principle. An analogy assumes if two things are similar in some respect, they are probably similar in other respects. Socrates’ analogy helps him to precede the discussion because enables him to pass his assumptions convincingly what are the gender roles provided to male and females. Indeed the female is like female watchdogs kept inside the kennel. The word kennel can be taken as the walls of the house in which women were and are still confined. Socrates writes beautifully the concept of such male chauvinism in which men are by nature an education supposed to go for hunting. It is believed that the role of women comes only after the man fulfills his duty. Like female watchdogs, women job is to consider to breed the puppies and rear them up. We must not forget that these are the beliefs made by traditional society not a Socrates but Socrates mingles him in between this traditional thought when he writes that such division of labor disables them for anything else. In this sense, it is obvious that Socrates is against gender bias role of confining women within the cage or kennel. To come to the point, Socrates’s analogy suits beautifully at this point because it makes the reader understand easily the traditional role assigned to the women is to be confined within the walls of the house and look after the children whereas the male is supposed to be feeders and protectors.
Socrates analogy fails to suit the context when he focuses on the nature of the women and stresses on the idea that women should be given an opportunity to learn music, gymnastic and even the art of war. Socrates goes against the traditional assumption in which roles were assigned on the basis of biology and it has been supposed to be impractical to provide such jobs to the female. Socrates writes that we must not come to an agreement whether these things are practical or not. Instead, he wants to see whether female nature is capable of sharing with the male in all occupations. Indeed it is Socrates revolutionary idea. In this sense, the analogy fails here because the female watchdogs are no longer within the kennel rather they are outside and can be like male watch dogs if their nature fits. In short , Socrates analogy is appropriate till the time Socrates presents traditional women like female being confined within the kennel but its charm and convincing power fail to induce as he talks to transform the role of women in their role based on their nature and place them in his ideal world.
According to Socrates natural aptitude concerns with inclination, tendency and capacity to learn and these natural aptitudes are equally distributed to men and women for Socrates. Hence, women should be given an opportunity or the job she has got inclination, determination to get it. Socrates writes that there are no pursuits by which the society can be divided which belongs to women as women and vice versa. By pursuits, Socrates means hobby and this hobby cannot be assigned to either male or female. Hence, it is possible that both men and women may have hobby and capacity for the skill of warfare if such case occurs, on doubted Socrates believes that women should be given the opportunity. Hence, he writes there is nothing unnatural in assigning music and gymnastic to the wives of guardians but still women are not given jobs where the bravery is required because the social law has tried to construct and inscribe even to the natural aptitude.
Likewise, Socrates believes that natural talent is inborn. It can be different from men to men. Socrates writes that men can learn some works easily with less practice and less study which another cannot do with much more labor. Such situation occurs when one’s body search his/her mind whereas others body cannot do so. If even a man fails to do a job and another man can do it effectively, Socrates opines that there is no occupation in the organization of the city which is peculiar to men and women. If a natural talent comes from birth, if it is related to biology, and if it differs even from men to men, Socrates argues that everyone should be given the chance irrespective to their biology.
Discussing the work that is to be assigned Plato insists that women are capable of the same task as men. While assigning work, no one of its members is to be discriminated. Both men and women are equally treated. To make his point clear Plato brings an analogy of a ‘Watchdog’. He argues that one should not prevent women from her work as a guardian simply because she gives birth to the puppies. Her ability of reproduction does not impair her from anything else. She can equally participate in hunting guarding along with males. He says this since considering upper class, guardian as a watchdog of a state. He holds that female guardian ought to be providing with same responsibilities as men. This should not be deprived of their role as guardians simply because they reproduce. The only difference between man and woman is psychological. Plato’s views that if we have to employee women as the same task we must train and instruct them in the same way. To be a watchdog of the state we must provide woman this two arts- music and gymnastic and the art of war in additions and treat them in the same way. Yet the question is whether female human nature is capable of sharing with males in all occupation or not. Plato himself has viewed that the nature women are different from that of men. So, we should assign different task to different individual according to their nature. For this Plato argues that we always insist that one should not have same nature and pursuits. We have a tendency to generalize all. However, Plato says that particular task must be assign to one not to other.
Lohani, S. (2012). Western Intellectual Tradition. Kathmandu: M.K Publication.