The Republic

Plato and Gender Equality

Plato employs a meritocratic logic in his proposal for gender equality in Book V of The Republic. In his ideal community, the kallipolis, comprised of producers, guardians, and rulers, Plato advocates a specialization of employment and status based on inherent nature and not on gender-typing. Allowing for slight modifications resultant from indisputable physical differences between the sexes, Plato's ideas are remarkable enlightened for his time, providing a Classical backing for the feminist movement, although his theories on eugenics anticipate Nazi tactics and are, from a modern perspective, unjust to both men and women.

Plato recognizes the contradictory qualities of his statement that "one nature must practice one thing and a different nature must practice a different thing, and that women and men are different. But at present we are asserting that different natures must practice the same things" (453e). After using an analogy that exploits the absurdity of positioning bald-headed men and their coifed brethren in different employment, Plato distinguishes between a truer difference of natures, those of a male doctor and a male carpenter. In his meritocratic society, "if either the class of men or that of...

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