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Plato and Gender Equality

             In Plato's The Republic, gender equality within society is explored. Book V describes his ideal community which includes producers, guardians, and rulers. Plato promotes a specialization of employment and status based on innate ability, rather than gender. Given the time period in which this piece was written, Plato's assertions are rather liberal. Aside from making pointing out physical differences between the sexes, Plato's argument has contributed to the feminist movement, as well as giving birth to the Nazi philosophy of selective breeding.
             After making an analogy that reveals the irrationality of placing bald-headed men and their coifed counterparts in different employment, Plato distinguishes between a more valid difference in nature, those of a male doctor and a male carpenter. Plato recognizes the conflicting qualities of his statement that "one nature must practice one thing and different nature must practice a different thing, and that women and men are different. But at the same time, he asserts that "different natures must practice the same things" (453e). .
             In Plato's society, "if either the class of men or that of women shows superiority in some art or other practice, then we"ll say that art must be assigned to it" (454c). Plato admits that, on the whole, "woman is weaker than man," although Glaucon notes that "many women are better than many men in many things" (455e, 455d). Under the Platonic system, women are permitted to develop as musicians, doctors, or warriors, since such a specialization is "not only possible but also best for a city" (457a). In recognition of women's physical inferiority, Plato assigns them "lighter parts of these tasks" (457a). The sexes are given equal living standards, with "no one privately possessing anything," including housing. .
             Sexual interaction is to be governed by the rulers (458). The best men are made to procreate with the best women, and vice versa.

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