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Book V at first glance appears to promote the idea of women as Guardians, however Plato simultaneously also presents arguments which accede that women would be less befitting to their male counterparts. This begs the question as to what exactly is Plato’s agenda in finally discussing half of the population. By including women into the Guardian class it presents the question as to whether Plato truly means to have them rule or has these dialogues in order to establish the inadequacy of such an order.

Plato establishes that women may be similar as well as different from men in many ways but the dispute over this will only take precedence with occupational segregation. He questions whether there is “no particular practice relevant to the government of a city that is peculiar to a woman?”(455b)The answer is to an extent ambiguous. Women are claimed to be better at weaving and cooking and men applying themselves to such tasks are considered an oddity and yet, if it were the case they would undoubtedly still excel at it because “It’s true that one class is quite dominated in virtually everything, so to speak, by the other.” Therefore men are better at tasks than women but “many women are better than many men in many things” (455d). If both instances are to be considered then it can be argued that Plato does not affirm whether women should guard and rule. The matter is further complicated by the claim that “there is no practice of a city’s governors which belongs to a woman because she’s a woman, or to man because he’s man” (455e). Having said that women may be on an equal platform with men, and with men being superior with any responsibility of the state however, Plato does not describe or outline those practices which are particular to a man. The lack in posing such an argument seems unlikely, so is it a deliberate attempt on Plato’s part to emphasize one side in the dialogues and by extension convey that women may in fact not be entirely suited for such a position? Plato never openly claims whether women can or not and leaves the option open ended. Many women may be better than many men in certain aspects but there is no pursuit in which men do not excel women; if this is the criteria set up by Plato, then it is beyond argument that the state has to be governed by those who are more efficient and better at carrying out the ruling of the state.

Women are compared to female watchdogs who have the same work description as men, but they are considered weaker and where the only interruption in carrying out their responsibilities would be childbirth. Plato’s objection to women being Guardians is that since the state is based on every person working “according to [their] nature “(453b) then  women’s natures are vastly different then men’s  and that they would therefore be allocated different positions within the city. Interestingly, Plato himself considers that this argument was not well thought out as it falls into the category of “the contradicting art” (454a). He progresses to offer another objection claiming they differ in “that the female bears and the male mounts” (454e). This issue proves problematic because this would not be a hindrance if a woman were to be a Guardian. If it is considered that previously for the running of the state Plato had given communal status for the raising of children with the addition of eugenics, then women would no longer have the responsibility of child-rearing, as they previously did. The only exception would be the time taken off during childbirth and their roles required of them would   therefore not be specific either. On those grounds they are at par with men to qualify for the position of Guardian. (Mill needs to support me on this one). Also, if duties are to be handed  solely according to nature then taking the claim of (454e) women would have to take care of childbearing and men in only impregnating for the sake of procreation. This would render in the dysfunction of the state as it would be unable to sustain itself.

Moreover, women are to share duties along with men and yet with the objection placed that “the females are weaker and the males are stronger’ (451e). Plato does not describe how this essentially functions. If women are to be Guardians then would there be an exception as to the extent of what would be required of them in all their duties and if we take into account that similar to men some women would be better at performing tasks than other women so would there be different degrees or levels assigned for Guardian women. The Guardian duties also qualify for the “bearing of arms and the riding of horses” (452c) that is military duties for war; this is where it can be assumed that physical strength may account for where men would be stronger. It is not understood however, if Plato takes into account whether if women who are Guardians would be unable to participate in war during pregnancy and childbirth and this may limit the number of women Guardians participating. If it holds true then women could not be ascertained as complete Guardians on the same level as men.

Granted that women are in a position to share in all pursuits along with men but if women are generally less qualified for military duties or to hold the civic responsibility of ruling then it is confusing as to why Plato would suggest the option of women Guardians .There are fewer Guardians as there are less of those qualified to join the ruling elite, but if natural ability is the qualifier then all or the majority of men would be better suited to any duties than all or the majority of women. Hence, men would be better at ruling than women, and therefore majority of the Guardians would have to be men as well. But this is not what Plato implies. The Guardians may be a small and elite group but it is not specified the number of women that would be occupying this position and there is certainly no implication of there being fewer women Guardians than men. Furthermore, are women then perhaps only included in the category of Guardians not to be rulers but for the sake of procreation (due to their natural talent for child-bearing) and to ensure future Guardians. If procreation and parenting are under state control then does Plato assume that Guardian parents will breed those children that will be biologically pre-determined to be Guardians? However this could not be so since qualification is dependant on natural talent. And if women are weaker in all pursuits then men, then it would be against the best interests of the state to have them rule or guard but perhaps, it is Plato’s agenda to include women since in this state the private sphere is abolished and equal opportunity must exist for the sake of civic unity. Hence, is there an impression of equality of status for women as Guardians or does Plato truly have them at par with the male Guardians?

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