Are men born Misogynists or they become ones

Are men born Misogynists or they become ones?

It is easy to make a flat look on our existence as human nature and make a quick calculation on the injustices and inequality that never seized to shape the existence of women. It is also as easy to make a quick straightforward judgement and say it is this misogynist nature of men. At the end, it cannot just be a coincidence that they all end up being like this, as a general rule, and yet, not exclusive, of course. 

However, is it all about this misogynist nature of men that always tend to overpower women, dominate them, oppress them and seize full domination on them? 

It occurs to me at this very moment as I am standing here more than two Millenia and some centuries after Plato and Aristotle and think, why did he look down on women? Is it possible that all women were either uncontrolled devilish prostitutes-to- be or obedient subordinating-housewives-to- be? 

In today’s world where women also became either empty headed or head veiled, the misogynist figure of a man cannot change.

As if it is a stigma. A woman cannot but be one of those.

While I believe that men are not born misogynists, I also believe that women are not deemed into the empty headed and head veiled stigmas. 

Thus, the question remains, where were those women then and where are they today? 

I am not intending by any means to pardon men for all the injustices and suffering they executed against women across our human lifetime. However, I cannot but ask myself: When Aristotle degraded women from their basic beings even before they set life into the earth, claiming that they are an outcome of a once upon a time evil lived spirits that are damned here to earth in a body of a woman. By default, Aristotle asserts that women’s souls are less forceful than male souls. As a result, women’s lack of spirit entails that they are less emotional regarding emotions connected to “spirit” rather than less emotional regarding the appetites.

To put it more constructively into his own words, within the initial distinction in claiming In the Generation of Animals, In Chapter 1 of Book IV when he discusses the nature of sexes: 

“The male and female are distinguished by an individual capacity and incapacity. The female is that which receives semen, indeed, but cannot form it for itself or secrete or discharge it. …The woman is opposite to the male and is a woman because of its inability to concoct and of the coldness of the sanguineous nutriment.”

The role of the woman for him remains that of a recipient at her best. In his Political Community Text in On Politics, he admits that there is a need to unite things that cannot exist separately, and the need to reproduce is not by choice but by nature. 

However, he sees that this will result in a ruler and a ruled relationship that are by nature united for their welfare. “For those who can intellectually foresee things are by nature rulers and masters, and those who can physically do things are of nature subjects and slaves. And so, the same thing benefits masters and slaves. Therefore, it was out of the two associations of men and women and master and slaves that the first household arose.”[1]

As a result of this ruler and subject relationship he sees the woman’s role in the household established within what comprises of slaves and free persons. 

“But we should first study everything from its smallest parts, and the first, most minor parts of the household are master and slaves, husband and wife, and father and sons. Therefore, it will be necessary for us to consider what each of the three is, and what each should be. The first is despotic, the second marital, and the third reproductive, although the latter two have no exact name. And let us consider these three things that we mentioned.” 

He also insists that “the relation of men and women is that of ruler and ruled, males and females have distinct virtues due to their different functions, although women have the capacity to deliberate, their reason lacks authority, and while a man can possess practical intelligence the most a woman can achieve true opinion.”[2]

When it comes to virtue, it is clear for him that both need to share in virtue, but differences exist between them ‘naturally’ and for him the situation is that; “free persons rule over slaves in one way, males over females in another way, and men over children in still another way. And parts of the soul are present in all of them but different ways. For slaves completely lack deliberation, females have it but weakly, and children have it only imperfectly.” [3]

To give Aristotle some credit here, he does admit that women are intelligent, capable of deliberation, and of giving sound advice, so it is not that women cannot deliberate logically, but that emotion is likely to overpower their deliberations. Which makes them differ than slaves, who have no reason whatsoever, and children who have the reason but use it imperfectly!

But somewhere, trying to understand Aristotle’s account against women could be justified if one think that the great philosopher was significantly demeaned by a woman.

 Did it ever have to do with his demeaning incident with Phyllis the wife of Alexander who mounted on him as a donkey and forced a historical portrait of how far the infamous philosopher can reach? 

Plato’s mindset, however, was more of progressive according to his Republic towards women as he always challenged their right to become Guardians. Alas, his “sex unity” theory can be debated to a different ground of where his true passions respite. 

It is ambiguous not to say, nonetheless, that Plato puts the capability of women in performing certain tasks just as men by their skills and talents, not with their nature into challenge.

At the end even though, Plato and Aristotle brought a philosophical methodology to the idea of women’s roles that created the structure of unique ideas on different extremes.

Whereas Plato thinks that: ” the females bear children while the males beget them. We’ll say there has been no kind of proof that women are different from men.”[4]

The Republic, the ideal state in Plato’s thought addresses the issue of the role of women in Book V through indirectly advocating the inclusion of women into the elite class of guardians, by saying that the guardian class is comprised of only the most outstanding individuals. 

However, in quite obvious domiciles Plato makes disparaging remarks on women, both in the Republic and other works. For example, in (book V) he states:  

I hardly like even to mention the little meanness’s of which they will be rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example, as the flattery of the rich by the poor, and all the pains and pangs which men experience in bringing up a family, and in finding money to buy necessaries for their household, borrowing and then repudiating, getting how they can, and giving the money into the hands of women and slaves to keep–the many evils of so many kinds which people suffer in this way are mean enough and obvious enough, and not worth speaking of.[5]

Even though, unlike Aristotle, Plato never used the nature of women as the explanation of his critical views about their behavior. He often offers criticism on women’s behavior in Athens, but when it comes to women in his ideal city who will be raised under ideal circumstances will be judged by the quality of their souls, and those who are qualified to become guardians will be rigorously educated. 

He even gives a woman a more strategic role in defending the state against the enemy as a Guardian. But let’s make a point here: This woman only exists in his ideal city of the Republic. 

One must also note though that Plato is equally as critical of men for having the same misrule in the soul. Plato tends to stress the fact that women behavior is a result of the society that raises her and not her nature.[6]

Unlike Aristotle, Plato makes no mention of any physical process that signifies the quality of one’s soul, and hence, by no means does the biological differences between men and women, affect their ability to reach the same philosophical level.

Giving Birth for Plato is a purely physical rather than an emotional or a spiritual process. For once the children are born, there is no sense that the female Guardians will feel any loss or desire to raise a child. Giving birth is just a routine. For Plato, the ideal role of women in his state is whatever her nature allows her best to do.

In the Republic, he discusses the issue of women, because he cannot discuss the subject of an ideal state without half of his population. However, the Symposium, where the issue of sex and the role of women in the city are not addressed nor are women much discussed, Diotima presents the issue. 

When it comes to family Plato removes the traditional model of the household in his Republic. For him, a woman is a guardian first and foremost who has the extra duty of giving birth to future citizens.

Plato appoints to women a part that is almost equivalent to that of men in the republic, but again, we need to remember that the women that then resided Athens were not fit in the women he assigned for his Republic. 

So, if we think of the personal dilemma of both philosophers, one who was attracted to males, and another who was humiliated by a woman, one can understand better the base of their statements. One, not necessarily affected by women, and one threatened by them. One who saw them as today’s model of empty heads, and one who wanted to make sure that he keeps them inside a veiled head. 

But women like Diotima, that Plato mentions Socrates account of the Eros (the Greek god of love and sex\ fertility) he admits to what might seem to be the most glorious recognition to a role in which a woman can have: 

“I shall try to go through for you the speech about love I once heard from a woman of Mantinea, Diotima- a woman who was wise about many things besides this: once she even put off plague for ten years by telling the Athenian what sacrifices to make. She is the one who taught me the art of love, and I shall go through her speech and best I can on my own.”[7]

That woman existed then, as much as she exists today. 

However, it remains a long way for women to start writing history. Only then veils will be removed from heads, and empty heads will evaporate. 

And maybe then, men will be just like women… contributing to the universe with their natural role of being part of this existence… not the center and the origin. 

[1] Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas Commentary of Aristotle’s Politics. The book I Ch.1 Political Community Text (1252a1–1253a38), eBook. Translated by Richard J.Reagan. Cambridge: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc, (2007).

[2] Jawin, Alexandra. The Ideal Role of Women in Plato’s and Aristotle’s Societies. (2012), pp. 112-13.See: (pol.1.13)

[3] Ibid. Chapter 10 Family Text (1259a37–1260a36) (Aquinas, pp. 66-70).

[4] Plato. The Republic, (5 18, 2002) (accessed 5 1, 2014), p. 454e.

[5] Plato. The Republic, Book V, p.324.

[6] Plato. The Republic, Book V, p. 314.

[7] Plato, Symposium 201d See: Prudence, SR. Allen.  P. 57.

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