In ancient Greek culture, much turmoil existed on the basis of gender rights and personal roles within the society, as examined by Aristophanes, Plato, Bingen, and Pizan, each seemingly ahead of his or her time with respect to feministic values. Although some “enlightened” philosophers did not believe that existed any more depth than comedic folly for women in political systems, others like Plato determined that it be essential for women to take part in governmental affairs. Even in today’s world, such conflicts are manifested, particularly in poor countries, without a resolution in such a long and drawn out social dilemma.
Countless theories of a factual and expressed series of fundamental differences in men and women are adamantly refuted in the works of Aristophanes, Plato, Bingen, and Pizan, proving that women are effectively equal to men by either words or example. Although disagreement existed between what roles this equality allows for by these ancient Greek philosophers, each strived to defy the ascertations as described in cultural norms. Aristophanes makes a first attempt in rationalizing this equality as we delve into our studies, revealing in the first scenes that women have a comparable sex drive to men, refuting statements made by Aristotle concerning the supposed sexual passivity of women. In his character Lysistrata, Aristophanes recounts that when calling upon the Spartan and Athenian women to discuss the ongoing war, such women would have been coming forth from their homes with tambourines if a celebration of drunkenness and orgy had been given in the name of Bacchos. Later in the text, Cleonice, Myrrhine, and Lampito, key characters in Lysistrata’s plot and otherwise, very traditional women, inform their organizer that they would be willing to do anything but give up sex for the war effort, even walking through fire, mirroring similar desires of men as described in the final scenes with graphic imagery. This being affirmed, other philosophers examine additional biological similarities which provide further evidence that men and women are essentially the same in abilities and intelligence. In Book V of The Republic, Plato asserts that women have the same parts of the soul and so all the same interests, virtues, and personality types as men. Starkly contrasting with majority of his contemporaries, Plato believes that it is these such similarities of soul and mind that provide reason to require education for girls in the same caliber as that provided to boys, as they hold the potential of future rulers and guardians. Through Socrates, Plato suggests that the distinction between men and women is fundamentally as relevant in intellectual aptitudes as the difference found in the performance of longhaired verses shorthaired individuals, concluding that male and female are by nature the same in obligation of education and employment. In an ironic twist and example of opinions in ancient Greek society, Aristophanes attempts to point out the intellectual boundaries that some women believe they are governed by through Cleonice’s remarks, explaining to Lysistrata that glamour is the only talent women possess and that there is nothing for women to do but sit looking beautiful for her husband. However, without attempting to directly defy typical stereotypes during this period, Bingen contradicts this assumption of inevitable talentlessness among females in her mere publication. During a time when few women could write and most were denied access to a formal education, Bingen was creating inspired works of poetry in an example of female capabilities through action. Pizan in her own internal exploration and encounters with the three women of Lady Reason, Rectitude, and Justice, chose to defy the natural laws as many males spoke of, the idea that women are fundamentally evil and inclined to vice. In such a personal quest, Pizan describes “thinking deeply about these matters, I began to examine my character and conduct, since I was born a woman, and similarly, I considered other women whose company I frequently kept…hoping that I could judge impartially and in good conscious whether the testimony of so many notable men could be erroneous. ” The three women appear solely to establish the knowledge in our young author that women are of equal value as men, and in contradicting this, call out the shortcomings of Aristotle’s viewpoint as described by Saint Augustine and the Doctors of the Church.