When Socrates was speaking to Glaucon about what the women should do in their ideal State, he asked Glaucon a fascinating question. He asked him, “Are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? Or do we entrust to the males the entire and exclusive care of the flocks, while we leave the females at home, under the idea that the bearing and suckling their puppies is labour enough for them?” Glaucon, of course, answered, “No. They share alike; the only difference between them is that the males are stronger and the females weaker.” Why do you think he thought so? I believe that his justification may be similar to what our justification would have been: it would be unreasonable if the dogs were given two different responsibilities if they were just as capable to do the same responsibility based solely on gender. I consider this conversation—a conversation that had occurred and been documented millennia ago—one of the most relevant conversations in today’s society. Today we face many, many challenges regarding the topic of equality, and I do not believe that it should be a challenge at all. It is simple: if humankind should wish to improve, we must be able to demolish the idea of a superior man. If humankind should want to continue in our journey to bettering ourselves, we must eliminate the hierarchy that we created and continue to feed, and the way to do that is through “feminism.”
Many people think that “feminism” aims to make the female gender the superior gender, simply because it is called “feminism.” However, this is not true; feminism aims to eliminate the idea of gender superiority and gender roles, ultimately making both the male and the female equal. This equal rights movement was named “feminism” to promote the rights of women, and not to make women superior. “Feminism,” however, benefits both men and women—an idea that will be elaborated on later—and both men and women should advocate for it.
To understand why we should advocate for feminism, we must first understand the topic of inequality. After all, equality does not exist without first experiencing inequality, just as how the idea of light does not exist without the idea of darkness. Our society has distilled the idea of inequality in us. Inequality is the reason why boys may feel pressured to pay on a date, suppress their emotions because it is seen as “unmanly,” or why they may not be allowed to play with dolls. Inequality supplies us with the idea of gender roles, and with them, the need to conform to fit them, which then causes us to reject certain behaviours because they do not follow these social roles, both in other people and in ourselves.
Many people are raised in a way that discourages themselves and others to break or challenge gender roles, creating a vicious cycle that continues to foster the issue of inequality. By being taught at a young age that you are unable to do certain things or behave a certain way because of your gender, inequality becomes the norm. Inequality will be all you really know, all you are familiar with. Because of this, you might end up raising your kids the same way you were raised, forcing them to accept these gender roles as well. You are not at fault; you did not know any better. Though difficult, we can break this cycle and improve our way of thinking for the better.
Take a look at the conversation between Socrates and Glaucon again regarding the dogs. Given two dogs, one male and another female, their responsibilities would not change. The two dogs are just as capable of doing the same job, so why should their responsibilities change simply because they have different reproductive systems? It would be impractical—even disadvantageous—to give them different responsibilities based on a trivial, biological difference. We must acknowledge their difference, yes, but we have no real need to discriminate one or the other simply because of that biological difference. Realistically, it would be much more efficient to let the two dogs hunt rather than have one hunt, another do another job, and be forced to wait twice the time.
For a long period of time in our history, you do not hear of women making contributions to our society, simply because they were women and they were not expected to. For instance, take the issue of women’s suffrage in America. Today, 51% of America’s population is female, and if you were to assume that that percentage is more or less the same, that means that majority of America’s population were not able to vote for their leaders until 1920, going against one of the three fundamental rights in the constitution that protects the majority rule. After the women’s suffrage movement, it still took a while for women to begin voting for people that will help alleviate their issues. However, if that 51% of America were already allowed to vote, America likely would be have made much more progress because you would not have that period of adjustment in the first place. In the end, if you had eliminated that gender bias, you would have made more progress in a shorter amount of time, similar to the two dogs hunting instead of one.
Both men and women can benefit from the elimination of the gender hierarchy. By eliminating this preference for one sex over the other, we allow ourselves to improve more efficiently, growing together as a human race and society. This sounds easier than it is, but if we truly want to evolve and prove to ourselves that we can be great, then we must learn to break the vicious cycle of conforming and teaching how to conform, and that change, that extremely important and essential change, begins with ourselves.