In Plato’s, Symposium it could be said that there are tremendous red flags involving the lack of feminism.
For one, Plato only includes two women in the text. One being a flute player and another being an educated women from a foreign land. The setting itself was lacking a feminine cultural as well.
A symposium is a get together for men to drink and talk about politics. There were no women allowed because it just wasn’t their place at the time, it was a strategic choice of setting on Plato’s part. When first beginning the Symposium it is very clear that this is not a pro-feminism work, but by the end of the text it can been seen that the Symposium hold a deep message towards pro-feminism. When first reading the Symposium, Plato doesn’t put his feminist card down right away. In fact one of the first time he even mentions a lady it is when Eryximachus orders the flute-girl away so they can begin their discussions. Even in the first speech given by Phaedrus he states that, “Love is a great god,.
.” (Plato, 178b) use the gender, he to describe Love. Which all occurs in all the other upcoming speeches. While reading this with a feminist train of thought it related back to a statement from Annette Kolodny’s, Dancing through the Minefield: Some Observations on the Theory, Practice, and Politics of a Feminist Literary Criticism, when she stated that, “feminist criticism calls anything into question,”(Kolodny 928) meaning that how do these men know that Love is a woman? Maybe Love is identified under an unknown gender since Love is in everyone and everything. There is no one specific trait that specifics if Love is indeed female or male. Socrates even begins his dialogue by questioning Agathon if he has all his facts in an order. Everyone before Socrates has given a speech, but Socrates is looking for a conversation. For someone to bounce different theories and philosophies around.
This is like when Kolodny gives praise to Kate Millet for, “attempting so many difficult questions and to acknowledge so much,”(Kolodny 917) because by asking these questions to Agathon, Socrates set up to challenge everyone’s view and beliefs on love. He took everything about love and turned it upside down just as Kate Millet attempted to do. Socrates told to the most powerful and educated men in Athens at the time that everything they knew wasn’t true. They had even agreed to, “accept that things are as youSocrates say.” Agreeing that Socrates can say no wrong. But when he had finished all he had gotten was applause, which is well to most people, but not Socrates. He wanted discussion and feedback upon his new findings to show that the men understood and this theory opened their mind to new possibilities, but he had received a double ended sword instead.
One of the main reasons why Socrates may have received applause rather than a discussion is that he got his new found knowledge from a, “women from Mantenia.”(Plato 201d) Women back then weren’t knowledgeable to the men. Men studied for years while women stayed home. But no Socrates was, “convinced,”(Plato 212b) and convinced by a women for that matter. Socrates was giving credit to a women for giving the best contribution in this symposium even though the wisest men of Athens had just spoken on the same matter.
And has there been another time that Socrates had admitted that he has been convinced, let alone by a women? Kolodny mentions that, “men will be better readers of womens books when they have read more of them,”(Kolodny 923) and it is entirely certain. This was a first for these men to be outsmarted by a woman’s philosophy. They didnt know how to react so their instinct was to clap to leave no room for anymore questions against the men. When men choose to start listening and collaborating with women is when theory and philosophy will fluorous. Just how Diotima speaks you can tell that she has educated herself.
Being from Mantenia maybe they have different rules from Athens allowing women to study but for now it is assumed that she has self studied. By allowing Socrates to present Diotima’s speech Plato allows a kind of brings her status right in level with his which shines into feminisms equality for all. If Socrates can self study and be considered one of the wisest men why can’t a women do the same? By Diotima self educating herself and creating a theory all her own she broke the, “normativity.”(Kolodny 921) She would have had to.
There could be the possibility that she had heard it from another man but then we would have heard it from any another man. Plato specifically chose a women speaker to shine the light into feminism and show collaboration and open mindedness is crucial when trying to evolve and adapt. Adam needed Eve before Eve needed Adam. The Symposium can most definitely be read with feminist theoretical framework. It deals with societal and political issues that are still dealt with today not only with women but men as well. Plato brought to light the most important characteristic anyone can have and that is open mindedness and the willingness to learn.
Not to discriminate because gender but to be eager to learn for a different point of view, because knowledge is power.