Saturday, June 05, 2010
Measuring Women's Equality
In a political era in which many insist that left-wing feminist groups must be funded because equality must be promoted, it may be a fair question to ask:
How, precisely, does one measure women's equality.
Part two of The Spartans may provide a clue.
Comparing the treatment of women in Athens to the treatment of women in Sparta with the treatment of women in comparatively liberal and democratic Athens, the film reveals that women in Sparta were fed the same food as men, were educated, allowed to participate in sports and politics, and own property. In Athens, women were expected to remain largely invisible.
This transformed Spartan women into highly-desired sex objects among other Greek men. Athenean women didn't seem to compare to Spartan women.
But at the very heart of the superior treatment was a notion that seems intuitive, but retrograde in its implications: healthy women produce healthy children, something that a warrior society like Sparta would continually be in desperate need of.
One detects similar arguments today in the thinking of individuals like Mark Steyn, who portrays Islam -- not merely militant Islam, but all Islam -- as a threat to western (Christian) society, one that will bury it by way of demographics.
It would take centuries for demographic realities to turn against the Spartans. When it finally did, it wasn't because of the comparatively liberal freedoms enjoyed by women (as some would insist about demographic downturns today), but rather it was because of the restrictions placed upon men, who were not allowed to formally marry until they were 28 or 30.
When Sparta became threatened by its inability to produce enough young men to be warriors, one must have imagined there were many such as Steyn sounding the alarm.
When s plague descended upon Athens and left nearly one third of the Athenian population dead, a risk of mistreating women became evident: just as healthy women are necessary to produce healthy children, unhealthy women will be more suseptible to disease, and more likely to aid in its spread.
As retrograde as the Spartan approach to women seems -- granted citizenship only so they'd be willing to sacrifice their children for the good of the state -- there is a fundamental and undeniable truth in the notion:
The future of any society lies with its women. And while women shouldn't be empowered with citizenship only so they can produce children, any society (Saudi Arabia, Iran) that oppresses its women compresses its societal potential.