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The first wave of feminism: were the stoics feminists?

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The Hellenistic Schools of Epicureanism, Cynicism and Stoicism are considered to constitute the first, albeit modest, wave of feminism. But the question: ‘Were the Stoics Feminists?’ has attracted little attention due to a paucity of available evidence. What this paper attempts is a comprehensive treatment of the subject. In particular it addresses two distinct claims that have been made about the Stoic attitude to women. The first claim (advanced by Sarah Pomeroy) challenges the view that the Stoics were thoroughgoing feminists. The second (advanced by C.E. Manning) is that, given the Stoic fixation on social duty, women's relegation to the domestic sphere is a consistent Stoic position. It is argued that Stoicism was fundamentally committed to the emancipation of women even though many of its proponents were inconsistent feminists. This inconsistency put them at odds with Stoicism's avowed mission to provide a critique of social convention and to promote the ideals of the cosmopolis.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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