Book Review / Philosophy Without Women: The Birth of Sexism in Western Thought


This book should be on the National Curriculum's must study list. It is not a simple, pop-culture telling of the underlying problems with modern society and social inequality that women (apparently) experience. It is also not a quick and simple read. It is an academic study of the historical grounding for this vein in culture (in the west), created in Ancient Greece and still prevalent in modern society. However, the author's narrative style and the fascinating subject is well worth the effort of focusing the brain, and the ideas and revelations are easily absorbed. I love academic books, so it was kind of fun to me.


I am not widely read in philosophy, though am familiar with some of the famous works of Socrates, Horace and Plato, but it's not necessary to know these works deeply, as they are examined and broken down into understandable and focused sections, and you can learn as you go. A really interesting section covered the two trains of philosophical thought going round in that age. One was the egalitarian society, and the other, well, the more sexist-type (and I mean both ways) one that has prevailed for millennia. Plato, yeah he doesn't come off so well. However, deeper research into the patriarchal (and no, I don't think it's necessarily a bad word) societies that did exist in the West (and no longer do, regardless of what some women white knights would like to hear) does banish some of these overbearing ideas. There were very specific societal reasons for much of what happened in pre-modern, medieval and ancient Western countries, that were imperative to their survival.


I also discovered a new philosopher called Anaximander, who (in the book on my shelf to read) is heralded as the first scientist. So is Leonardo Da Vinci, but you know, Ancient Greece. Anaximander was egalitarian as far as I understand from this book, I've yet to get round to my biography of him, but he sounds waaay better than Plato. And yes, all philosophers in uproar right now, I did just say that. Plato allegedly and literally tried to write women out of existence and worth because, unfortunately for him, he couldn't actually make them all disappear. Children, to him it seemed, (birthed to women as only they can be) weren't even part of their blood - they were merely the seed of the male ripening in the womb; all children were only of their father in creation. The study is so very intricate that I believe Plato was a massive arsehole. Sure he wrote some good stuff but, meh. Nobber.


And men, if you think only women were/are affected by social orders, you're wrong. Plato (where the word platonic comes from) exalted the male relationship as the most important in the universe - this is the homosexual relationship (hetero was not seen as particularly important because women weren't citizens or important) - which still prevails in terms of presumed social status, however, societies following Ancient Greece have since condemned masculine relationships to that of no touchy, cold, shoulder-thumping connections or the term 'man up'. You, too, have been severely screwed over by Plato. To be honest though, bromances were still around in the Middle Ages, hence the codes of Chivalry - immense man-love, ahoy!


All in all, this text is essential. I do not prescribe to modern feminism, nor do I inhale bubblegum feminist books that tell me what I should be doing with my body hair (or not) by women who are exactly the kind of person I actively avoid. What interests me is the depths of modern ideas, which are always, always rooted in something far, far older, and usually, extremely out of touch. It's recognising and attending to these flaws which is essential in changing the way we see the people in our world, both women and men. Some things are certainly stuff we could do without. However, older ideals are not always, nor should be, extinct, because many exist for a reason. Plato was still a nob, though.