The Enchiridion - Part 40

Women forthwith from the age of fourteen are called by the men mistresses (dominae). Therefore, since they see that there is nothing else that they can obtain, but only the power of lying with men, they begin to decorate themselves, and to place all their hopes in this. It is worth our while, then, to take care that they may know that they are valued (by men) for nothing else than appearing (being) decent and modest and discreet.

I'm not entirely sure how to take this. On the one hand it seems to treat women as incapable of Stoic reason and condemns them to always be controlled by the desires of men. On the other hand, it echos Feminist challenges to social stereotyping along sex lines. I'm going to choose to take the more charitable view here, and assume that Epictetus is saying that we should treat women as we treat men (remember, decency, modesty and discretion are aims of the Stoic, regardless of sex). In previous parts, we've seen that valuing (presumably male) friends for their righteousness is also expected.

Moreover though, I think the core message has nothing to do with women as such, and, as usual, is about examining our own desires. It is better to value women for the fundamental goodness of their behaviour, rather than their apperance.

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