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Greeks and Romans

Single Sex Education
"Plato concluded that their virtue would clothe the women's nakedness and that Platonic society would not thereby be deprived of the talent of qualified citizens for reasons of mere gender."
Ginsburg on Aristotle

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United States

v.

Virginia
Single Sex Education

Justice Ginsburg Opinion
June 26, 1996
Seal Of The Supreme Court
Excerpt:

Footnote 20: Virginia's prime concern, it appears, is that "plac[ing] men and women into the adversative relationship inherent in the VMI program ... would destroy, at least for that period of the adversative training, any sense of decency that still permeates the relationship between the sexes." It is an ancient and familiar fear. Compare In re Lavinia Goodell, denying female applicant's motion for admission to the bar of its court, Wisconsin Supreme Court explained: "Discussions are habitually necessary in courts of justice, which are unfit for female ears. The habitual presence of women at these would tend to relax the public sense of decency and propriety.," with Levine, Closing Comments, 6 Law & Inequality 41, 41 (1988) (presentation at Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference, Colorado Springs, Colorado, July 17, 1987):

"Plato questioned whether women should be afforded equal opportunity to become guardians, those elite Rulers of Platonic society. Ironically, in that most undemocratic system of government, the Republic, women's native ability to serve as guardians was not seriously questioned. The concern was over the wrestling and exercise class in which all candidates for guardianship had to participate, for rigorous physical and mental training were prerequisites to attain the exalted status of guardian. And in accord with Greek custom, those exercise classes were conducted in the nude. Plato concluded that their virtue would clothe the women's nakedness and that Platonic society would not thereby be deprived of the talent of qualified citizens for reasons of mere gender."

For Plato's full text on the equality of women, see THE DIALOGUES OF PLATO. Virginia, not bound to ancient Greek custom in its "rigorous physical and mental training" programs, could more readily make the accommodations necessary to draw on "the talent of [all] qualified citizens."


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