In his work, Rufus, emphasizes the equality of women and their requirement for education. He begins his argument stating that women and men are created equally with similar gifts. Women are as motivated to achieve knowledge and curious to learn about the world surroundings to lead a good life as men. Rufus questions the discrimination that exists in the society when it comes to studying the subject of philosophy, “why is the subject not fit for women?”
He then highlights the attributes of noble women and how they are achieved and polished through the study of philosophy. Philosophy is a study of life and the values and morals of our surroundings which helps an individual accomplish virtue. Women who are housekeepers and run families require this knowledge. The education of women is essential as it secures the development of the next generation because children spend most of their time with their mothers who teach them the morals and values of life; if the mother is uneducated and has no knowledge about these ethics, she will fail to forward it to her children.
Moreover, Rufus talks about the relationship between husband and wife, and the aspects of a successful marriage. He suggests that for a couple to lead a happy life there needs to be a sacrifice, compromise, love and mutual understanding and respect. Partners need to be together with each other in good and bad times, even when sickness and poverty strikes. A woman requires being a noble individual and supportive life partner. Such noble qualities are built upon the knowledge of life and the study of philosophy.
Philosophy teaches women to be full of love, nurturing, and develop self-control. Women who are trained in the study of life are more sympathetic towards their loved-ones and other individuals. These are the qualities required in gentle and great women, who prepare the next generation for leading good lives and showing love to others in their surroundings. Hence, the education of women is crucial to the success and development of a nation, including the study of philosophy.
Rufus has used rhetorical questions in his text to engage his audience in his teachings about the importance of women literacy and the study of philosophy. Belonging to a time when women were brought down by the society for their efforts to be equal to men and speak their minds, Rufus focuses his work on how women are not any different from men, and they deserve the same status in society as their male counterparts. But, at the same time perform their household duties keep their dignity.
The work of Rufus shows that the culture of his audience did not accept the empowerment of women and being treated equally to their superior gender, i.e., men. The audience believes in leading a successful life and the importance of education of their next generation; hence, he targets their concept and relates women’s education to their goals.
Additionally, when he mentions the values of marriage and the aspects of a successful marital partnership, it shows that the society has been dealing with unhappiness in marriages that affects the children and the rest of the people who are related in some way. He, therefore, refers this to the study of philosophy and how it is essential for women. Moreover, the people are too afraid of women leaving the house and being involved with men in unethical and immoral activities; thus, Rufus proposes a solution stating that philosophy trains women to be more understanding and loving which will ensure a happy marriage, and women being more committed to their household duties.
Musonius Rufus – On Women in Rome (263)