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Respect is Earned

“A husband and father rules over wife and children, both free, but the rule differs, the rule over his children being a royal, over his wife a constitutional rule. For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature, the male is by nature fitter for command than the female, just as the elder and full-grown is superior to the younger and more immature. But in most constitutional states the citizens rule and are ruled by turns, for the idea of a constitutional state implies that the natures of the citizens are equal, and do not differ at all. Nevertheless, when one rules and the other is ruled we endeavor to create a difference of outward forms and names and titles of respect. The relation of the male to the female is of this kind, but there the inequality is permanent. The rule of a father over his children is royal, for he rules by virtue both of love and of the respect due to age, exercising a kind of royal power.”

Aristotle, Politics

There’s a lot to consider in this passage. Aristotle argues that the authority of man over his wife is merely a matter of “outward forms, names and titles” that reflect what actually exists in their relationship. Thus, when men do not fulfill their role in the relationship, these “outward forms, names and titles” become ridiculous. This is the problem married couples face in modern society. Men don’t actually govern their wives and children, and then are denied the “outward forms, names and titles” by their wives and children. These men then criticize their children as if the “outward forms, names and titles” come first.

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