The women of Sparta (an ancient city-state in southeastern Greece) are legendary, but not just because they were badass, highly athletic women. In a time when women were seen as little more than baby-makers to society, Spartan women were educated, outspoken, witty, and powerful. They were seen as truly equal to men, and it was understood that society needed these powerful, disciplined women to progress.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re going to celebrate all the incredible things we can learn from Spartan women and other women-led societies. Consider it an important reminder that when women are in charge, shit gets done.
Spartan women were encouraged to participate in athletics, just like Spartan men. They participated in footraces, ran, threw javelins, and even wrestled, like the renegades they were.
Physical fitness was a priority not just for the men, but for the women too; the reasons vary from being able to fight and defend themselves when Spartan men were away at war to bearing healthy, athletic children in turn that would become strong warriors.
Spartan women even exercised and competed naked just like the men, which is a level of body confidence that every woman should aspire to!
One of the very best aspects of Spartan women and the most notorious was their unmatched wit and outspokenness. Girls in Sparta were given formal education, just like the boys, which was incredibly radical for Greek girls at the time.
These girls grew up into smart, clever women who were able to banter and converse with men in public, even discussing politics and law freely. Spartan women were reputed to have razor sharp wit and were free to speak their minds, which is truly incredibly considering women in Greece at the time barely left their homes.
Spartan society understood something crucial: women were the means to move society forward, and for that, they should be respected and treated equally. Not only were women bearing the warriors of the future, but Sparta also understood that for it to become a dominant, threatening society, both menand women had to be intelligent, fit, and powerful.
While many of these rights of Spartan women seem obvious and the bare minimum, it’s only within the last century or so that women started to gain back these rights. In a world where women still only make 75 cents to every dollar men make, there’s still progress to be made.
While most societies are still patriarchal and dominated by men, there are key examples in history of women-led societies that thrived. Mosuo in China still today has one of the last true matriarchal societies: women run the households, pass on their family name rather than the men's, and govern the region by committees. Women are not forced to marry, but rather have a unique tradition of a walking marriage where they can take different partners without any commitment or stigma.
There are more examples, including the Khasi tribe in India, the BriBri people of Costa Rica, and even the Nubian warrior queens of Sudan. What rings true across these matriarchal societies is that women are able to hold power, be outspoken, and defend their people.
These women should be inspirations to us and remind us that being fit, speaking our mind, and feeling our power are our rights and that we should exercise them daily. Let’s make Spartan women (and all the other badass women of history) proud and channel our inner Spartan this International Women’s Day and every other day.
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