Early Modern Feminist Theories of Autonomy


Assoc Professor Jacqui Broad's seminar "Early Modern Feminist Theories of Autonomy: Paradoxes or Paradigms?"


Monday 3rd December 2018 18:30-20:00


Did you know that as early as the 17th century, serious feminist scholars were already getting stuck into business?  Are you interested in learning more about early modern feminism (c. 1650-1750)? Or perhaps the relationship between faith and women's liberation interests you?

The MCFP is delighted to invite you to Jacqueline Broad's seminar workshop 

"Modern Feminist Theories of Autonomy: Paradoxes or Paradigms?".


Some scholars have identified a seeming paradox at the heart of early modern feminism (c. 1650-1750). On the one hand, it appears that some early modern feminists, such as the High-Church Anglican Mary Astell (1666-1731), strongly urge their fellow women to preserve their independence of judgement from men; yet, on the other, they insist upon those same women maintaining a submissive deference to the established church. 

Scholars ask: how can Astell and her fellow Anglican defenders of women espouse complete submission to the teachings of the Church of England, while at the same time urging women to maintain their autonomy in judging what is best? In this paper, I propose a solution. I suggest that a close examination of the concept of agency in Anglican women’s devotional texts of the period, and of the role this concept plays in Astell’s feminist arguments, can help to dispel the paradox. 

Broad is as Associate Professor in the Monash Philosophy department. Her main area of specialisation is early modern philosophy (c. 1650-1750), with a particular focus on women philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Check out more about Broad's work at: http://profiles.arts.monash.edu.au/jacqui-broad/

All welcome to attend. Please register below. To attend and enjoy an MCFP event, you are not expected to be philosophically trained. The "seminar" aspect is consciously planned as inclusive, accessible and interesting. We also identify the event as a "workshop" in an effort to capture the friendly and collaborative discussion that we hope follows the seminar presentation. 

Please do note that spaces are very limited for this event, so please register ASAP.

Emma McNicol's "What is Woman?"

October 10th 2018

How did Simone de Beauvoir make woman into a philosophical problem? 

McNicol will run a seminar at Russian House 18:30 October 10th 2018.

Emma McNicol's "Simone de Beauvoir through Matisse"

August 21st 2018


The Melbourne Centre for Feminist Philosophy is delighted to invite you to a seminar exploring Simone de Beauvoir's feminist philosophy through
Henri Matisse's work.

In this seminar, Emma McNicol will guide you through the key arguments of The Second Sex. The talk will use a selection of Henri Matisse's depictions of women in order to illustrate Beauvoir's key arguments.

Matisse's works might seem like an unorthodox way to access Beauvoir's arguments. It might seem even contradictory to explore feminist philosophy through the work of an influential male heterosexual artist. That said, McNicol explores the possibility that Matisse's dynamic use of colour and form celebrates and honours women's physicality, energy and freedom.

The lecture will start by looking at Matisse's Dance I, (1909) alongside Beauvoir's claim that women have not yet (in the late 1940s) collectivised. McNicol then expands on what Beauvoir meant when she famously asked "What is Woman?" and contemplate works from Matisse's Blue Nude collection throughout this passage.

McNicol then explores Beauvoir's key argument that women have been placed in a situation where they are cut off from reaching their potential and explains what Beauvoir meant by describing women's labour as "immanent", comparing this claim with Matisse's visual depictions of women's domestic labour.

McNicol then unpacks Beauvoir's arguments around how young women are socialised to comport their body in a particular way, contrasting these with Beauvoir's autobiographical accounts of physical activity and hiking as an expression of her own "embodied freedom". Here, Matisse's blue nudes are used to argue that Matisse captures the joy of embodied freedom.

Finally, McNicol uses Matisse's Two Women, (1908) a bronze work depicting two African-American women, to explore Beauvoir's depiction of race in The Second Sex and intersectionality, specifically the claims that The Second Sex has silenced and erased the voices and experiences of non-white women.

Tuesday, August 21
18:30 - 20:30
Dorm 1, Rosina, Abbotsford Convent, St Heliers St, Abbotsford VIC 3067


Rebecca Harrison's "Suspending Judgment"

August 15th, 2018



 "Suspending Judgment: On the Presumption of Innocence in Sexual Violence Cases" 

The MCFP is proud to announce Rebecca Harrison's seminar "Against Suspending Judgment: On the Presumption of Innocence in Sexual Violence Cases". The seminar will occur at 18:30 on Wednesday August 15th at Kathleen Syme Community centre in Carlton.

*This event is now sold out. Thank you for your interest and please subscribe to our mailing list to ensure you are informed about our next event at www.mcfphilosophy.com *

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it has become more and more important to think about how we should respond to sexual violence in our everyday lives. 

In Australia, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. 

Incidents of sexual violence typically occur in private spaces and are often perpetrated by someone known to the victim, such as a partner, family member or acquaintance. So sexual violence cases often involve the word of one person against another’s.

Only a very small number of sexual violence accusations ever go through the criminal justice system. 

This means that the primary responsibility for responding to sexual violence claims tends to lie with friends, family members, colleagues, and other ordinary people.

But what kinds of principles should guide us, outside of the courts, when we are trying to decide what to believe in sexual violence cases? 

If you find out that someone you know is accused of sexual violence, and that they deny it, 

how should you respond?

Rebecca will argue that work in epistemology – the philosophical study of belief and knowledge – can help us see how the presumption of innocence relies on a faulty understanding of the connections between our beliefs and our actions.

Join us for a seminar about this important social and philosophical issue. The seminar is open to people of all backgrounds and levels of education - no prior familiarity with philosophy or other academic ideas will be assumed. By the end of this seminar you will develop your understanding of key concepts in epistemology and how they apply to real life issues. 

 "Suspending Judgment: On the Presumption of Innocence in Sexual Violence Cases" 

Guest philosopher
Rebecca Harrison on the left  
and MCFP director Emma McNicol on the right

Guest philosopher Rebecca Harrison on the left and MCFP director Emma McNicol on the right




Pay with PayPal or a debit/credit card

This event is now sold out and tickets are no longer available. Thank you for your interest




Pay with PayPal or a debit/credit card

This event is now sold out and tickets are no longer available. Thank you for your interest