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Tue, Aug 21


Abbotsford Convent

Emma McNicol - Philosophy, Art & Feminism

Join director of Melbourne Centre for Feminist Philosophy, Emma McNicol for an intriguing journey through Matisse's depictions of women and key tenets of Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex and how these have been applied to create programs to foster LGBTQI and inclusivity in our time!

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Emma McNicol - Philosophy, Art & Feminism
Emma McNicol - Philosophy, Art & Feminism

Time & Location

Aug 21, 2018, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford VIC 3067, Australia

About The Event

The Second Sex through Matisse's women


How long has it been since you have read Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex? Perhaps you have never read it, but are interested in Beauvoir's key arguments. Perhaps you have read it, but believe that it is no longer relevant to the concerns of contemporary feminism.

In this exciting talk, 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. It is intended that it will culminate in a group discussion on whether Beauvoir's key arguments bear any relevance the concerns of, and trends within, contemporary feminism, such as the #MeToo movement.

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. We then investigate what Beauvoir meant when she famously asked "What is Woman?" and contemplate works from Matisse's Blue Nude collection throughout this passage.

We then explore Beauvoir's key argument that women have been placed in a situation where they are cut off from reaching their potential. We look at what it means for Beauvoir to claim that women's labour is "immanent" and compare her argument with Matisse's visual depictions of women's domestic labour.

We look at Beauvoir's arguments around how young women are socialised to comport their body in a particular way, and reflect on Beauvoir's autobiographical accounts of physical activity and hiking as an expression of her own "embodied freedom". We draw again on Matisse's blue nudes, considering whether Matisse captures the joy of embodied freedom.

Finally, we look at 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.


Emma McNicol is the director of the Melbourne Centre for Feminist Philosophy. Emma works in philosophy and her research focuses on the relationship between second and third-wave anglophone feminism, specifically on uncovering the latent LGBTQI+ inclusivity in second-wave feminism. Emma has particular expertise in the work of French existentialist phenomenologist Simone de Beauvoir and American gender theorist Judith Butler. Emma has taught philosophy and literature at Monash University, the University of Melbourne, Ormond College and the Melbourne School for Continental Philosophy. In 2017, Emma completed a research fellowship at The Oxford Education Deanery on designing educational resources to foster LGBTQI+ inclusivity and Emma also designs and implements workshops at high schools in U.K and Australia for both staff and students tackling transphobia and homophobia.


  • Professional Development Augus




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