Dear Friends,

The Critical Antiquities Network is thrilled to be able to invite you to a 
special event on Friday Dec 2, 3-5pm, live in person and on Zoom

“Que peuvent les femmes?”
An Afternoon with Giulia Sissa on ‘The Power of Women’ (Le Pouvoir des Femmes, 
Odile Jacob: Paris 2021)

Friday, December 2, 3-5pm in the CCANESA Boardroom, Madsen Building, University 
of Sydney

Zoom details:

Please join Giulia Sissa, Ben Brown and Tristan Bradshaw for an interview and 
extended conversation on the themes and arguments of Giulia’s most recent book, 
Le Pouvoir des Femmes, Odile Jacob: Paris 
 Discussion will range across topics such as the body of the male citizen in 
democratic Athens, Aristotle’s anthropology of the feminine, queens and mothers 
in history and tragedy, Condorcet’s remarkable call for womens’ rights—to end 
up in our present post-Enlightment situation where we can again ask: is the 
work of a feminist critique of antiquity complete? Que peuvent les femmes?

Prof. Giulia Sissa (UCLA) is one of the most preeminent and energetic thinkers 
working today at the juncture of feminism, classical studies and philosophy. 
Her oeuvre across this terrain is prolific and extraordinary and has set the 
tempo for intellectual reflection on women, gender, religion, politics, and 
philosophy in the Ancient Greek World (and beyond) for an entire generation. 
Her books include seminal classics such as Greek Virginity (1990), L' âme est 
un corps de femme (2000), Le Plaisir et le Mal: Philosophie de la drogue 
(1997), Daily Life of the Greek Gods (with Marcel Detienne, 2000), Sex and 
Sensuality in the Ancient World (2008) as well as scores of articles and book 
chapters on a vast range of topics illuminating the gendered landscape of 
classical antiquity. It is with great pleasure that the Critical Antiquities 
Network can host her at the University of Sydney.

[Pouvoir des femmes (Le)]
>From the preface:

Once upon a time there were queens and princesses. They ruled countries, 
commanded armies and were obeyed. Their lives were full of possibilities, 
powers and plans. They were called Artemisia of Halicarnassus, Antigone, 
Jocasta or Aithra. Ancient historiography recounts their marvellous exploits, 
while classical tragedy resurrects them on stage. Exceptional and singular in 
societies hostile to women, these individuals belong to an aristocratic past or 
live in a royal elsewhere. In these possible worlds, they are themselves 
possible. It is enough to imagine. The Greeks knew how to do it.

The same Greeks invented democracy. And now women of this calibre, in a 
position to deliberate, to lead and to defend the state, become quite simply 
inconceivable. Philosophy rationalises their natural defectiveness, a softness 
whose most debilitating effects are lack of courage and infirmity of decision. 
The man is able to determine what to do. The woman, whose deliberative faculty 
is invalid, cannot resolve it. The man is full of zeal. Women are cowards. Men 
are inclined to lead. Women are content to be submissive. Man is a political 
animal. Woman is a domestic animal. Nature is supposed to be the basis for 
these norms which seem to be imposed on everyone's mind and which organise the 
family around a leader who is a husband, a father and a master of slaves.

In the city, the self-governance of the people requires precisely those 
virtues, faculties and passions that women do not have. It is, again, their 
nature. It is imperative, therefore, to exclude them from the political arena. 
Christianity nails the feminine to the same impotence and, moreover, to 
irrationality. The ancient woman was unable to fight, to give orders, to carry 
out her decisions. Now, in the great medieval theorists like Thomas Aquinas and 
Albert the Great, she becomes incapable of coherent thought, trained as she is 
by her fluid complexion. The male, who was hotter and more spirited than the 
female, becomes a more methodical reasoner.

These prejudices remained a given until the Enlightenment. Jean-Jacques 
Rousseau had a field day with them. Let young girls confine themselves to 
taste, to conventional ideas and to the small world of their little families. 
Let them not try to reason. Since they are not the same as men, women cannot be 
the equal of men. That would be to usurp rights that are not for them. In the 
end, it is to the philosophers who replaced the laws of nature with human 
rights, notably Nicolas de Condorcet, that we owe everything that makes 
emancipation and equality possible, and this time, for good. But like 
everything that comes from the Enlightenment, feminism is an intermittent and 
never-ending project, always perfectible and constantly hindered.

[translated by B. Brown]

All are welcome! We hope to see you there. Please also join us afterwards as we 
adjourn to the Forest Lodge Hotel to continue the discussion!

Please reply to this email for further details,

All very best, Ben

Classics and Ancient History
School of Humanities A18
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Co-director Critical Antiquities Network
Ph.: 9351 8983; Office: Main Quad J6.07
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Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral

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