sex, guns, and girls

Rob Schaap rws at
Mon Aug 14 03:33:48 PDT 2000

G'day Yoshie,

Quoth you:

>In the first paragraph of yours that I cited above, you are,
>unbeknownst to yourself, in effect making one of Judith Butler's
>points: no empirical penis measures up to the symbolic Phallus, and
>to stuff the gap (= to perform masculinity as defined by the
>Phallus), each empirical being labeled male (not just drag kings) has
>to metaphorically create a fantastic bulge with an imaginary pair of
>rolled socks; however, rolled socks have a way of slipping out of
>underpants or migrating into an unintended location -- hence the
>constant threat of performance failure. Those who take the need for
>a metaphorical bulge literally & cling to empirical guns & other
>props may be thought of as "fetishists" in a literal sense. We are
>always already "castrated" (when measured by the impossible standard
>set by the Phallus) from a post-Lacanian psychoanalytic perspective,
>and the "we" here also include those of us who visit "Ladies' Rooms."
>(Neither Butler nor Lacan says where the Phallus, as well as the
>compulsion to want to measure up to it, comes from; in their
>analysis, it always already exists. Their theory resists [social as
>well as biological] history.)

Well, never has the thesis been so clearly explained to this Dutchman, and in English by a Japanese, at that! A postmodern moment indeed for this instantiation of a very postmodern text. Actually, I was aware of all this, Yoshie. Had read it. And had Doug take me through the phallus bit. You might have been on Pen-L when Doug and I swopped words on this stuff.

But what exactly has Butler (and the creed whence she salvaged these rusty bits'n'pieces) contributed here? 'Obfuscation' is my answer to that indulgently rhetorical little question. Yeah, the masculine ideal is beyond people's reach. So, for that matter, is the feminine ideal. That bit we all knew. Only we called the complex of relations that demanded this of we poor strivers 'patriarchy' - and maybe it did need a name, so that we could talk about it, challenge it, modify, ameliorate or overthrow it. Okay. But here we have it renamed. Now it's the phallus wot done it. What used to mean cock-like now means 'patriarchy', and now patriarchy is firmly linked to cockness. Tell me how that's an advance? Relabelling something to no end that I can see. And inviting associations of which little good can come, too, in my booklet.

And it's getting worse - as the Laschian cult of narcissism and the its sibling, consumerism, get together to produce 3 billion people whose tits'n'bums aren't right and 3 billion people whose dicks'n'pecs ain't right. Kelley told us a couple of weeks ago there are also now a lot of people (in California, natch) whose vaginas aren't quite right. I'm actually inclined to think this extreme new hyper-sexualised selfness is a desperate effort to make up for the fact that political correctness doesn't allow us to express fully the equally problematic categories of masculine and feminine behaviour. I'm not allowed to express my naturalised (but actually muchly-historical) maleness in my behaviour/function (coming on to every woman I meet, challenging every man I meet, ignoring my spawn, taking my women 'wuffly' etc etc) so I have to prove my male credentials in my form. Same with the mob who visit the ladies' room, I daresay.


As for that 'fetishism' bit. Well, that's a worry, too. If I am moved to pop a pair of socks down my front, what exactly am I expressing? I've already argued 'the phallus' means nuthin'. But this Lacanian shower tell us we're fetishists. Another obfuscatory new name where an explanation would suffice quite nicely, ta very much. What I so poignantly express as I try to pretend a pretense which fails in its own terms (ie if my deceitful socks were to land me an expectant wanton, said socks would have ultimately to 'fess up, no?) is not quite what we used to mean by fetish. 'Tis more what Cooley meant when he referred to the 'looking glass self'. I am who I think you think I am. Patriarchy does that nicely, I think. Nicely keeps the idea in the social category, and avoids gratuitous confusion. Better than 'phallus' (which still means 'cockness' where people live) and better than 'fetish' (which still means 'personal peccadillo' where said people live).

And I actually think 'gender' is inevitable, Yoshie. Not for any fancy reason (although Dennis presents a compelling list), but for the prosaic reason that we can't help but allocate meaning to difference. If it had no meaning it would not be a difference. Unlike some here, I reckon there are different sexes - and that we will ever notice this - and, in noticing it, we will ever accord it a set of meanings. Ergo, gender is here to stay. 'Course, the meanings that constitute gender are ever up for grabs, natch.

(If you like, Yoshie, you can incorporate that quote in your reply, so Carrol can say something about it without seeming to have read one of my posts. His solemn promise not to do so seems to be playing havoc with his need to call me a misogynist fool every now and then.)

Anyway, California's therapy-dependent dinner party circuit has so abused Freud's insights that we'd do well to throw out the lot. In the hands of the American left, this bowl of warmed-over radical scepticism has become a poisoned chalice.

I'd been quiet fo a while, Yoshie, so I had to let all my artless modernist philistinism out in one go.

Well, not quite ALL of it ...

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