Yonophallic Phalloyonic: Share the Love, Share the Logos

June 2, 2011

As I riffle through the piles of recommended and not so subtly requisite white european cis-focused feminist theory teetering around my thesis, I am constantly distracted by all that good stuff so lovingly termed “junk.” What I have in my pants (and in the top drawer of my nightstand) is relentlessly churned into metaphor around patriarchy and the resistance thereof. As I tenderly reflect on my tender (and not so tender) bits, I wonder why, goddess, why? Ok, I’m removing my tongue from my cheek now to swirl it around the issue… or maybe I’ll apply my long, hard pen to the question. Let me throw something (one of the many tangents to my thesis) at you. Tell me what you think, ok?

Hilde Heynen includes Irigaray in a short list of post-structuralists who, in their efforts to drive forward a feminist literary practice,  “reject linearity and transparency, but rather write in a way that underscores the ambivalent and paradoxical character of language, thus evoking a multiplicity and endless dissemination of meaning.” Heynen goes on the explain that for Irigaray, as for Julia Kristeva and Helene Cixous, “the key-metaphor which (…) harbors the promise of a subversive culture capable of undermining the dominant phallogocentrism is the metaphor of the feminine.” (Hilde Heynen, Negotiating Domesticity: Spatial Productions of Gender in Modern Architecture (New York: Routledge, 2005) 6.)

Coming from an embodied queer/trans perspective, I personally reject the linguistic connection of abstract considerations of the feminine and masculine to the yonic and phallic respectively. Even more broadly, I prefer to situate masculinity and femininity in the rather more precise behavioural and aesthetic sphere of human identity performance. I see both the benefits and dangers of applying the metaphor of the feminine to any project on a conceptual level, especially one created by women. The historical and patriarchal classification of the work of women as strictly feminine, whatever that may mean, need not be repeated in antipatriarhcal work. Feminist does not necessarily mean feminine. This should be obvious. Furthermore, there have been so many interpretations of the designation feminine that is has become a washed out concept. This is not to say that I disavow the multiplicity of understandings of this concept. On the contrary, I welcome the further development of understandings of femininity; I simply feel that the designation “phallogocentic” and its implicit association with masculinity is out of place in the analysis of structures and methodologies. What is masculine about linearity? Are we to constantly rely on the metaphor of the phallus to underscore what does not work about the prescriptive notion of history based on capitalist, eurocentric notions of progress?  I know of too many feminine phalli to accept such latently transphobic, essentialist theory. For that matter, what is feminine about ambivalence and multiplicity? Are there not a multitude of masculinities modelling and moulding a vast array of butch-spectrum gender expressions?  The yonic contains just as much metaphorical potential for linear  trajectory as does the phallic, which in its turn contains the notions of the open-ended and multi-nodal.

That being said, I follow the logic of the Irigarian understanding as far as there is historical precedent for her designations. The patriarchal relegation of women to structures ruled by prescribed notions of the feminine can be identified among the roots of logic for their exclusion from mainstream history.  A linear form of history has worked to foster this exclusion for generations, sustaining the dominant narrative as such. Rigidity is certainly a part of the conceptual understanding of such a system. The bodily analogy is far to tempting, yet far too much the archaic oversimplification. I will not call this trait masculine. I have seem feminine forms of rigidity both radical and traditional. The tightly bound trope of the Domme, a hyper-feminine figure for certain, is a favourite example. The metaphor of femininity is so vastly polysemous, as is that of masculinity. The constant redefinition of the terms is crucial to the proliferation of partial perspectives that vastly out number and may one day overpower the dominant narrative. (For more on the partial perspective see Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,”  in Feminist Studies 14:3 (Autumn, 1988).)

As I constantly redefine the terms for myself, I can feel my gut rejecting a one-sided connection to genitalia. Phalli can be and are so much more than a symbol of patriarchy. I cherish them and will not cede their image to the washington monument and friends.

Longest footnote ever.


5 Responses to “Yonophallic Phalloyonic: Share the Love, Share the Logos”

  1. sebastien gilbert said

    ”not so subtly requisite”= :D. love this.

  2. Jamie said

    In the essay “Logos (Heraclitus, B
    50),” he elaborates on this theme. He gives a highly novel interpretation of the Greek
    expression Hen-Panta, the One and the Many. “Hen-Panta is not what Logos
    pronounces,” he states; “rather, Hen-Panta names the way in which Logos essentially
    In other words, Hen-Panta names Being as the finite, temporalizing,
    presencing process: Hen names the One as Being as the process itself by which all beings
    are let be, and Panta names the ensemble of beings which are let be by the One as the
    unifying, gathering process. The crucial point is reached, however, when Heidegger
    further observes that the Hen presences as Panta, as opposites. He remarks in a
    particularly incisive—and poetic—way that
    we can see in Logos how the Hen essentially occurs as unifying…. The Hen-Panta lets lie
    together before us in one presencing things which are usually separated from, and
    opposed to, one another, such as day and night, winter and summer, peace and war,
    waking and sleeping, Dionysus and Hades. Such opposites, borne along the farthest
    distance between presence and absence, diapheromenon, let the Laying that gathers
    lie before us in its full bearing. Its laying is itself that which carries things along by
    bearing them out. The Hen is itself a carrying out.
    Thus, central to Heidegger‟s thinking is the position that Being as the primordial
    logos lets lie and gathers together beings in their respective opposition.

  3. Jamie said


  4. johnnyforever said

    Thank you for posting. I’ve been meaning to get a better handle on where to situate the concept of presencing beyond Heidegger. Fascinating.

  5. Alexg said

    Thanks for your thoughts! It strikes me as ironic that the most extreme essentialist segregation of gender roles I’ve experienced has been in feminist circles. (Although I suppose I’ve been privileged to live in pretty liberal environs, excluding several years amid gay-bashing teenagers.) These ideas point towards something to aspire to.

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