Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Phallus, Phallic, Phallocentric... Fallacious

The phallus is the axis around which the world revolves...

That was the scintillating topic of one of my classmates' tutorial presentations... and his presentation was every bit as juicy as expected: just dripping with references to how the 'phallus' and 'phallic' symbols pervade every aspect of our 'phallocentric' society...

I was traumatised. By the end of his presentation, I was literally numb and just plain tired of hearing the words phallus, phallocentric, phallic... I asked him to use the word penis sometimes instead, and the whole class roared. I didn't get it.

Did you know that the idea of tubed lipstick/products came from ancient Greek goddess Diana? Touching the penis to the lips was seen as a way of appeasing the fertility gods... little tubs of lip gloss/stick were later innovations, and even then, the dipping of the finger into the tub before applying it to the lips can be seen as the ritualistic dipping of the phallus into the challis...

The pen is also a phallic symbol. And toothpaste. And all your antifungal creams. Just think about it: liquid secreted from the tip of a tubular object... But that's not all. The knives and forks with which you consume your daily meals are also phallic symbols: consider the elongated, cylindrical contours, and the dipping of this phallic implement into the metaphoric 'challis', the plate. Cars, ancient historical monuments, Egyptian pyramids, obelisks, the World Trade Centers, bullets. spears, guns, Catholic candle-lighting rituals (dipping one long candle into some short, tubby ones) and even our cutesie toes and fingers, can all be regarded as phallic symbols...

Yes, I know. It certainly disturbs me too. And that is exactly what I said when his presentation was over. I suggested that maybe he looked a leetle too hard for phallic symbols in everyday society... even though his research proved that established, learned and intelligent scholars supported his claim (they thought of it first!).

At the end of the class, my summation was that his extensions of this phallocentric (or rather, phallo-eccentric) thought, was very, very disturbing, and also quite "fallacious"...

And nope. The class didn't get it.

35 comments:

Ruthibelle said...

To be fair, they got it about a minute after I said it, but bah! You know how witticisms run out of steam over time...

areyouteeaych said...

LOL! You know what, you've just planted a whole garden of smutty thoughts inna my head. But that is very interesting...I've heard a few theories about this.

Wait, would that make the sky female?

Ruthibelle said...

lmao - good ques. Ancient (Greeks, I think) actually built phallic monuments to the goddess of the heavens, obelisks, skyscrapers, and other such structures are a continuation of this (I've been told)

zooms said...

EXACTLY, the phalus becomes extinct without its r'aison d'etre.
O
and vice versa x

Will said...

interesting that a guy gave this presentation... then again... we've always pretty much been obsessed with own peepees... oh yeah... i went there...

Ruthibelle said...

Will, dont even go there. Don't get me started on the debate the class ahd about Freud's psychoanalytic theory of gender acquisition: the Oedipus Complex and penis envy... *sigh* gender classes are sooo interesting...

@Zoom, Glad you agree. I don't see these instrumets as phallic symbols: I'm not using lipstick/gloss to appease any fertility gods (whose existence I question), adn my pen is a writing instrument, toothpaste is just too essential, etc etc. The presentation was interesting though.

Mighty Afroditee said...

Me noticeth a pattern here: why art thou always at odds with your class? Hmmmm...

But, I am in agreement with you. Wonder why this young man is in suc a desperate need for the symbols, and can he do the same kind of research for vaginal symbols?

Jdid said...

this reminds me of that lady frances cress welshing who used to analyse balls and phallases lol.

still could we enjoy the world without phallic symbols? i guess we could do away with knives and forks and eat with out hands but then our fingers would be phalluses and oh man you cant escape it.

oh and i guess i can never ever ever use lip balm ever ever again knowing the tube is a phallic symbol. :-)

Ruthibelle said...

lol, Jdid.

@Afro.. nah man. I loveth mi classes. It's not as bad as you're probably thinking... we're just all very opinionated and forceful with those opinions... :D

Jacqueline Smith said...

Ruthi, you are too punny! I was phalling over laughing!

If most of us were consciously thinking of a penis each time we used or looked at these everyday stuff, then maybe we could venture to say society is obsessed. But as this obsession seems to be moreso in the minds of the scholars, and only purportedly in our sub-conscious, how do we leap to the conclusion that our society is phallocentric?

longbench said...

Ruthi - I love that you find yourself constantly at odds with your classmates; that shows you are thinking; group-think is not what gender studies classes are about, despite the perception of such.

Ok - so I'm going to nitpick here.
I wasn't totally clear; was he focused on Jamaican society or some general notion of "society"? If he did the latter, he should get an "F" for that assignment.

Why?

Because that kind of sweeping comparison makes little analytic sense. Titillating yes, but nothing more. The concept of "phallocentrism" as articulated in Western (read: North American and Western European) feminist thought can only have meaning when we connect it to the history of the West (e.g. the whole Greek reference) and the actual relations and meaning systems that emerge within the West. Registering what is shaped like a phallus is only one step; thinking about how that shape maps onto other deeply embedded cultural ideals is a whole other thing. I am not sure that he did that.

IMHO That guy was totally getting off on finding phallic symbols all over the place; he seems to think it reinforces some notion that men and their dicks are special, and thus enshrined in women's lives and subconscious. In a really fucked up way, he seems to be legitimizing some very disturbing ideas. Suffice it to say, just based on your telling of the tale, it would totally offend me to have to sit and watch him do that. Yech.

Ruthibelle said...

@Jackie: One of the points my teacher made was that the use of the phallus and phallic symbols is defined by society... so for us, the lipstick, fork, spoon, etc are NOT phallic symbols because we're not from a culture that glorifies the peenie like that...

@Long: In this post I only pointed out the more disturbing elements of his presentation. He was speaking of 'society' in general, and he did explain that the whole discussion around phalluses and phallic symbols centers around the penis being seen as a symbol of power coming from ancient Greece. He gave us a historical background and explained the phallus/challis thing, and its development... he did alla that.

Then he talked about how some scholars still interpret some symbols in modern society to be phallic... he wasn't just going on and on about how everything is phallocentric. His presentation was grounded in history and facts, and guided by our teacher who also asked questions and made points as we went along. My post probably gave you the wrong impression, cause dude's presentation was substantial, and certainly didn't deserve an F!

Notwithstanding, sitting through it would probably still make you go 'yech', cause the last part (connecting the historics to modern society), was just aww-full to hear!

PS He did conclude that, based on the research, society could be seen as phallocentric, but he personally didn't agree with it. HE thought some of the ideas he presented were pretty far-fetched too...

Ruthibelle said...

PPS... when I say the class didnt get it, I mean they didnt get the joke I was making about all this 'phallocentric' talk being 'fallacious'... in my estimation, they took too long to get it (see the first comment)

Don't get me wrong either. Me lovest me classes, and me classmates. They're cool people. And I dont think they hate me either (I mean, there might be some strong dislike sometimes, but I dont think there's any vehement hate, lol!). If you were in my gender classes, you'd find that there's just a bunch of opinionated people who tend to have varyng opinions on very interesting issues. Keep in mind that I write my blog posts from my perspective, and I only write about class when some serious contention strikes or something extraordinaily funny happens... so don't hate on the class. They're living, learning and growing just like me...

longbench said...

Ok. Your response actually confirmed some of my suspicions about a few things vis-a-vis the class and the presentation, but I'll leave it at that.

I don't know what you mean by "don't hate on the class." I don't talk that way.

Sounds like you have a great time in the class!

Ruthibelle said...

lol, OK Long :p :)

B-More BAP said...

LOL @ Using the word penis instead :-)

Ruthibelle said...

but why, BAP?? it's a perfectly acceptable replacement.

Stunner said...

LOL! You have the most interesting classes! If I was in your class at least I would stay awake. Se seems very fixated on the 'phallus' and 'phallic' symbols.

Ruthibelle said...

yeah. Classes are pretty interesting! But then, gender discussions has a way of getting even the silent ppl talking... :D

Lori said...

Well, you're probably going to freak out when you learn that the wine glass was modeled after Marie Antoinette's breast.

You're going to get to the point where you never eat or drink anything again. LOL!

Crankyputz said...

I will never apply lipstick the same way again....and yuh know all the boys are going to read this and go home to their girls and say, honey its an ode to the goddess of fertility....

Ruthibelle said...

oh dear... another can of worms uncannily opened, huh?

Abeni said...

well I am still grinning at "phallacious" and yes I got it.

Ruthibelle said...

atyu (that's it) Abeni :D

Beth said...

it IS all alittle bit disturbing, isn't it?

Ruthibelle said...

Beth, a LITTLE?? How about a LOT?!!

Kel said...

How funny...my mind is typically in the gutter, but somehow I managed to miss all these - wow, who knew we were such phallo-licios people?? :) hehe

Thanks for stopping by, I love meeting new people and your blog is pretty cool!
~K

Believer said...

It would be a challenge for me to get through a presentation like that without giggling.

Ruthibelle said...

@Kel: phallo-licious?? LMAO!!

@Believer: I was more dumbstruck and disturbed than anything... I get how this would cause laughter tho.

Heavy Logix said...

You're a really great writer, Ruthie. My pen ink coagulates when I think of your blogs. Thanks for turning me on even more to the symbolism all around us.

Ruthibelle said...

lol your welcome :)

Mad Bull said...

What I don't get is, what was the point of his presentation. So yes, we can see a lot of phallic symbols all around us. And?

Since the phallic imagery goes hand in hand with the chalice, whereever there is a phallic symbol, we can probably identify a chalice like symbol too. I won't spend the time to check though, because, again, I don't see what the point is.

Ruthibelle said...

MB, it was all about gender roles and patriarchy - even in our daily symbols, we see the men and symbols identified with men taking precedence. basically. or something like that.

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