23 March 2017

What is phallocracy?

The time for a phenomenology of whoness is long overdue. It's not a matter of mere psychology.

Despite all the religious damnation of vanity, etc. over the centuries, this has obviously not made the least dent in the narcissistic striving to erect one's status, whose core is one's own name, out in the open and as high as possible, for the admiration, acclamation and adulation of all. Call it fame (preferably immortal), mere celebrity, or just social status and reputation, or making a name for oneself. Almost everyone is out to have his (or her) erect, standing whoness reflected esteemingly by others. Note that the erect phallus here is not the tumescent dick.

The suck-my-phallus rituals that prevail everywhere in public and private life are the core 'normal perversion' of whoness focused on by a phenomenology of whoness concerned with the existential modes in which we humans come to stand as who we are in the mutually estimating social interplay of life. Over the centuries, it is above all men who have been adept and more favourably positioned for erecting their phallic stands in the public agora which, of course, carried over to their not-so-visible private lives. As old masters, men are not about to give up their advantages in the phallic power plays.

But it is a mistake to identify phallic standingness purely and simply with being a man, and the exclusion from the power play of suck-my-phallus games with being a woman. Rather, masculinity as the phallic mode of ec-static (out-standing) existence, vis-à-vis the less conspicuous, self-effacing, diffident, even hidden existential modes of femininity, are adopted and lived out in various admixtures by both men and women. In short, there exist both feminine men and masculine women, and this circumstance demands ultimately philosophical explication (not explanation) of such ways of being.

The dance of desire around the erect phallus has been universally well-known and understood implicitly, as a matter of course, for millennia. All patriarchy partakes in it as one historical way of engaging in phallocracy. All androcracy partakes in phallocracy without, however, being identical with it. What is the difference between phallocracy and patriarchy? Under patriarchy, only men are permitted to vie with each other in the competitive dance around the phallus for who-standing. Whereas the East today remains deeply mired in extremely repressive patriarchal customs, in those Western countries in which patriarchy has lost its stranglehold through long historical politico-cultural struggles, women, too, have been more or less admitted to the phallocentric round dance, albeit without the phallus itself having become philosophically visible.

Western philosophy has never taken on the challenge of explicating phallocracy by thinking through a phenomenology of whoness (quissitas) as an existential mode of being, Instead, Western philosophy has been concerned exclusively, on its deepest metaphysico-ontological level, with thinking through whatness (quidditas, essence). This continues to apply even after Descartes' positing of the conscious ego-subject as the fundamental being. The modern subject remains, paradoxically, a what, addressed scientifically — say, in psychology — in the third person.

Modern literature's explorations of the supposedly 'inner life' of its characters, too, remain bereft of philosophical orientation with regard to the phallus. And feminism's ongoing, centuries-old struggles have yet to get the phenomena of whoness clearly in its sights. Hence it conceives itself largely as women's struggle. In a philosophical context, the first signs of whoness emerged falteringly in the nineteenth century with German dialogical philosophy that culminated in the 1920s with philosophies of you-and-I, when the concept of whoness (Wersein, Werheit) was first coined and fashioned incipiently by Heidegger, then taken up by Arendt.

It is not hard to see that and why today's academic philosophers, both male and female, who themselves dance the dance of desire around the phallus of professorial erectness, are disinclined to engage in a phenomenology of whoness. They flee the question like the plague. It would cut too close to the bone, indelicately unmasking themselves in their most secret desires and earnest strivings within departmental intrigues to establish and further their careers.

Further reading: Phänomenologie der Männlichkeit and 'Was heißt Männlichkeit?'.

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