Alas, Gender…pt. 2


If sexual difference has been relegated to symbolic functions, and to speech in particular, how is the masculine to survive, as exceptional in the above formulation, without simply resorting to a flaccid internalization as it seems to have done in the figure of the dumb husband? To connect this to the cultural (and to a heternormative contextualization) it seems evident that the feminine embrace of the Law comes from the juridical codification of how the sexual revolution appeared for and to women: in the form of birth control and abortion rights.

Is it surprising then that given the fact that the sexual revolution predominantly served to unleash masculine desire, that there would be a backlash both from women in response to issues of responsibility and from men in response to second wave feminism? This tension seems largely responsible for the obfuscation of the Real of sexual difference.

Yet, the content of the feminine Law is not so important as is the anchor of motherhood as has been routinely seen in terms of Sarah Palin. Palin has been theoretically addressed here and here to name only a few. Her role as a ‘hockey mom’ has consistently covered over her lack of political experience and has defined her character in the media and in GOP materials. The historically under appreciated labor of motherhood has been endowed with an odd political significance, dovetailing with the continual privatization of the political which could be seen as a political hijacking of the feminist motto: the personal is political. At the same time however, Palin’s generic woman-ness has been played up as a means of grabbing former Hilary supporters in what could be seen as a very odd variation of bio-politics – of supporting not even an identity but a biological entity similar to oneself despite the fact the Palin is completely opposed to Clinton’s political views particularly in regards to issues surrounding women’s rights.

Yet, despite what we can call the feminine (read maternal) symbolic Law, there is always a looming presence of primal masculinity, the monstrous violence and chauvinism which is always potential. That is, there has always been the possibility of victimization with Clinton and it has been suggested in regards to Palin’s future debates with Bidden. In essence, pre-sexual revolution politics are simultaneously dismissed and re-vamped – Palin appears as a powerful mother/politician but also as a women who is constantly under attack by sexism and purported female inferiority.

What is lost, following Joan Copjec, is the Real of sexual difference, the kernel of sexual difference which tends to thought itself. For Copjec and Zupancic, there is a plastic and indestructible tincture of the Real at the heart of femininity, of woman as such. In the aforementioned tension, what is lost is the feminine sexuality as a strength and a feminine Real which lies outside of motherhood.

Put most directly: the worst legacy of the sexual revolution was the masculine attempt to appropriate the sexual Real of the feminine. Thus, it was not that men treated women like sexual objects but that they attempted to treat women as exhaustible objects. It seems obvious that the investment into motherhood would then appear as the direct response to this – since the directly generative nature of female biology would seem to stem the tide of a constraining masculinity.

AMC’s Madmen is a prime example of the shift from a pre- to post- sexual revolution relation between the sexes as well as the consequences of the Madonna-whore split. In an odd Lacanian twist, one could say that sneaking around is, paradoxically, a feminine (in that it is not-all) strategy used by men to slip through the cracks of a maternal symbolic/Law. Although, this is the case only through the eyes of masculine desire, that is, there should be no illusion about the fact that in Madmen, and in our world still, it is essentially a man’s world. So what is the feminine Real to be salvaged?

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