Masculine and Feminine: Truth, Reality and Semblances — Işık Barış Fidaner

The schema from the part “Knowledge and truth” from Lacan’s 20th seminar:

sema1It’s difficult to see truth and reality simultaneously, either truth is covered with reality, or reality is covered with truth [1]. Although two concepts are often confused because of this, the two words that designate them continue their separate existence [2].

The Master-Signifier S1, by perching itself at the main seat of the symbolic order, positions itself in the space opened up by truth. The S1 represents being a realist, so it’s the ‘phallic signifier’. This is how truth is covered with reality. The Master-Signifier S1 supposes that some phallic realities prove its necessity [3]. But in fact, S1 is a contingent signifier (it’s not necessary), so S1‘s gesture of proving itself is sheer masculine imposture [4].

Feminine masquerade, by revealing the ground of truth on which the signifier S1 relies and rests, evidences the contingency of S1, exposing it. But the feminine strategy is not innocent either, because the appearance of feminine truth covers over the reality of the phallus. The feminine strategy is the strategy of the ‘beautiful soul’ par excellence: The exposure of ugly things in the world gives way to the vicious cycle of the illogical logic of the superego [5].

To understand better the dialectics of truth & reality and the difference masculine & feminine linked to it: (1) We must take into account the role of the semblances that constitute the third element on the schema; (2) We must place on the schema the three fundamental passions that Lacan defined: Love relies on truth, hate relies on reality, ignorance relies on semblances.

Masculine imposture

Masculine imposture based on the phallic signifier covers love with hate. According to masculine realism, to abandon the phallic signifier is sheer stupidity: We mustn’t let love deceive us however true it is, and we must always keep the reality of hate in mind. For instance the phallic signifier of socialist realism is the proletariat and the communist revolution, and these rely on the ‘class hatred’ that we must tightly stick to, because those things which stir love often lead to liberal petty bourgeois temptations of commodity fetishism. Of course, this masculine strategy does not fully exclude love, but it subjugates love to hate due to ‘realism’.

In masculine imposture, the semblances that our passion of ignorance clings to, bring us back to the phallic signifier. The phallic signifier thereby assumes a fixed role of Ego Ideal (or ‘Name-of-the-Father’), functions like a ‘Paternal Metaphor’ that relatively represses the desire that follows the metonymy of the semblances. For instance a socialist always moves to the topic of class struggle and the communist party; or a nationalist always moves to the topic of national interests. In fact this is a defense strategy against the phallic reality of hate, it’s an effort to master it at least symbolically by turning it into a signifier via a linguistic metaphor. But the masculine imposture’s claim to absoluteness is ungrounded and it fails.

Feminine masquerade

Feminine masquerade based on truth covers hate with love. According to the feminine strategy, the masculine realism based on phallic signifiers is sheer imposture and riding the high horse; one must instead have confidence in the truth of love. Feminine strategy, being much more refined than the masculine strategy, does not rely on a single signifier; instead, it clings to the truth of the demand of love that is at the source of the symbolization efforts in all signifiers. Todd McGowan gives the strategy of feminine masquerade a universal articulation by redefining the concept of ‘universality’:

Universality is the lack in every particular. It is the insubstantiality of the particular, the dependence of the particular on what it is not. No particular entity is simply self-contained and exists on its own. It is always involved with what it is not. The universal is not the other on which the particular depends but what makes the particular’s self-sufficiency impossible. The point at which the particular cannot sustain itself in isolation is the point at which its involvement in universality becomes noticeable. The lack that forges this connectivity is the site of universality. (Universality and Identity Politics)

The ‘universality’ that McGowan affirms with love, relies on Žižek’s concept of the ‘subject’. Žižek says that feminine masquerade conceals nothing but the void, and positions his concept of the ‘subject’ at this void [6]. But McGowan’s and Žižek’s poetic expressions about the universality and the subject mustn’t deceive us: The true function of feminine masquerade is not to conceal the void, the lack, the subject; it is to cover the reality of hate with the truth of love.

In the feminine strategy, the passion of ignorance has a different function. In masculine realism, all semblances brought us back to the reality of the phallic signifier that took up the role of Ego Ideal. In the feminine strategy, semblances, in the name of their fidelity to the truth, refute all phallic signifiers. This ‘Event’ (Badiou) of refutation does not suffer from the soft spot of relativity, it is an absolute repression mechanism. The concept of ‘fidelity to the Truth-Event’ that Badiou affirms with love, just like McGowan’s and Žižek’s, is a strategy of feminine masquerade based on poetic expressions, so its true function is to cover over the reality of hate.

The hate that the feminine strategy covers over in the name of the truth of love, returns as the Superego. The truth of ‘beautiful souls’ full of love, turns into the vicious cycle of the Superego which neutralizes any symbolization effort with hateful sarcastic ignorance. To subjugate hate to love in the name of ‘authenticity’ makes the hate even worse and more evil. This is the bitter reality of the phallus.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] About the schema that constitutes the context of this text, see “Will is the Power to Endure the Reality of the Symptom”, “Breaking the Fetishistic Mystery and the Third Sex”, “Phallus is the Reality of Hatred”

[2] In Turkish the concept of “rightness” (doğruluk) covers over the concept of “truth” (sahilik). This is another problem that this text does not deal with. About this topic, see “Sahilik Arayışı İmleyen İşçilerine Emanettir”

[3] See “Proof is masculine, evidence is feminine”

[4] Jennifer Friedlander (2008) Feminine Look, pages 61-66.

[5] Žižek describes the Superego like this: “the cruel and insatiable agency which bombards me with impossible demands and which mocks my failed attempts to meet them, the agency in the eyes of which I am all the more guilty, the more I try to suppress my “sinful” strivings and live up to its exigencies.” (In Defense of Lost Causes)

[6] Žižek actually did this: In Absolute Recoil chapter 9, $ came and dislocated S(Ⱥ) on the triangle schema, see “Phallus is the Reality of Hatred”


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