It’s about time we lifted the ban on masculinity — Işık Barış Fidaner

After the trial of Gezi Resistance came to its tragic end, Ahmet Şık protested people’s indifference and summarized what bothered him as follows:

Maybe my harsh tone, my expression suggested something else but I intended to say this: If we had gathered together and mobilized with a minimum set of common principles, our stance would have spread fear among the rulers of this criminal system. (Ahmet Şık interview with İrfan Aktan)

That this valid protestation fell flat was partly because the project of “spreading fear among criminals” is a bit too masculine for the tastes of latest fashions in activism. It’s a suggestion that violates the currently undeclared yet operative ban on masculinity. There are certain historical reasons for the current predicament.

Since people started selling their labor-power, their character and behavior were commodified and instrumentalized, and for a long time, men treated women like “defective products”, “strangely behaving” women were called “hysterics”; they tried to fix and “rehabilitate” these women, but then some people began analyzing the hysterics to learn something from them. The first effort was part of psychiatry and the second effort was the founding cause of psychoanalysis.

Men treating women like “flawed units” goes on today in its most barbaric form as the ongoing femicide, and also in much more civilized versions in which people perceive their sexual difference and acknowledge their subjective structures.

Meanwhile, as if to avenge their past (I emphasize as if) now women often treat men as “defective products”: It has become fashionable to keep men in their place by shaming them for their sex and labeling them fragile/toxic/incel etc. Many groups cannot even agree on the scope of the concept of “woman” and they will probably never agree on this, yet they have no difficulty in collectively declaring masculinity to be essentially either impairment or malevolence.

One thing Freud learned from listening to the hysterics was that the status attributed to men caused “penis envy” in women. Then Melanie Klein contributed to psychoanalysis by pointing out that every child suffered “breast envy” in relation to its mother and desired to ruin the mother’s creativity/fecundity [1].

What annoyed men about hysteric women was actually their virtual fecundity [2], i.e. that they constantly sparked new knowledge by emitting multiple uninterpretable signals:

Excessively intense ideas also occur normally. They are what lends an ego its peculiar character. We are not surprised at them, if we know their genetic development (education, experience) and their motives. We are in the habit of regarding these excessively intense ideas as the product of powerful and reasonable motives. In hysterics, on the contrary, excessively intense ideas strike us by their oddity. They are ideas which produce no effects in other people and whose importance we cannot appreciate. They appear to us as intruders and usurpers and accordingly as ridiculous. (Freud, Project for a Scientific Psychology, 1895)

So the men who couldn’t tolerate the “excessive creativity” of hysterics and considered them “flawed” were actually suffering “breast envy”. The women who currently deem men unworthy of their status and consider them “flawed” stand for the present form of “penis envy”.

Let’s somewhat modify these concepts and distribute them to both sexes [3]:
1) If we substitute penis envy with phallus envy, we also include the annoyance caused by women who are deemed unworthy of their status.
2) If we substitute breast envy with mamilla envy, we also include the annoyance caused by “weird” men who constantly spark new knowledge.

While the fecund realm of today’s social media obliges everyone to be grateful to the “excessive creativity” of the mamilla, its chaos makes it quite difficult to feel and induce gratitude for certain statuses (phalli).

But to call and gather people in political acts is a task for the phallus, not the mamilla. Phallus is the fulcrum of society [4]. There is currently a ban on masculinity that is undeclared yet operative due to the widespread phallus envy. This is why people are having difficulty perceiving Ahmet Şık’s valid protestation. So it’s about time we lifted this ban on masculinity.


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] See “On Breast Envy” Melanie Klein

[2] “Hysterical pregnancy” refers to the staging (acting out) of an inexistent pregnancy, but isn’t the act of staging some inexistent thing to bring it out into existence already a kind of pregnancy/fecundity?

[3] See “Make Gratitude Cool Again”

[4] See “Phallus is the Fulcrum of Society, Precarization Castrates the Fulcrum and Abolishes Everyone”


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