What makes the textual image of a woman with a penis so compelling, malleable, and persistent? Although the figure of the phallic woman is in no sense unique to our age, Every Inch a Woman takes note of a proliferation of phallic feminine figures in disparate North American and European texts from the end of the 19th century onwards. This multiplication, which continues today, admits of a corresponding multiplicity of motives. The phallic woman can be a ribald joke, a fantastical impossibility, a masculine usurper, an ultimately unthreatening sexual style, an interrogation into the "I" of the author, or an examination of female culpability. Carellin Brooks takes up the textual figure of the phallic woman where Freud locates it, in the imagined mother who the little boy, in fantasy, credits with a penis of her own. It traces this phallic-woman motif backwards to the sexological case study, and forward to newspaper accounts of testosterone-taking third-sexers. Brooks examines both high and low literature, pornography, postmodern theory, and writing that would seem to answer Lacan's injunction to move "beyond the phallus." In conclusion, Brooks locates the persistence of the phallic woman in recurring attempts, well-meaning or otherwise, to overwrite a specific feminine power with the characteristics of masculinity. She gestures toward a uniquely female textual space that is glimpsed in such writers as Kathy Acker and sandy huss.
Every Inch a Woman
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