Patriarchial Violence and Women’s Penises

November 3, 2008

“A [woman’s] penis is a weapon. A sword. A knife. Dominance and sexism incarnate.”

Yes–a weapon against her. A weapon threatening her life, a weapon demanding her submission to both male and cissexual supremacy. Rather than symbolizing her power over [cis] women, it symbolizes her powerlessness within a transphobic/gender coercive society, the patriarchal order’s unjust demands on her person.

When her penis symbolizes maleness-as-violence it symbolizes the violence of making her male. The violence done to her at birth, classified then mutilitated against her will, the violence enacted to put her back in that classification–her penis symbolizes her vulnerability to violence, discrimination, rape, and murder.

Before transition, her penis, symbolizing patriarchial violence and sexism, symbolizes her body as dangerous and unsafe, threatening to women–including her. It symbolizes the isolation she faces as someone unable to be with her own kind, that she & her emotions and her inner truth are inferior because they don’t match up to the prescribed ideal…her penis symbolizes her Otherness, her danger to others and to herself, her inability to access community and support, her toxicity to the people she loves, the impossibility of ever joining the real and the human on her terms–it Others her not only through difference but also as a threat. It tells her to feel shame & self-loathing because she is threat and violence, the very violence enacted upon her–that is, her own body symbolizes her as the criminal causing her victimization, her own body tells her she is not merely ‘asking for it’ but doing it herself. And by supposedly symbolizing her invulnerability, it is the cited reason she should be left vulnerable to the very violence that organ makes her vulnerable to–it is both the reason to attack and the reason that attack is unimportant. Her penis symbolizes her lack of importance, her lack of humanity, symbolizes the justness of the violence done to her–rather than symbolizing her worth and superiority, her penis symbolizes her worthlessness and inferiority. Her penis symbolizes not pleasure or power but pain and powerlessness. Her penis is trauma, not because of anything inherent but because of trans misogyny.

In that her penis symbolizes male supremacy, it symbolizes her inferiority as a woman, as someone who wants to be a woman. Her penis is made to symbolize her insanity, her instability, hysteria, and weakness. Her penis symbolizes her forced receptivity to social control by a cis male order, symbolizes her lack of control over her own body and its sexuality–the control wrested from her.

it symbolizes her objectification
her fetishiziation, her inhumanity, cis male control over her sexuality
–and through the Standards of Care it symbolizes cis male authority, dominance, and control over her body
it symbolizes institutional abuse and violence
it symbolizes infantilization and lack of authority; it symbolizes her as so dangerous she needs protection from herself.
it symbolizes the necessity to protect her–from herself, from her danger to herself and others

Her body symbolizes patriarchial violence–against her. That everpresent symbol cannot be erased or ignored except by surgery, it is inescapable, that trauma is re-presented every day, sometimes at the level of consciousness, sometimes not.

Her penis symbolizes Patriarchy, it symbolizes her inability to remove Patriarchy from her body and her life, it symbolizes her subordination, misogyny, it symbolizes her inability to escape subordination and misogyny, it symbolizes the naturalness of her subordination and the justness of misogyny against her.

Her penis is symbolized as ugly and incongrous, her penis symbolizes her as freak and outcast. She is taught shame and self-loathing over both the genitals she has and the ones she wants.
Just as it symbolizes her forced receptivity, it symbolizes her inability to receive, to receive love and pleasure and support,
it symbolizes normative masculinity’s emotional numbness
it symbolizes her Otherness, the impenetrability and incomprehensibility of her emotions
it symbolizes her sexlessness,
her alienation from biology and reproduction,
her alienation from the Real
her inhumanity
it symbolizes her alienation from truth and meaning
her “phallus” reflects her unintelligibility, her meaninglessness
her isolation from meaning, representation, knowledge
–her phallus represents her lack of the Phallus

it symbolizes the demand that she be hard and unyielding
and by contrast her longing to open and release; it symbolizes the impossibility of being fully open with others
it symbolizes the trauma that makes her unable to feel
it symbolizes her unreliability, her manipulation, her insanity, and her deception
it symbolizes her truth as deception
it symbolizes her oppression as truth and as Truth.

“dick” and “prick” and “schmuck” to her symbolize only violence, there is not the support given to cis men of their penises as good and natural, as creating life not just destroying it
they symbolize her body’s inherent shamefulness
they make her body an object of contempt
her body becomes ans argument for her dismissal, her irrelevance, her ejection and exclusion

it symbolizes her forced isolation
as “unemotional” and “unfeeling”
as a threat held at bay
as unnatural and inhuman
–in short, as monster.

EDIT 7-27-2009/RE-EDITED 1-27-2010:: This piece got linked to at Susan’s place, and without the context of the rest of this blog, almost all of the commenters misinterpreted what I mean by “symbolize.”

Hint: remember the phrase, “not because of anything inherent but because of trans misogyny.” As in, I wouldn’t characterize this as satire, though irony… kind of fits. There is an irony I’m pointing out, and I’m not actually this much of an essentialist…



13 Responses to “Patriarchial Violence and Women’s Penises”

  1. Lucy said

    Funny, I was thinking about just this today. Thank you for putting into words what I was feeling.

  2. Great post. When Lacanians like Catherine Millot castigate trans women for confusing the phallus as signifier with the flesh, it’s simply bullshit, because we all know that (pace Butler’s lesbian phallus) the phallic signifier is ultimately mapped onto the referent in a cis-sexist world.

    I think Derrida uses the term restrant to mean “remainder” and that kind of notion of the remainder would be quite a productive terrain to theorise trans women’s penises as culturally abject…

  3. Cedar said


    that went pretty far over my head…I only know a little postmodern/psychoanalytic stuff.

    What’s the Derrida term and how does it apply? (and abject?)

  4. Oh, I figured you were intentionally using a psychoanalytic thing, what with the Lacan link. A word of caution then – there’s a fair history of transphobia there eg Lacan in Ecrits says that transsexuals are psychotic, because we don’t recognise the Law of the Symbolic. It doesn’t make it unusable for trans stuff, but sometimes.. yeah.

    Abject in the sense Julia Kristeva uses it in Powers of Horror – something outside of the symbolic order that causes horror or disgust or whatever (eg a trans woman’s penis).

    I forget where the Derrida term comes from, hmm maybe Cinders. I shall have to consult my books, my head has gone fizzy.

  5. Oh, Limited Inc, that’s it. Was taken up by Kristeva and Cixous in some fashion, also Spivak mentions it.

    Anyway. May or may not be the most productive concept, just reminded me of it.

  6. Yet another powerful post, Cedar. Thank you for writing this.

  7. Cedar said

    I was intentionally referencing psychoanalysis, but I only know it through feminism (/ and/or &) queer theory, and I don’t know much queer theory or French Feminism (I’ve read Kristeva and Vittig and Cixous…but only once article each and that was >3 years ago.


    Thank you!

  8. queenemily said

    Ah k. Well, I’m not usually too fond of psychoanalysis, since I think it’s got so many heterosexist and cissexist assumptions just doesn’t usually *work* for cis gays and lesbians, let alone trans people. Anyway, what Lisa said.

  9. That was a brilliant post, Cedar. Eloquent and moving.

    Make it into a song, gawon…

  10. I don’t think I managed to say this before; I thought I did because I was thinking it so loud.
    This is brilliant analysis, Cedar, and it’s not analysis I’ve seen before. You’re doing trailblazing work here and I think the community-such-as-it-is is lucky to have you.

    This one hit me hard.

  11. Cedar said

    *blush* (again)

    You’d commented on the earlier version, on LJ.

    It means a lot to me to hear you say that.

  12. Wow. Incredible. Thanks.

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