Jacques Lacan has once stated his provoking proposition concerning the fact of woman’s nonexistance. The subverting of his position was the aim of this question, but I would like to explicate that Lacan’s statement is often misunderstood because an average person sometimes is unlikely to read further in order to learn more about the explanation of this phrase.
To start with, Lacan’s aphorism was based on the Freudian interrogative. Cristiana Cimino (2014) has noted that drawing upon Lacan, a woman does not exist whereas only a mother may exist within the sphere of unconscious. Moreover, the theorist has considered phallus as the fourth element of the Oedipal triad. Nonetheless, the meaning of the phallus, in this context, has been symbolic rather than biological which allowed paying attention to the male-to-female relation (Cimino 2014). The scholar has established the concept of the primacy of the phallus that entails that people are all subjected to the language’s law as they all are speaking creatures. Lacan has said the structure of our consciousness is similar to that of our language: namely, it produces the effects of sense, while it also may divide and transcend people. Lacan has rectified Oedipus here as a structure that is capable of determining people and making a human out of a man. His primacy of the phallus means that men and women both are subject to a sort of a symbolic order rather than asserts that someone is having more or less than the other (Cimino 2014).
Lacan wanted to distinguish hysterics from women by saying that a hysteric is not a woman, and, as a result, to propose a different positioning of a female. The culmination of Lacan’s thinking about the other way of woman’s being was formulated in his statement concerning her non-existing. Lacan believed that it is impossible even to conceptualize women. His position concerns the impossibility of the woman’s existing as a single, universal concept, or as a rule, that might be applied to all the women, in contrast to distinct characteristics traceable in the context of the phallic. The existence of a woman is impossible, as Lacan has specified because only women can exist, there is a unique way of existence for each of them, and the purpose of their existence is to discover or to invent something new. The woman is transformed into a specific contingence able to make one a woman as compared with men. This concept is strongly tied to every woman’s personal experience and her subjective enjoyment that is related to Freud’s “what does a woman want?” Lacan has introduced another kind of enjoyment here, a feminine enjoyment, alongside the phallic one. This factor makes a woman; it may turn her into something uncanny for herself and for men. The state of being uncanny escapes us because it cannot be fully reabsorbed by the universal structures. Sometimes, we may attempt to provide a solution to grasp this issue while deceiving ourselves by thinking that we have power over it (Cimino 2014).
Two screened segments might be helpful in understanding Lacan’s statement from a practical standpoint. To illustrate, the video Be Thankful for What You’ve Got shows a concept that can be interpreted in two ways. A stripper dancing in front of the audience may serve as a symbol of a woman who is lacking a phallus, the signifier, and a subject of the operational functions. Thus, she has to make her own way of getting this symbolic power, namely, to dance in front of men. At the same time, this interpretation is really far from another way of understanding the message of this video. The stripper serves as a symbol of Lacan’s women, a part of a vast contingency. She values her body; so, no one from the viewers is allowed to touch it. All they could do is just watch her dancing, unable to extend their power over her. This is a vivid example of the feminine enjoyment, conceptualized by Lacan, as the stripper makes herself uncanny for the audience, so, she is transformed into an escaping concept, which cannot be grasped because no one really has a tiny scruple of power over it (Massive Attack 2013).
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Wicked City, Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s animated film, illustrates the given idea even better. A beautiful woman, who has turned into an anthropomorphic creature after having sex with the protagonist, certainly serves as a negative character. On a similar note, she depicts Lacan’s idea perfectly. Her transformation can be interpreted as an act of women opposing the men, who used to regard them only as a living puppet for having sex with them. This heroine is also a unique person, one of the women, who wants to get her part of the feminine enjoyment, so she becomes uncanny in relation to the man, who wants her in her bed. The game of seduction is an integral part of a woman to become uncanny. Moreover, the point here is to show that it is not enough to make men realize that they are not allowed to touch her body. In contrast, the process of allowing a man to have sex with her, and then, make him scared to death is a more sophisticated way to illustrate Lacan’s idea of the feminine enjoyment, as well as becoming uncanny, to show that the primacy of phallus is an option that is available not only to men (Kawajiri 1987).
When we speak about an ideology, we should understand, that it is based on the same principles and mechanisms of a people’s mind, as the process of phantasy. Is it possible to claim that the ideology works just in the same way, as the phantasy? Does it work even better when accompanied by phantasy?
Every ideology is concerned with people’s beliefs. Various groups of individuals, or even a single person, have this set of conscious and unconscious ideas deeply in their minds. People’s goals, motivations, and expectations are the nucleus parts of the ideology. Societies follow them and consider them as the right way of living. Since an ideology refers to the abstract systems of meaning, it makes this concept central with respect to politicians. They may use the ideology as a means of social control due to the specific feature of the people’s minds. Masses are loyal to what they believe in. Their beliefs are driven by the same processes of the unconscious matters as those which serve to the mechanism of a phantasy introduced by Sigmund Freud.
Freud argued that the phantasy is an imaginary scene, the subject of which is a person, who represents the fulfillment of an unconscious wish in a manner that is distorted by various defensive processes. Phantasy is often defined as an illusory product of the human mind. According to Freud, phantasies emerge as having a deeply intimate relation to the sphere of the unconscious. They are bound to the unconscious wishes, which are the starting point of the process of dream formation. Phantasy is closely connected to desire that has its prototype and origin in the process of satisfaction (Laplanche & Pontalis 2006).
Therefore, these two issues are both dealing with the unconscious side of a person’s mind. Ideology is somehow based on the phantasy because of its possibility of creating a mental imaginary scene be it a strong country, a powerful army, or a prosperous society. Politicians sometimes manipulate people’s wishes by empowering their ideology with phantasy stimulation. Imagination often reacts by creating colorful pictures of common prosperity and welfare. Such an action is possible due to a specific feature of ideology: it functions as a relation to the actual conditions of social existence; still, it has an imaginary nature.
This successful cooperation between ideology and phantasy, which was carried by the skillful hands of some politicians, has made an awful social catastrophe of the American society after the war in Vietnam possible. Martin Scorsese had shown one of the sides of this situation in his movie Taxi Driver. Similar to thousands of young boys, the protagonist of the film was thrown right into the heart of the Vietnam conflict. His mind was influenced by the ideology, which offered him a bright picture of worldwide peace after the end of the conflict. However, he was fooled: he understood that all his dreams were torn apart by the dark side of the politicians’ statements. After receiving a job as a taxi driver, he has got an opportunity to learn that all the promises, offered to support the power of the ideology that was heavily insulted by the Vietnam failure, appeared to be only words. Indeed, representatives of the lower layer of the society were drowning in the abyss of the rising criminality. What is more, his America, the Promised Land of the common happiness, was just one of the circles of Dante’s Hell, full of hookers, drug-dealers, and junkies. His inner emptiness needed to be filled with something as the ruining of his phantasies caused the same process concerning his ideological side. The assassination of the senator was the best that he could do in order to release his emotions and eliminate the wicked apathy (Scorsese 1976).
The scenes of his preparations for this task are full of existential motives. A man is empty inside being left without an integral part of his beliefs. In addition, his emptiness is a dreadful creature, willing to fill itself with some crucial actions. His ideology was replaced by the primal desire for revenge. The assiduity of his preparations shows us the power of the person’s wish to make a key change in their life if the only property they are able to possess is their own life. Although the protagonist was not fully aware of the consequences of his possible actions, we can be sure that his desire was as powerful and clear as in the day he decided to leave his city life in the past and join the marines. His world appeared to be as imaginary as his phantasies, though he was ready to die for it, led by the invisible hand of the ideology that told him to sacrifice his life for a couple of empty words told from the screen. The character thought that, if the ideology failed with its promises, its valuable part has to be defeated. The inner tragedy of a single person, abandoned by everyone, may be seen clearly during the film. A kind of dreadful effectiveness of the work of ideology in tandem with the phantasy of humanity might serve us as a hidden warning: a mind of a person is powerful. Moreover, the mind could be more powerful in anger if this person will understand that someone was playing with his mind all the time
The man’s disappointment concerning the ineffectiveness of the ideology, which plays the role of the so-called Wishmaster, its main positions imposed on a man, are throwing him back to the periphery of the social systems and manipulations, where he may find himself as a result of various social transformations. The way in which the person deals with these issues defines whether he or she is worth being a real human.