In psychoanalysis, phallic woman is a concept to describe a woman with the symbolic attributes of the phallus. More generally, it describes any woman possessing traditionally masculine characteristics.
Freud considered that at the phallic stage of early childhood development children of both sexes attribute possession of a penis to the mother—a belief the loss of which helps precipitate the castration complex. Thereafter males may seek fetishistic substitutes in women for the lost penis in the form of high heels, earrings or long hair to alleviate the castrative threat—terrifying phallic women such as witches (with their broomsticks) representing the failure of such substitutes to cover the underlying anxiety. The female, whose love (in Freud's view) was originally "directed to her phallic mother", may thereafter either turn to her father for love, or may return to an identification with the original phallic mother in a neurotic development.
The phallic mother can be (though need not necessarily be) an actively castrative figure, stifling her children by pre-empting all room for autonomous action. The Nineties New Man has been seen as covertly ceding the locus of action to the phallic mother.
Rather than seeking or identifying with the phallic mother, libido may instead be directed at the figure that has been termed the phallus-girl. For the male, the phallus girl may be represented by a younger (perhaps boyish) girl, in whom he can find an image of his own adolescent self. For the female, such a position may either entail a submissive merger with the male partner (identification with a body-part), or an exhibitionist display of the self as phallus: as Ella Sharpe put it of a dancer, "she was the magical phallus. The dancing was in her".
- Picasso in the interwar years produced many paintings of women with phallic attributes.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer demonstrates an ambivalent relationship to her phallic power as slayer/staker.
- B. Creed, The Monstrous-Feminine (2012) p. 157
- S. Freud, On Sexuality (PFL 7) p. 310-11
- E. A. Kaplan, Rocking Around the Clock (1991) p. 91
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 330 and p. 341
- S. Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (PFL 2) p. 160
- M. Borch-Jacobsen, Lacan (1991) p. 215
- M. Parsons, The Dove that Returns, the Dove that Vanishes (2000) p. 109
- Marina Warner, Signs and Wonders (2003) p. 149
- J. Mitchell/J. Rose eds., Feminine Sexuality (1982) p. 94
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 332-3
- Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1946) p. 350
- Quoted in M. Jacobus, The Poetics of Psychoanalysis (2005) p. 29
- B. Creed, The Monstrous-Feminine (2012) p. 116
- M. Mark, Divas on Screen (2004) p. 68
- A. McRobbie, The Aftermath of Feminism (2009) p. 83
- R. Penrose ed., Picasso 1881/1973 (1973) p. 91-4
- J. Davidson, The Psychology of Joss Whedon (2013) p. 107
- Henry A. Bunker, 'The Voice as (Female) Phallus', Psychoanalytic Quarterly (1934) III: 391-420
- Otto Fenichel, 'The Symbolic Equation: Girl = Phallus', Psychoanalytic Quarterly (1949 ) XX (3): 303-24
- Marcia Ian, Remembering the Phallic Mother (1993)