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fig.8—the perfectly ho­-hum symmetrical benchmark


 In fig.8 we return to the Greimasian fig.5: in contrast to the grid of fig.7, androgynous is now located at the ‘both/and’ summit of the Y­-axis; as such, a more fitting contrary falls to the nadir—the doubly negative neuter is neither masculine nor feminine. Like the X­-axis of fig.7, each particular seems to affirm its universal; however, the particulars, while negative, seem redundant; our X­-axis of male/female simply informs the higher taxonomic categories. The result: such strictly formal Greimasian Squares are very dull indeed—and yet they serve a specific purpose—as benchmark reference frames, against which to check the integrity of more complex models. Why do we call feminine males ‘effeminate’ more often than ‘unmasculine’—and masculine females ‘mannish’ more often than ‘unfeminine’? By the logic of contrary over contradiction: positive terms maximize negative differences. The positive corner terms of fig.4 were torqued to create fig.6; it follows that fig.7 will inform doubly positive metaterms to fig.9—but with a twist...

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fig.9—the bizarre logic of self­-negating superposition


 Rather than other­-affirming, the Y­-axis terms are self­-negating: For each, male and female, the contrary, feminine or masculine, is doubled back and reapplied to itself—the cultural and biological terms are, so to speak, ‘mismatched.’ Here we choose an X­-axis to reflect the Y-axis: what in fig.6 was simply a surplus of positively constituted traits becomes in fig.9 a crass caricature of excess: the ‘macho man’ and the ‘vampish woman.’ While these four terms may not be regularly applied, conventional media typically encourage the traits of the X­-axis while discouraging those of the Y-axis. This is the bizarre (Freudian and/or Lacanian) discourse logic by which two ‘rights’ make a ‘wrong’—yet ‘too much of a good thing’ is never quite enough! Why the contortions? Competent analysis entails the application of well-formed conceptual models to real-world tasks such as brand positioning and cultural critique. In this chapter’s case study, we use the covert logics of gendered terminology to interrogate the overt dynamics of sexualized imagery.

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