Re-reading masculine organization: Phallic, testicular and seminal metaphors

Stephen A Linstead, Garance Maréchal
  • Human Relations, March 2015, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/0018726714558146

Masculine organization metaphors

What is it about?

Organizations are historically dominated by males, and by masculine ways of thinking. But critiques of this situation have implicitly focused on one type of masculinity, phallic masculinity, and neglected the potential of other available metaphors to promote different outcomes and facilitate engagement with feminine modes of thought. We compare and develop a typology of phallic, testicular and seminal masculinities and their organizational manifestations.

Why is it important?

Phallic metaphors emphasise power and control, and defensive responses to change. Testicular alternatives place emphasis more on collaborative and procreative aspects.


Professor Stephen Andrew Linstead
University of York

Critiques of masculinity tend to focus implicitly on characteristics that are associated with the phallic, and conflate that with the masculine per se. This tends to leave no room for masculinity, and makes, to change, except to become feminine. This places masculinity, effectively, in crisis, in an either/or position in relation to change. What we observe are existing alternative views - grounded historically in culture and accessible through approaches that include psychoanalysis - that allow for a less traumatic conjunction of masculinity and femininity and less defensive responses to the challenges of change.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Stephen Andrew Linstead and Dr Garance Marechal