rozk: (Default)
This is a story I came across again when I was researching the bit of the novel that is about the French Revolution and couldn't use. It had struck me years ago and is why I quite lost my temper when the late Andrea Dworkin described herself as a Feminist Jacobin.

Because, as followers of Rousseau and his incredibly sexist ideas about the true natural life of human beings - don't take my word for it, read Mary Wollstonecraft - the Jacobins hated feminism and feminists. And they did something about their feelings of outrage.


Somebody told them of Theroigne de Mericourt
all those tough women,
who pushed market stalls
all the way through the streets to the poor quarters
up from the quays
where they sold day-old fish
carts that brought turnips
- you cut out the rot -
calling on bakers who put out stale bread for you
that you could soak
in water and milk
and make it fresh again
eat it with chicken heads,
pig feet and marrow bones
turnip bread fish-bone broth
what the poor eat and not like the food that she ate
luxury diet for Theroigne de Mericourt

Someone came down from the club of the Jacobins
showed them engravings of her with her tits out
drinking champagne, eating something called caviare
came to their clubhouse, and bowed to them courteous
like a good citizen, not an aristocrat
where they sat comfortable drinking from tankards
smoking their pipes on a warm autumn evening
resting their feet from the sores of their wooden shoes
with stays unlaced, them as wore them, for comfort
petticoats open, legs open to cooling air
just for the pleasure and not the depravity
nothing like lecherous Theroigne de Mericourt

She was no citizen though she pretended
she had a head that was full of ideas
noone should have - that were all about women
Women should vote, women should speechify
women read poetry, storybooks too,
make fancy love like that bitch-whore the Queen
not push their stalls, through the cold before dawn
not make the broth that keeps children alive
not lie in bed with your husband asleep
staying awake to give him a thick ear
if he comes at you to make a new child.
She was all fancy, in sleeves that were slashed
big floppy hats that nobody would wear -
that's how you'll know she is Theroigne de Mericourt

Somebody told them she needed a lesson
told them her friend had just gone to the scaffold
friend called Olympie and what kind of name was that?
Probably slept with her, wrapped her legs round her
all those aristos are perverts and sluts.
She though was clever and was not found guilty.
Full of her lawyer's tricks, treason in petticoats
needed a lesson in what decent citizens
thought of her nonsense, and here's where you find her
sipping her coffee among decent citizens
even though she's evil Theroigne de Mericourt

Battered her senseless with broth-spoons and wooden shoes
shattered her hand with the wheel of a cart
kicked in her face, how dare she be pretty
left her in street dust and pissed on her there.

That was the end of fair Theroigne de Mericourt
left there all damaged her looks quite destroyed
hardly could speak and forgot all her poetry,
never could wear fancy clothing again
lay in a cell, in her filth, and grew old there
sometimes they pushed her out into the yard
swilled water over her, washed her to cleanliness
not that they care for her, just for the stink of her
sometimes exhibited Theroigne de Mericourt
that is what happens to women above themselves
women believing they think like their better halves
Even the street sluts know better than that,
even the worst of them, blood on their petticoats
kicked the ideas out of Theroigne de Mericourt
face full of old scars and brain full of rotteness.
Twenty-four years like that, not even knowing
what had been taken. And then she was forgotten.
Let us remember poor Theroigne de Mericourt
who had ideas just ahead of her time
always remember to watch for your sisters
love them, but still keep the wall to your back.
rozk: (Default)
In a sense, it is a companion to A Scythian Princess, but it's far bleaker. It is about slavery, and rape and prostitution, and I know that's all triggery stuff so it goes behind a cut.

A whore in Egypt )

Oddly, this is something I meant to write years ago, when I read Andrea Dworkin'a not entirely accurate account of the origins of pornography - The word pornography, derived from the ancient Greek porné and graphos, means 'writing about whores'. Porné means 'whore', specifically and exclusively the lowest class of whore, which in ancient Greece was the brothel slut available to all male citizens. The porné was the cheapest (in the literal sense), least regarded, least protected of all women, including slaves. She was, simply and clearly and absolutely, a sexual slave. Graphos means 'writing, etching, or drawing.' The word pornography does not mean 'writing about sex' or 'depictions of the erotic' or 'depictions of sexual acts' or depictions of nude bodies' or 'sexual representations' or any such euphemism. It means the graphic depiction of women as vile whores. In ancient Greece, not all prostitutes were considered vile: only the porneia. And even then I thought, there has to be some way of writing about the position of such women in the classical world that reflects the complexity of experience and gives them back something. And I don't know whether I've done that, but it was interesting to try.
rozk: (Default)
I'm reading Neal Ascherson's book The Black Sea and thinking about the ancient world for my novel and thinking about all those lives that happened outside of what we think of as culture and how little we know when we dig bones and treasure up and how little we will ever know. So we have to make it up.


She was a princess
and they found her gold
among her bones
tiaras, three of them,
round her grave-weathered skull.
Horses galloping where once her hair
waved endless like the grass
the grass her world.
Their hoofbeats never stir
her empty eyes. She slept beneath the grass
and mice, the small mice of the grass
crept in
and ate her fingers to the bone
and then the bone
She slept so sound the mice
could scurry into her, and never wake.

She was so tired.
Her sixty-seventh year
Their grand-sires' fathers
brought and dried the reeds
that wove her cradle
and saw her walk
a proud sad child
up to her father's chair
of reeds and gold
and then sit herself down.
Her feet just reached

She healed the goats' pox
and she brought the corn
Talked to the Hellenes
charmed your warts away
and drew her knife across her lover's throat
one line of blood to bring the rain
one line of blood to curse an enemy
his throat torn out
his guts torn out
thrown to the waiting birds
he trifled her
fingered the sacred girl who brewed the milk
the girl she could not and she would not kill.
Princesses both on grass without a queen.

The girl died. Lightning marked her death
and marked her grave. And then her brothers died
arrowed in ambush. Tears that would bring rain
no weeping for the dead.
She cut her robes, knife-cut her flesh
blood spattered on their grave
curse spattered those who killed them
who died soon, drunk, poxed, starveling and insane

and she rode on. Each horse she rode
greyed, stumbled. Meat for stew
its bones for flutes and needles.
she greyed and did not fall
her skin so soft
where butter eased the lines.
Her eyes as sharp as rain
as wind her mind. Her words
the quiet thunder in their minds

She slept one day and just forgot to breathe
it seemed to them. They stood and did not move
for fear of chiding. Sent their youngest child
to touch the lips, and listen for the breath
and nothing but the wind. They danced for her
slow mourning waves like grass in wind and rain
painted her skin in ochre, henna, woad
with sigils of her life and many deeds.
They built a shelter round her, burned the hemp
and breathed its madness, fathered many sons
all to be sons of her long barren life.
Sold horses to the Hellenes for the gold
horses that were their brothers on the grass
and hammered horses. Wound them round her head
and raised an earthwork higher than the grass
and laid her in it. And then rode away.
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