15 September 2009

Monique Wittig

[from Monique Wittig's Les Guérillères, translated by David Le Vay, Beacon, 1969]

As regards the feminaries the women say for instance that they have forgotten the meaning of one of their ritual jokes. It has to do with the phrase, The bird of Venus takes flight towards evening. It is written that the lips of the vulva have been compared to the wings of a bird, hence the name of bird of Venus that has been given them. The vulva has been compared to all kinds of birds, for instance to doves, starlings, bengalis, nightingales, finches, swallows. They say that they have unearthed an old text in which the author, comparing vulvas to swallows, says that he does not know which of them moves better or has the faster wing. However, The bird of Venus takes flight towards evening, they say they do not know what this means.

The golden fleece is one of the designations that have been given to the hairs that cover the pubis. As for the quests for the golden fleece to which certain ancient myths allude, the women say they know little of these. They say that the horseshoe which is a representation of the vulva has long been considered a lucky charm. They say that the most ancient figures depicting the vulva resemble horseshoes. They say that in fact it is in such a shape that they are represented on the walls of palaeolithic grottos.

The women say that the feminaries give pride of place to the symbols of the circle, the circumference, the ring, the O, the zero, the sphere. They say that this series of symbols has provided them with a guideline to decipher a collection of legends they have found in the library and which they have called the cycle of the Grail. These are to do with the quests to recover the Grail undertaken by a number of personages. They say it is impossible to mistake the symbolism of the Round Table that dominated their meetings. They say that, at the period when the texts were compiled, the quests for the Grail were singular unique attempts to describe the zero the circle the ring the spherical cup containing the blood. They say that, to judge by what they know about their subsequent history, the quests for the Grail were not successful, that they remained of the nature of a legend.

There are also legends in which young women having stolen fire carry it in their vulvas. There is the story of her who fell asleep for a hundred years from having wounded her finger with her spindle, the spindle being cited as the symbol of the clitoris. In connection with this story the women make many jokes about the awkwardness of the one who lacked the priceless guidance of a feminary. They say laughing that she must have been the freak spoken of elsewhere, she who, in place of a little pleasure-greedy tongue, had a poisonous sting. They say they do not understand why she was called the sleeping beauty.

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