Colors in the Dark
by C.M. Decarnin
What interests me is times when women rule their own culture. Not the culture of the nations they may live in, but their own culture, hidden in plain sight from those who would not see -- or couldn't be bothered. Am I talking about slash, yes, sisters, let me hear you say the word. Also the much larger yaoi/yuri culture of Japan, its associated Takarazuka fandom, the occult world of the romance novel, grown out of the Gothic, U.S. girls' romance comics, and have you taken a look at what's out there on the Web about soap operas lately?
All these accrete, you will say sadly, angrily, on male-driven armatures, contribute woefully to male wealth, true, true. But till the last man's dead, there is not going to be any pure female culture, any more than there is any pure male culture now or has ever been. What grows in the deep, what raises its magnificent structures, in glee, complexity, fecundity and riches, is not the dead discards long sunken out of commerce's ken, it is the lifework of a multitude, spontaneous and perfect architecture, building toward an unseen light, creation that shelters, bright fish, rock-lobsters and mollusks, flocking with big sharks and a billion little minnows, above, the passage of the stately mantled rays, below, the showpiece nudibranchs. Some of the brightest colors on this world, and all in the dark, unseen.
Till the reef gets tall enough and we spot each other. Building, flowing, swimming. Flicker in the sifting illumination, neon striping, glow of blue-green, orange and white flash and gone... but always there, the great city, looming, soaring, miles on end, the home, the heart, the basis, the source of this life between the darkness and the light, the habitat where anyone who wants to can come and build, what anyone who doesn't care will never see: the metropolis of us, this glittering, glimmering, beautiful, beautiful creation...
And there are others. Throughout the sea of space and time.
Heian Japan: 795-1192 A.D.
Court women were isolated; the public wasn't even allowed to know their names. (We still don't know them: they're identified as "the mother of so-and-so", "the daughter of whatshisname", etc.) They couldn't do this, they couldn't do that, their clothes and makeup were a hellish pain in the ass -- the usual, in other words. But since they weren't working in the fields and cooking and herding and weaving and keeping their kids alive 24/7 like 99.9% of the rest of the women in the world, they had some time on their hands. They used it to invent Japanese literature.
They invented the fairy tale. They invented the novel. They invented the autobiographical novelization. They wrote enough poetry to choke a horse and the critical terminology they invented to describe it all (miyabi, aware, etc.) is still in use today.
Men didn't read it.
A lot of guys couldn't read. Literate men got taught Chinese character writing and to look down on things written in "women's" script (the easy syllabic "alphabet" called hiragana).
Okay some men read some of it. And it became famous. Today towns hold pageants and vie over which of them is the true site of the religio-fairy tale Taketori monogatari, and the whole world has heard of The Tale of Genji, even if no one's actually read it. Most of the writing was irrevocably lost, especially the poetry, but we know it happened. How many times over the face of the world in the deeps of time has it happened before, and since, that we don't even know about?
Who's going to take care of your Website, or your archive, after you die, or if the technology changes?
This isn't a call to action. I'm just sayin'. Huge warehouses full of NASA space exploration data are being lost as we speak because no one thought to transfer it from giant tape reels onto those newfangled 5 1/4" disk things before they threw away all that obsolete tape-reading equipment. It happens.
The women of the People of the Veil wrote a lot of love-songs. Incidentally it was the men who wore the veil.
You hear tantalizing tidbits from all over the world about whores writing songs and poetry.
A girls'-school teacher named Sappho was famous. Guy poets, even, called her the best. But all we have of her is shreds and tatters from lines of hers those male poets quoted so admiringly; plus a ruined ancient manuscript discovered in Egypt. (Yes, Egypt -- I told you, famous.)
Nobody bothered to save her, over time.
But again, we know it happened.
What interests me, is if people know of other examples of things like slash, that are done only by women, only for women, with delight and panache and genius, to the point of becoming a culture of their own -- I've heard that beledi ("bellydancing") started this way. I particularly want to know what other women said about sex and men, and if besides slash and yaoi, other large examples existed of women into male-male sex! I realize that's asking a lot of what, since women were ahistoricized, is essentially prehistory.
There are a lot of reefs around the world, though Guess Who is currently killing the fuck out of them.
Maybe there weren't that many places and times where women bewitched each other with such sexy creativity. And yet, who knows?
There could be, out there, a lot of secret cities... Under the water... Under the radar... That seethe with life, that teem with colorful denizens, all drawn and tied and awash around ongoing construction, the billion-chambered palace of our dreams. The life of the reef is the coral, unnumbered beings, unremarkable if viewed one way, magicians if viewed another, giving their name and their lives to the whole, this creche, this choir, this natural and great cathedral that ought to be, and maybe is, now, visible from orbit, if still hidden from the surface of the world. Where are they (were they); can we really be the only ones? To build, to live in secretly, such happy hidden citadels of love?