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.
THEROIGNE DE MERICOURT
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.