Saturday, 17 August 2013

SALZIKRUM women-men of ancient Mesopotamia and HERSTORY


Salzikrum is a composite word meaning "woman-man" or "male-daughter" that combines Sumerian and Akkadian words to describe a person who appeared biologically female, yet had male traits. The name appears in the Code of Hammurabi, written in Mesopotamia around 1770 BC on a black stone monument, discovered in the Persian mountains and is one of the earliest examples of a publically displayed written law. "She" had rights to a dowry and to inherit her father's property, as did certain priestesses, and unlike other daughters, but could marry and adopt children. 1 2 3

Salzikrum are regarded to be the earliest lesbians. But I couldn't help but be sceptical. In the Code of Hammurabi it was apparent that women were treated as the subordinate class they  have always been in patriarchal society. Mesopotamia was a slave society, with all the male-domininant-misogynistic-women-hating heirarchies we are familiar with as a system of "organising society" (man's oppression of women) which included prostitution, ritual sex, other rapes and all the usual constraints that are put upon women, her reproductive and economic currency starkly evident within the Code. Any gender deviance was punishable by death, ruin and other retalitory punishments. So I found it impossible to concieve that any woman under Hammurabi's reign would be honoured with any independence or autonomous right to (her) lesbian sexuality whatsoever. She would be a woman, forced or authentically lesbian, allowed to marry a wife on receipt of her father's dowry, under the conditions of cross-dressing, the forced adoption of her "illigitimate" children, and the right to adopt other women's childen.


I strongly believe that the Salzikrum were not the first recorded lesbians in history. Evidence suggests that Salzikrum were far more likely to be men. Men in female drag. Temple servants and/or eunuchs. Chamberlains or officers "in charge of" the women of the temple, and maybe even male prostitutes within the temple. Men who could marry, adopt MALE "orphans" ONLY, recieve a daughter's dowry and "her" father's inheritance, because they were REGARDED (treated) AS (the oppressed class of) women.


But of course, in reading HIStory on the subject, I found much rape apologism. In THE SAL-ZIKRUM 'WOMAN-MAN' IN OLD BABYLONIAN TEXTS (1939), G.R.Driver and John C.Miles propose that Salzikrum were unlikely to be [female] eunuchs, because "no method of making women artifically sterile seems to be known in the ancient world" 4. I can think of many brutal ways in which women have had sterility forced upon them.


The Female Eunuch

Germaine Greer's book, The Female Eunuch (1970), is feminist analysis of the "traditional, suburban, consumerist, nuclear family" that "represses women sexually, and that this devitalizes them, rendering them eunuchs". "Women have somehow been separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality. They've become suspicious about it. Like beasts, for example, who are castrated in farming in order to serve their master's ulterior motives—to be fattened or made docile—women have been cut off from their capacity for action". 5 6

The Creation Of Patriarchy

Gerda Lerner, a pioneer in women's studies, historian, teacher and author, conducted a wide range of research over many years, and in Women In History, a two volume work, The Creation of Patriarchy and The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (1986) she traced the roots of patriarchal dominance, radicalising Western history. The idea that patriarchy is a cultural construct, that this system of organising society (man's oppression of women) "was established historically, she contends can also be ended by the historical process." She identifies women who began to transcend their constraints in the 19th Century. She also wrote The Origins of Prostitution in Ancient Mesopotania.

Gerda was one of the founders of the field of women's history, playing a key role in the development of women's history curricula, teaching what's considered to be the first women's history course in the world, and instrumental in organising Women's History Week in 1979 (which expanded to Women's History Month!) 7 8

Lesbian [in]Visibility

So I didn't find the origins of lesbians in the Salzikrum of ancient Mesopotamia, just men in drag and alot of rape apologism, as per usual, as per patriarchy. I found the creation of patriarchy and the origins of rape. But I did have it reaffirmed to me that lesbian visibility and the liberation of women is starkly dependant on HERstory being written, read, visible, and it goes hand-in-hand with a radical feminist analysis of HIStory, then and now. 

Dirt, who writes the blog The dirt from Dirt sums what we've been dealing with, then and now, in her post Patriarchy's Concerted Efforts To Destroy The Lesbian Menace here, in which she concludes "Lesbian invisibility is not merely invisibilizing lesbians, it is removing us from the planet in the guise of men. Be visible, make a difference to a lesbian whose life just might depend totally on YOU". 9

Here are some Facebook pages to join, Lesbian Visibility and Women's History Month plus WordPress site. Have a gay day folks!


Friday, 9 August 2013

LABRYS Tool of Lesbian Feminism

Radical lesbians' and lesbian feminism’s roots began in the 1960s and there have been several movements predominantly in North America and Western Europe 1, but the Labrys double-headed axe 3 4  emerged as a symbol of lesbian and feminist strength and self-sufficiency to lesbian feminists 4 and their organisations during the late 1970s.

Lesbian Feminist Warriors

Amongst lesbian feminism’s key goals [x] is the carving out a new “gynocentric” culture or womyn’s (wommin, wimin) culture as opposed to the dominating “phallocentric” culture and language, or patriarchy. To Mary Daly 6, an American radical lesbian feminist theologian, this ancient farming tool and weapon, with its origins in ancient Minoan and Amazonian culture, symbolised not only a matriarchal past and womyn centred vision of the future, but also the creative/destructive force/ability of feminists (the force of womyn) that can cut through webs of patriarchal lies, illusions and reversals that block the breakthrough to new imaginations, visions and forms of being in the world, in short, the tools of feminist empowerment.

Without having had the privilege so far to read any of Mary Daly’s original writing myself a b c, I have managed to ascertain from women who have written on the internet about the symbology of the Labrys as, to put it simply, the ability to cut through patriarchal bullshit and allow/carve spaces for the feminist vision of a female/womyn centered experience and landscape realised. 7 8 9


With one side of the blade representing exorcism, and the other side ecstasy, it is a symbol of a feminist and a warrior, and a symbol of recognition for strong lesbians who really do love women, and are women-identified-women.

The woman-identified-woman is a woman who puts women first by withdrawing her energy and support from men. It has nothing to do with the queer/trans*“identity” politics that arose in the 1990s, but everything to do with females who are primarily and politically focused on female/women’s liberation. Women-identified-women are also directly associated with the emergence of political lesbianism and separatism feminism as radical lesbian feminism critiques heterosexuality as institutional (compulsory heterosexuality) 9 10

Feminist and Other Uses

Articles were published about the Labrys in feminist publications of the time. Lesbian feminists employed the symbol, and some wore Labryses around their necks or had it tattooed on their inner wrists. At a Mary Daly memorial ceremony women passed a Labrys between them on the stage. Several blogs today use the Labrys symbol to represent lesbian feminism. 11 12 13

In popular culture such as in the film Bound, Corky wears a Labrys tattoo 14. Today the tattoo has a popular interpretation of a general symbol of lesbianism, or it may indicate a personal interest in tribal/ancient civilizations. Also, there was Labrys magazine for gay women, launched in Atlanta in 2004 15.

A Tool Of Empowerment

But none of the latter paragraph are directly representive of the lesbian radical feminism movement from the 1970s, nor the ideas, vision and political activism of those lesbian feminists. The Labrys is much more than a symbol, the Labrys is a TOOL that encapulates the many tools feminists weild towards realising the female-centred vision of those feminists, who were (and remain) very real and active political movement. There are no bones about it, these womyn are warriors, no thing of the past.

Please add your lesbian feminist links to the comments, and if you were around in the 1970s please do comment, tell your stories and send me jpegs of your photographs!

Thursday, 1 August 2013


So sorry there's been no post this week, as I'd promised. The main reason is that I'm unwell this week. I will post by Friday of next week at the latest. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Contact Georgie Pea at Finding Lesbians

Information to share? Query? Suggestions for posts? Private message? Comments?

E-mail Finding Lesbians here