Guns, Nymphs, and Steel

I think on things. It helps to notice the connections among ideas, actions, images, to think on them a piece. I was thinking on threat today. When is a woman threatening? So often they are depicted as frail, weak, passive sexy little minxes (not active, specified capacity, diminutive thus dismissible, not human). When am I strong? When am I scary? I thought to depict this.

So I reached down between my legs and smeared may face with menstrual blood like war paint. I pulled out my kukri blade, and held it up with no thought to the way it looked other than to threaten with it. My partner took these images. We reviewed them in my digital camera. And then he said something to me. It had two meanings.

“Angry she-nymph.”

I wanted to punch him right there. But I had heard only half of the words, though I caught the whole statement. A nymph is a female nature deity, of a tree, a lake, a river, a mountain, a hill… she is tied to a place. She is young and beautiful. She is any young girl. Nymph means all these things. Nymph comes from the Greek “nymphe” meaning bride, related to the Latin “nubere” meaning to marry or wed. Nubile.

He saw nature enraged, a frightening force. I heard nubile sex toy, and all the accompanying phrases, “oh, you’re so cute when you’re pissed off,” or “you’re sexy when you’re angry.”

There is a problem with the words themselves. There are problems with most words used to describe women and nature. Nature is not active in our vocabulary. Words that connect women to natural things pacify them, objectify them. There is no word for the nymph of the hurricane or the holy hell of white water and waterfall. The sirens and the lorelei are sexual.

Even sharing a vocabulary about the Good Neighbors, as my partner and I do, even still, it’s easy to misunderstand: what do you see when you hear the word “fairy?” Tinkerbell? Tiny glowy women? Gay men? I see earthen creatures, all horn and bone, blood and death and the sweetness of life, I see creatures who will seriously Fuck You Up, I see kelpies who drown you, trolls who brutalize you, I see the inexplicably strange, beautiful, and terribly, terribly frightening. But “fairy” means all of these things. I’ll be damned, though, if you think of Pre-Raphaelite paintings and their wasting waifs when next I talk about the Fair Folk.

So it sits this way: what to do with the word “nymph?” It may be possible to re-imagine them. My nymphs carry guns and blades. They wear practical things when they wear anything. They paint themselves in menstrual blood, and eat the flesh of interlopers. They come in all ages, and have learned to use the weapons of the modern day against us. They are not shy, but they are silent when killing. They are not shrill, but they are rowdy when celebrating. There is nothing nubile about them, though they are far from asexual. They are all that is scary about ourselves and the world we know so little about.

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