The Red Velvet Curtains
Catherine Clément writes, “On the opera stage women perpetually sing their eternal undoing. The emotion is never more poignant than at the moment when the voice is lifted to die. With their voices they flap their wings, their arms writhe, and then there they are, dead, on the ground.”
And you have to let her die. Her tonal promiscuity, her fluidity, has no place here. So she leaps, flies, away, into the void, stealing the show. L’appel du vide. Where she belongs.
…Home is where your heart is.
Butterfly stabs herself in front of her child. Lovelorn José murders Carmen, because if he can’t have her, no one can. Isolde dies of a broken heart. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Violette Valéry dies, impoverished, of consumption. Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk goes the way of Ophelia, but at least she takes quite a few with her. Nedda dies, onstage, in character, none’s the wiser. Elisabeth de Valois waits, walks, alone, into exile. The terrifying seductress, that Queen of the Night, in the end, is undone, abandoned, unloved, unforgiving. Floria Tosca leaps into the abyss. Mimi dies on an old mattress, some say of youth’s flame. Tricked, betrayed, mad, Lucia di Laammermoor kills her husband–who is, unfortunately, not her lover but his twin–on her wedding night, then dies. Liu, the ever-faithful slave, resisting torture, sacrifices herself, accentuating the futile spectacle. The marschallin of Wertemberg’s womb has shriveled up; she’s useless, sexless, jilted, a husk, a corpse. Mélisande dies in silence, just after she gives birth to her daughter. Othello strangles Desdemona. Brunhilde throws herself onto the pyre, paganism dies with her, God rises from the ashes. Shall I go on?
Again, Clément: In opera “the triumphant ones are the fathers, the kings, the uncles, the lovers. Authorities are triumphant, and so are churches. Above them a divine image is barely hidden. Defeated are the forces of the night, the forces of darkness, the forces of the weak and underprivileged. Defeated are the paganism with its many gods, the rebellious, desirable existence of the sorceress, and any transgressions. Opera is pitiless. The nineteenth century extended the powers of opera, to love (this formidable and fatal mythology), but certainly, it is in the dawning of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment that the religious forces that brought opera into existence are to be found–along with, I would say, the struggle against God, through women who are crushed.”
Woman’s body written on, into the text, is not her own. She’s kept from it, blocked off from it. Veiled from it. Cunt shunted. She begs to open the curtains, but she’s denied. She’s dirty. You can thank Eve for that. And menstruation, assuming that Eve menstruated, but I’m skeptical.
Eve was a gift, after all. A gift made by a man for a man.
Eve was unwrapped, manhandled, peeled like an orange, opened up, her juices dripping down Adam’s chin, onto his apple. Insatiable Adam who’s missing a rib, which, obviously, gives him the right. The right of possession. The right of, to passage.
On her wedding day he lifts the veil, crosses the threshold, takes her in, seals the deal. She is absorbed. Her name is now his. Her stuff is now his.
Mr. and Mrs. Man of the Hour.
Hidden for man. Hidden from man. Wrapped like a present. That night he will peel her like a banana then she’ll be devoured by sharp teeth.
Let the curtain fall.
A veil is a velvet curtain.
Which of course is a euphemism.
For a cunt.
Which means, naturally, that a woman’s face is her cunt.
Think Baubo, if we’re being literal.
Think Medusa, if we’re being metaphorical.
All those snakes, wriggling, hissing, then WHAM you’re stone.
Not stoned, stone.
Petrified, calcified, stupefied.
On (because of) beauty.
Because it is impolite, and illegal, to show your cunt in public, because those things have teeth and they bite, it is only proper to cover yourself, entirely. Think of the men, for crissakes! How they can’t control themselves when they see your flesh. How unaccountable they become! Your skin makes them rabid, drunk, insane with desire, with the incontrovertible NEED TO FUCK. And, as everyone knows, a need is a responsibility. That falls on the woman’s shoulders. Faithfully, with thick black cloth, imprisoning her behind a wall built in the name of a God that has never favored her.
But I have that within which passeth show, These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
Let us lift up our hearts and our hands, in praise of the glory of His name, for our good and for the good of all His church.
Let the caged bird sing.
“Bring me the head of John the Baptist!”
Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
Now, dance for me.
Tanz für mich, Salomé. 
King Herod promises to give her whatever her heart desires, even if it’s half of his kingdom, if only she would dance for him: Tanz für mich, Salomé.
Salomé’s Dance of the Seven Veils:
She wants the prophet’s head on a silver platter. After all, he insulted her mother’s marriage to Herod, her late husband’s brother, on account of incest, but worse, he refused Salomé’s solicitations. Herod begs to dissuade her but she’s adamant.
Once Jochanaan’s head is severed from his body, Salomé falls into a bacchanalian frenzy with it. By the light of the moon she declares her love to it, kissing, stroking, caressing it while falling madly into herself, into the depths of degradation. Frailty, thy name is woman. The music climaxes, the cadence strikes a dissonant, polytonal chord. La petite mort. Her fate is crystal. Completely repulsed, Herod orders her execution.
A vestal goddess of the moon, pure, untouched by men, Salomé strips, teases, and finally falls in love with a nonjudgmental unconscious dead man without a penis.
At the head of every man is Christ.
(I bet doubly so for his cousin!)
So the pagan opens herself up to receive the Holy Spirit. She denounces the seductress within and gives herself unto this holiest of heads, and repents.
No… She’s a satanic femme fatale; a cat rolling about with her kill. A man-hating dyke goddess–think Artemis or Cybele–hell-bent on destroying the male libido.
So she dances. She dances to enthrall Herod. She dances for vengeance, for her mother’s slain reputation. She dances to slaughter the one God lurking in her home, threatening to enfeeble, to incapacitate, to proverbially castrate the uncastratable. In an act of defiance, she removes her layers, rips off her veils, and stands vulnerable.
Why not empowered?
As though the second the last veil falls from her wrist, her naked flesh reads like a beacon of rapable light that she is an animal, a vessel for pleasure: Do with me what you will, it says, I have no will of my own.
But I do.
After all, On ne naît pas femme: on le devient.
 Catherine Clément. Translated by Betsy Wing. Opera, or the Undoing of Women. Pg. 5. University of Minnesota Press. 1988.
 The call of the void.
 Clément. Pg. 22.
 Let me die.
 Because women are still being fucking stoned. Stoned for unveiling women, for a broken hymen, for rape, witchcraft, incest. Stoned because men felt like it.
 William Shakespeare. Hamlet.
 Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.
 Dance for me, Salomé.
 Production: Berlin 1990. Catherine Malfitano (Salomé), Horst Hiestermann (Herod). Conductor: Giuseppe Sinopoli. Composer: Richard Strauss.
 Again, obviously, Hamlet.
 Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex. Famously translated by H. M. Parshley as, “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” The latest translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier contests the use of the indefinite article, translating it to: “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.” Meaning, a woman, a girl, a female is not born a second class citizen, but through her culture, through socialization, through prejudice, stupidity, and ignorance, she becomes one.
Catherine Borders is the founder and executive editor of Omnia Vanitas Review. She lives in “Chicago” with her husband, daughter, and two very necessary cats. Her first novel, A Suburb of Monogamy, was published with Omnia Vanitas Review in 2016 : it's about the invention, withdrawal, and body of a liaison. Catherine is a struggling nihilist but she believes in art. She wears it like armor. Omnia Vanitas Review is a space for her to disseminate the beauty of its powers.