From what emerged about the history of this document archive so far, it seems that it been collected by a group of 25 dedicated women over several years – unearthing clay tablets from desert sands, uncarving scrolls from rocks and cave walls, retrieving palm leaves from vases buried in deep seas and on inaccessible mountains, deciphering code written in clouds and cloudless skies.
Asked about their motives, one of the collectors (who all expressed their wish to remain anonymous, given the highly sensitive nature of what the “Penelope Papers” contain) said: “We live in times that require the full attention, agility, and adroitness of all human beings, with no distinctions or preferences defined by any biological (or other) differences between one and the other. Such a common effort of all requires openness, trust, and mutual respect from all involved. The papers we’re publishing now show that one half of the human race has abused, oppressed, and manipulated the other half since times immemorial. We – and this is the exclusive ‘we’ of women as abusers, oppressors, and manipulators, as well as the inclusive ‘we’ of human beings wishing to contribute to a better and freer future for all – need to get over these past prejudices, mistakes, and aggressions, and we sincerely hope that the publication of these materials will contribute this inspiring vision. We very much hope that men can forgive us and that, from now on, they’ll work together with us, despite the insults and injustice they had to suffer.”
The following three excerpts – taken from three different periods covered by the “Penelope Papers” – give a taste of why these documents are seen as revolutionary by many who’ve had the opportunity to look at them already. As always, of course, the reader is invited to form her (or his) own opinion, based on the sources.
“Oh, women! Thou art mothers and grandmothers, sisters and aunts, daughters and nieces, weavers and waiters, whores and witches, wonder and wisdom. Thou art the ones who conceive the truth, bring it to life, and nourish it until it walks the earth on its own feet. Without you, nothing would ever be born, nothing would ever remain, nothing would ever come to fruition. Thou art the world.
Oh, men! Thou art pram pushers and walking stick wavers, snook-cockers and bottom-pinchers, runaway heroes and legacy hunters, sand castle builders and fly fishers, pimps and policemen, hypochondria and hypocrisy. Thou art eternally dependent on others to become, to be seen, and to be anything at all rather than nothing. Thou art what is born, remains, and comes to fruition when the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, and mountains go into labour. Thou art the world without its wo-: rld as in red letter days, red light districts, and reference listed drugs.
Oh, women! Thou shalt not let men mess with farming and food. Keep them away from what feeds your bodies and those of your families. Send them off to hunt wild boars and slay hungry dragons, but don’t let them anywhere near your pots, pans, and pastures.
Oh, women! Thou shalt not let men mess with stories and talk. Keep them away from what weaves the fabric of speech in your homes. Send them off to have fistfights and 42.195 kilometre long races with other men, but don’t let them anywhere near your colours, threads, and yarns.
Oh, women! Thou shalt not let men mess with teaching and telling. Keep them away from what permeates the minds of your children. Send them off to give speeches and write philosophical treatises, but don’t let them anywhere near your offsprings’ fantasies, feelings, and facts .
Oh, women! As long as you follow these commandments, you’ll please the goddesses Hathor, Gaea, and Shakti, and they will protect you from harm, so the golden ages to come will be yours. When you break even one of these commandments, and even only once, Ka will desert you, Kronos will devour your lifeline, and Karma will punish you for infinite eons.”
[“Penelope Papers”, vol. I, fol. 108sqq., ca. 40,000 BCE]
“It has recently been brought to our attention that men have made enormous efforts to enter into territories hitherto reserved for women.
Self-proclaimed doctors, such as a certain Andreas Vesalius (of Brussels) or William Harvey (of Folkestone) have not only talked about, but in practice and in writing presented information about human bodies that was supposed to be secret to women. The anatomy of our flesh and bones and the circulation of our blood should not be disclosed to the public. The threat posed through these public declarations which all too easily will seduce the minds of other men and lead them to think that our human bodies can be controlled by them is not only a blasphemy and a sin, but also a grave transgression of laws defined by and held up by womenfolk since bodies first came into being.
Similarly, rumours have brought information to our ears that a certain William Shakespeare (of Stratford-upon-Avon) has written and published plays which display the full array of human emotions through disclosing speech and intense dialogue, full of playful puns, intelligent inferences, and awe-inspiring silences. This vulgar exposition of the workings of our human relationships should not be disclosed to anyone other than women. The danger inherent in popularizing ideas about love, hate, joy, anger, attraction, fear, and other such deeply internal energies of our being is not only a severe infringement upon divine privileges, but also a serious break of the customs held in high honour by women since feelings began.
Finally, it has been whispered on corridors that a certain Johann Amos Comenius (of Nivnice) has dared to craft theories about education and how to develop mankind towards a rewarding and joyful future. This treacherous revelation of insights privy to those who have the privilege to live with the minds of children, namely women of all times and ages, is not only an unforgivable affront against those who hold the power over our thoughts, but also a terrible breach of the rules established by womankind since thoughts emerged from the void.
We, the majestically ruling women of Europe, herewith solemnly declare that such behaviours are unacceptable, once and for all. If and in the case that men do not refrain from messing with women’s matters, we shall inflict upon them the threefold punishments reserved for the most hideous crimes of treason, namely:
- The punishment of work outside of houses and homes: We’ll send them to factories, so their mechanical labour keeps them away from our physical surroundings and restores our human bodies and knowledge thereof to women, the only legitimate holders of control over corporeal matters.
- The punishment of politics in public places: We’ll send them to parliaments and turn them into citizens, so their formal, political interactions keep them away from our conversations and communications, returning the power of discourse to women, the only rightful holders of steering the forces of verbal utterances.
- The punishment of making money: We’ll send them to earn (and spend) money, so their involvement with things, their costs and their prices keeps them away from our mental refuges, reinstating the value of mind to women, the only true owners of guiding the pathways of cognitive connectivities.
Signed, sealed, and solemnly sworn by the one and only sisterhood.”
[“Penelope Papers”, vol. XVII, fol. 1618-1648 (including translations into several European languages), ca. 1631]
“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius – the Age of Aquarius. Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust take up bigger and bigger spaces in the relationships between women and men. This is a counterrevolutionary development which we need to stand up against, united as sisters in love and peace. Men are starting to learn how to open ravioli cans, fry eggs, and warm up deep-frozen pizza; men are engaging in conversations with each other in self-help groups, libertarian communes, and revolutionary, non-hierarchical parties, pursuing supposedly peaceful, sustainable, and humane visions; men are getting involved in raising kids, making sure their lunch boxes are filled, finding band-aid for their scratches, and singing songs to them at night. This all must stop. We cannot accept the invasion of men into the territories defined and constructed by women. They’re undermining our revolutionary powers, betraying the true spirit of liberation, and sucking up to values they’ll never been able to access given their authoritarian upbringing, class-consciousness, and generally ruthless character.
Our Committee for Cancelling Counterrevolutionary Activities in their Very Seed and Earliest Buds (CCCAVSEB) therefore decrees the following:
- “No woman, no fry” – in order to keep men out of the kitchen for good, they need to be lured by other bodily aspects of our human existence. We proclaim the immediate and urgent need to boost an advertising industry that puts the female body (as naked as possible) next to all products that can take men away from home – starting with cars, sports equipment, and expensive “
- “I am man, I am an island” – in order to prevent men from communicating among themselves and with others, we’ll make sure they (and human beings in general) get hooked to new technologies that glue people to their own electronic surroundings. We proclaim the immediate and urgent need to boost all innovations leading to solitary engrossment in technologies, as remote from other living beings as possible – starting with computer screens, expanding to telephones that become lifetime companions and electronics implanted into human bodies.
- “Imagine there’s no women” – in order to exlucde men from the social fields reserved for women, we’ll send them off to idealistic futures, filled with rainbows and unicorns, greener and bluer than everything we knew so far. We proclaim the immediate and urgent need to boost ideologies that put men’s minds far away from the here and now, forcing them to live their days in daydreams with no possible links to the realities of women in this universe.”
We’re aware of the risks of all these strategies, and the probability that they might be seen through by some of the more sophisticated of men. In addition, we therefore proclaim the need for some women to pretend that men’s environments – such as large corporations, political leadership, or academic excellence – are attractive to women and need to be ‘conquered’. Unless some of us make the sacrifice and appear interested in those environments, there’s a possibility that men might see through our schemes – we need to prevent this at all costs, or else womenkind (and thereby humankind) will fail to live up to its promise.”
[“Penelope Papers”, vol. MCMLXXXIV, fol. 42]
 You can check Beyoncé’s Twitter feed here [retrieved May 13th, 2016] to see that the tweet in question really isn’t there. There’s a fair chance that it never existed at all and the rumours about it were just that – rumours. Such are the features of the web – what is there is not there, what is not there is there, and both, and neither. BACK TO TEXT
 Fortunately, we had the privilege to get access to the full set of papers before its official publication on the web – which will most likely take a few more days, as it seems there are some troubles with preparing the servers for the expected traffic from interested visitors. Once these technical issues have been sorted out, the materials will be available here [retrieved May 13th, 2016]. BACK TO TEXT