[Ads-l] Is "Jezebel" a racist name?

Tue Feb 9 15:07:55 EST 2021

The article does make a case for “Jezebel” being racist as well as sexist:

“Biblically, Jezebel was a princess and a prophet. She tried to save her own life and tempted a member of the royal guard. In popular culture, her name is used to refer to a “loose woman.” Further, since the age of American slavery, Jezebel came to be understood as an overly sexual Black woman, a stereotype depicted in film and fiction. Most recently, the image of the “Black Jezebel” was popularized in 1970s Blaxploitation films.”

I would characterize “Jezebel” as an insult more pejorative than “slut” but perhaps not as strong as “whore.”  Do sexualized epithets become worse when they are directed to black rather than white women?  I don’t know; they’re pretty bad already.

Note that news article headlines are usually not written by the author of the article.  I question whether it was appropriate for the headline to focus on the term’s racist implications while ignoring the more prominent sexist implications.

John Baker

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of dave at WILTON.NET
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 2:49 PM
Subject: Re: Is "Jezebel" a racist name?

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My understanding is that referring to a Black woman as a "Jezebel" brings to bear a cultural stereotype of Black women being hypersexual that is not present when referring to a white woman by that name. The denotation is still "loose woman," only that it is problematic in additional ways when used to refer to Black women.

See Dagbovie-Mullins, Sika A. "Pigtails, Ponytails, and Getting Tail: The Infantilization and Hyper-Sexualization of African American Females in Popular Culture." Journal of Popular Culture, 46.4, 2013, 745-71. Or: "The Jezebel Stereotype," https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel/<https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel>. Also Googling Jezebel and Sapphire turns up a lot. (Sapphire is a term for the stereotype of an emasculating Black woman.)

There's also a podcast titled "Black Jezebel," which from the description on the Apple Podcasts site takes a sex-positive view of Black female sexuality. The title would seem to be an attempt to reclaim the word. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-black-jezebel-podcast/id1476628866<https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-black-jezebel-podcast/id1476628866>

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From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU<mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>> On Behalf Of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 11:16 AM
Subject: [ADS-L] Is "Jezebel" a racist name?



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