Jezebel_Stereotype - Jezebel Stereotype

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Jezebel Stereotype 1 of 10 11/25/08 4:25 PM Jezebel Stereotype MORE PICTURES Perhaps she remembers her great-great grandmother who wanted to protest but only rolled her eyes and willed herself not to scream when the white man mounted her from behind. -- Andrea Williams 1 The portrayal of Black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, White women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but Black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of Black women is signified by the name Jezebel. 2 K. Sue Jewell, a contemporary sociologist, conceptualized the Jezebel as a tragic mulatto – "thin lips, long straight hair, slender nose, thin figure and fair complexion." 3 This conceptualization is too narrow. It is true that the "tragic mulatto" and "Jezebel" share the reputation of being sexually seductive, and both are antithetical to the desexualized "Mammy" caricature; nevertheless, it is a mistake to assume that only, or even mainly, fair-complexioned Black women were sexually objectified by the larger American society. From the early 1630s to the present, Black American women of all shades have been portrayed as hypersexual "bad-black-girls." 4 Jewell's conceptualization is based on a kernel of historical truth. Many of the slavery-era Blacks sold into prostitution were mulattoes. Also, freeborn light-skinned Black women sometimes became the willing concubines of wealthy White southerners. This system, called placage, involved a formal arrangement for the White suitor/customer to financially support the Black woman and her children in exchange for her long-term sexual services. The White men often met the Black women at "Quadroon Balls," a genteel sex market. The belief that Blacks are sexually lewd predates the institution of slavery in America. European travelers to Africa found scantily clad natives. This semi nudity was misinterpreted as lewdness. White Europeans, locked into the racial ethnocentrism of the 17th century, saw African polygamy and tribal dances as proof of the African's uncontrolled sexual lust. Europeans were fascinated by African sexuality. William Bosman described the Black women on the coast of Guinea as "fiery" and "warm" and "so much hotter than the men." 5 William Smith described African women as "hot constitution'd Ladies" who "are continually contriving stratagems how to gain a lover." 6 The genesis of anti-Black sexual arch types emerged from the writings of these and other Europeans: the Black male as brute and potential rapist; the Black woman, as
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Jezebel Stereotype 2 of 10 11/25/08 4:25 PM Jezebel whore. The English colonists accepted the Elizabethan image of "the lusty
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This note was uploaded on 12/25/2009 for the course ENGL 1105 taught by Professor Bailey during the Spring '08 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Jezebel_Stereotype - Jezebel Stereotype

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