Jezebels, Mammies, and Bitches

1 In your opinion, what is a Jezebel?

In my mind, the Jezebel image is a sexualization of the “exotic other.” Historically, if elite and middle-class white women were supposed to be lacking any sex drive at all and were supposed to be protecting their “virtue,” the sexual attention of men needed an outlet and women of color and women of lower-class status became the focus of many men’s sexual fantasies. Because women of color were already seen as less human and more wild, the stereotype of a sinful seductress, like Jezebel in the Bible, was an excuse for (mostly) white men to make sexual advances or attacks on black women.

2.According to the book, Black Sexual Politics, Jezebel and the Bitch goes hand in hand, do you agree? Why or why not?

I can agree that both stereotypes are connected in that they are used in an attempt to control black women. While the Jezebel stereotype is used to control women’s sexuality and exploit them, Hill Collins states that the Bitch moniker is used to keep women in their place by portraying them as out of control and irrational, just as the “angry black woman” image does.

3.Jezebel was a woman in the bible. She was considered a bad person but how do we come to terms with calling sexy women Jezebels when it doesn’t mean the same thing?

I think we either have to a) embrace Jezebel as an independent, sexual, powerful female figure (like some feminists have done with Medusa or with the word “slut”) in a patriarchal retelling of history or b) reject the image entirely

4.In your opinion, what is an angry black woman?

I think an “angry black woman” is the stereotype given to black women who speak their mind and don’t fit in with the middle-class stereotype of “respectability.” Upper-class white gender norms expect that women should be demure, soft spoken, take up little physical or conversational space, etc. and an outspoken black women does not fit into this norm therefore, she has to be unreasonable and angry

5.How does media perpetuate these stereotypes? Do you find these stereotypes to be true? Why or why not?

Generally, the media portrays any angry black woman, whether she has a legitimate reason for being passionate or even irate, as THE “angry black woman” so that the concerns of black women will be dismissed and the individual person is demeaned.

6.Give an example of the “angry black woman in the media?”

One example I can think of is when the media went crazy over President Obama taking pictures with the (pretty, white, and female) Danish Prime Minister. They showed the First Lady sitting nearby looking at least uninterested or, according to the outrageously large amount of reports on the story, pissed off, angry, and jealous. When another picture showed that Michelle had moved to sit beside the Danish PM with her husband on the opposite side, people assumed that she was having to break up the flirtations going on right under her eye and surely an “angry black woman” wouldn’t stand for that! According to the photographer who took the initial picture, however, Mrs. Obama had just been joking around and having fun with the group of leaders moments before and just happened to be paying attention to something else at the time the photo was snapped.

7.What are some examples of modern day mammies and has the image of mammies changed throughout the years?

Yes, I think the image has changed as child care has become much more impersonal. I think the mammie stereotype implies some sort of emotional or personal bond between caretaker and child. Today, however, rather than an in-home caretaker, most people send their kids to daycares, so I don’t think the same kind of stereotype has as much resonance today. As far as modern day examples I would say I notice them most in advertisements like PineSol or Aunt Jemima and similar figures.


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