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Monday, December 14, 2009

African American Women: Jezebel Stereotype

The name Jezebel is actually a widely believed in the larger American society to signify Black women. History has it that Black women in America have been given stereotypic descriptions. They are often said to be morally bankrupt, are born perverts and behave like predators while their White counterparts, White women were considered to be modest and sexually pure. It is a phenomenon that has not just emerged. This is an opinion that has been held for so long by the American society. Black American women have been shown by the American society to be highly sexually active. In fact they are referred to as "bad-black-girls." It is a view that has been held since early 1630s to date. The perception has been so in the public domain since slavery period when most Blacks were working as slave and at the same time engage themselves in prostitution. They were referred to as mulattoes. At the same time the freeborn fair complexioned Black women were the more than willing ones to be the concubines of the White men who were rich. It was a sad situation that to date still haunts the Black women in America today.

The movie and the music industry have fueled this notion further. They have even

made the already bad situation worse. Pilgrim writes in his Jezebel Stereotype “White Europeans", locked into the racial ethnocentrism of the 17th century, saw Africanpolygamy and tribal dances as proof of the African's uncontrolled sexual lust” it is a fact that Africans have a culture to which they are tied to since then till now. Music and dance is actually an African culture and since they love it and do it and yet will continue doing it, the Europeans with their conviction that it must have contributed to the African’s promiscuity can merely confirm that fact. The dances were mainly performed with nude bodies of women. It is from there where African women were referred to as Jezebel by the Europeans who said the Black men of Africa were not only potential rapists, but also brute.

Jezebel stereotype were used by the whites during slave trade to solicit for sexual favors from Black. The white men, especially the slaver demanded for sex from black women in exchange of certain favors such that they are not sold, raped, beaten and /or their relations are are not sold. This fact that African women did accept to have sex with white men did cement the notion that Black women are lustful. In the movie The Birth of a Nation, we see Lydia Brown playing a mulatto role. This movie acted in the 1915, had a main object of portraying the Black woman as sexually promiscuous, primitive, and morally poor. Deborah (31) in her Aren’t I a Woman? hints that it was meant to carry on the theme which was started in the 17th century. Then came the 1970s when Blacks voluntarily promoted those nefarious traits like Jezebel, Bucks as well as Brutes to be possessed by blacks through movies. Incidentally these movies were mainly written, produced, starred, and directed by the whites. The movies were called blaxploitation movies and a good example was Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Sweetback is actually a slung language to mean “large penis” and “great lovemaking ability”. It portrayed Black men as great love maker as presently perceived. In most blaxploitation movies, Black women are depicted as being ‘sexual fodder’.

Pilgrim says that live televised music videos from the notorious rap and pop or even hip hop performers portray scantily dressed Black women throwing their hips in air to lyrics. Such incidence portrays them as loose bitches. Black women have been largely regarded as promiscuous. The blacks and the society at large, however, have done very little to reverse that trend. It is though possible to reverse such notion and give it a different direction. It is first, achievable by evading such outdated practices as polygamy, a culture that is tied and narrowed to belong and practiced by the blacks. There should also be well moderated dressing for pop song dancers, instead of their nude or near naked mode of dressing while on the stage dancing to lyrics. There is also a need to introduce a curriculum in schools to dissuade young growing minds from developing such stereotypic opinion. There is also need to entrench laws governing how people relate for example those guiding against discrimination against race since the main victimized race here is Africa and African women in particular.

Music videos like Nelly's "Tip Drill" and Sir Mix a Lot's "Baby Got Back" portray black women as nothing but objects to be had.

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