Years ago I dated this guy who called me Jezebel. He wasn’t angry with me; he thought he was giving me a compliment.
“Miss Jezebel,” he said.
“What did you call me?”
“I said your name is Jezebel.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“People think that that name is bad, but really it’s good. She had a lot of power.”
I fell silent, trying to figure out how what I knew about this woman could ever be a good thing. I had never even read her story. I knew that she was associated with evil, and I always thought that evil was her being a whore. I definitely thought my guy believed Jezebel to be a whore, some sex goddess, because after talking about whether or not Jezebel was good or bad he started stroking my cheeks and hair, and I just stared in the distance. I didn’t feel empowered. I felt like a whore, and no amount of caressing could undo what the power of that name had done to me. Names are important and we need to know their meanings so we can decide whether to accept or reject them.
Jezebel has come to be associated with being promiscuous, but her origin is the biblical queen and wife of King Ahab in the Bible. She didn’t use sex but her own initiative to control her husband’s affairs. I should have been upset that my “friend” called me Jezebel not because she was a whore but because she was disrespectful. Unfortunately, any display of strength may have people calling black women Jezebel or any of the following names that we would probably reject, but when we consider the characteristics we may find that the terms—though stereotypes—may fit us:
Aunt Jemima, sometimes known as mammy, is depicted as a large, asexual woman who cares for everyone more than she does herself and to her detriment. Her job is usually in the service industry, cooking, cleaning or taking care of children.
Sapphire is a sharp-tongued, quick-witted woman who usually hurls insults at the man in her life. Her name comes from the wife in the Amos and Andy radio and television series who regularly put her husband, Kingfish, down.
Media executives created these stereotypes to control the black race. Some of us perpetuate these stereotypes to take control of our situations and others. As a result, we don’t recognize what we are causing to happen in the spiritual realm. As physical and spiritual beings what we do affects what happens in the physical and spiritual worlds. This is why we have to recognize when we are being strong outside of God’s parameters. We can’t just engage in behavior that meets our end goal and then proudly proclaim “I’m a strong black woman” or have others calling us a Jezebel or Sapphire. Surely, we are effectuating power but more than we could probably imagine or ever want to. Look for more about the spiritual effects of our behavior in upcoming posts.
Copyright 2010 by Rhonda J. Smith