Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Brief History of "Jezebel"

Note from the future: Now that I've written this post, I can safely tell you that there is NOTHING brief about it. Oh, well.

7 - A Brief History of "Jezebel

Now that I think about it, I can't really remember what sparked it at the start. It happened last year at around this time, but I couldn't say exactly where it started... I guess it was sort of a perfect storm.

To start, I was a really frustrated person putting a lot of that frustration into being a very militant atheist (that was not something that started last February, that was most of the second half of 2007 and 2008. The internet is a really good place for a mild-mannered person to get quite angry if left to her own devices, as I was.)

Second, I have always been a huge name nerd. I didn't know "name nerd" was a thing to be until last year, but I always have been. I love names. I love thinking about them; why we have them, why we are given the ones that we are, what our names say about our history, how they affect our lives, etc. I just love it. One of my favorite things I learned in Child Development in high school was something very philosophical, that a name is a symbol, like these words are symbols for the sounds in your head which are in their own symbols for what they mean, I am not my name. My name is a symbol for me. When someone says my name the sound is a symbol to the speaker of me, and they are showing that symbol to someone else to indicate ME.

If that makes any sense. Anyway, about February last year I discovered the message boards at, a place that is teeming with people who similarly care Way Too Much about names. Anyways, I hung out there for awhile, and for some reason at that time one of the hot names that everyone was tossing around and arguing about was Jezebel.

Now, I'd never even HEARD of the biblical Jezebel (the "whore of ba'al"), so the amount of ire and strife that the name was causing on the boards really surprised me. Besides, to paraphrase someone else who commented at BtN: It sounds spunky. Jezebel sounds, to me, like a woman who can take charge, a little quirky, able to laugh at herself, but professional when she needs to be. It sounds vital and strong and beautiful. I sort of fell in love with it.

So, instead of mourning the fact that if I saddled a child with my favorite name I would be setting her up for a life of dark looks even from people who are my own relatives, I decided to do something about it. I decided to single-handedly redeem "Jezebel".

It was a much larger project than I initially suspected. I mean, what can I do against 2000 years of history?

I can blog with "Jezebel" tacked onto my own name. I can talk about it until everyone is annoyed at me. I can write novels and over saturate the market with women named "Jezebel". The type of women you'd want to name your children after, maybe.

My big idea was a collaborative art project called "100 Jezebels", a website I still haven't opened but which would be a sort of gallery of submitted pieces of writing, music, and art featuring women named Jezebel. "100 Jezebels" was my favorite because a) it wouldn't just be me invested in it and b) it could, eventually, turn into a statement about femininity and how many different women can live under the same name, the common ties that bind them together and what separates us. I really liked the idea of a statement.

I wrote poems. I didn't talk to anyone for, like, two weeks while I worked on that thing. I never put it up because I am poor and can't afford hosting, but man it was pretty. The header looked like this:

Beautiful, right? I still work on it sort of, but without hosting I can't work too hard.

I also found people sympathetic to the cause (whatever the cause was from day-to-day). Like this fellow:

"In the 1930 US census, there were 18 women named Jezebel. In 1910 there were 21. 61 Jezebels were born in California between 1905 and 1995. 29 were born in Texas between 1903 and 1997. There appear to be over 100 Jezebels living in America today. There is even a records of a black male, Jezebel Williams, who registered for the draft in WWII."

Neat, right?

Two Hours Traffic has this song:

Iron and Wine has this one:

Sade also has one, and Dizzee Rascal and some band I don't like much called The Drones. is a hugely awesome feminist blog. I took this book out of the library and read it in two days. Hazelton is obviously biased, but can't the truth be somewhere between the story she patched together and that written by misogynistic sheep farmers a couple thousand years ago? No one is entirely bad, and whoever she was, "Jezebel" probably wasn't even her name. "Jezebel" comes from the Hebrew "Izevel", meaning "not exalted", but Jezebel was Phoenician. Her name was more likely something close to Iyesebel, or "Where is the prince?" The prince being Baal, the top dog God of the Phoenicians. The similar-sounding Isabelle is coming back into style and yet...

I have spoken to very few people in real life who are under the age of 40 and know who Jezebel was (in the bible or in history), or even what her name can mean today. Jude is a name which is coming back into style, and no one would deny that it is derived from "Judas", which is now synonymous with "traitor". Biblically speaking, Eve was the originator of sin and yet in 2006 her name was the 589th most popular for newborn baby girls. Why on Earth can't Jezebel recover?

" Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled
essence of our past behavior."
~Logan Pearsall Smith

The death of Jezebel
(thought bubble by me)

1 comment:

Tamlyn Raven said...

We've talked about this before, and you know that I think that tacking on religious symbols to poor little names is mean.

This post, as our conversation, was wonderfully compelling. Much like the sex scenes in Breaking Dawn... only, less misleading.