I was thirteen years old when Queen Latifah, an American hip hop artist and actress, asked, “Who you callin’ a b—?” It was 1993 and the song was titled “U.N.I.T.Y.” It was the year after I had become a Christian. I had “given my life to him” and the church mothers had taken away any sense of femininity. Because it was directly connected to my relationship with a man, no dating, which meant no kissing and no sex before marriage. They “kissed dating goodbye” for me. Though strangely, Jesus could be my boyfriend.
But I digress. Back to the list. No makeup. No earrings. Absolutely no pants. Shorthand: No self- expression.
Cover it up. Long and ill- fitted dresses were considered a sign of holiness and purity. I was now a good girl; they could tell by just looking at me. But it was more like sackcloth and ashes. My appearance was lamentable. You had to look ugly to be godly.
Because for them, my body was the problem, the source of temptation. The fall of humankind was every woman’s fault. From the beginning to the end of time and even though “love covered a multitude of sins,” this one could not be left behind (First Peter 4.8). Each and every woman would be held accountable. Sure, Adam had been redeemed through Jesus but Eve would still suffer. God sent Jesus to save everyone except for Eve and all those who shared her body parts.
Because according to a letter Paul wrote to Timothy, which we read in the King James Version,
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety” (2.9-15).
Serial killer turned church father, Paul had spoken and there was nothing any woman could ever say— no matter how long her dress or plain her face.
We were living in a “fallen world” because of Eve’s pretty face and pouty lips. She had upended the world by placing her hand on her hip. It was the woman and the woman God had given Adam. It seems even God could not create the perfect woman and in the biblical narrative, she is mostly viewed and experienced through mistakes. See Lot’s wife and the woman caught in the act of adultery.
But Vice President Kamala Harris has a name and still two Southern Baptist pastors, Tom Buck and Steve Swofford, called her by another. Jezebel. A Phoenician princess, she is found in First and Second Kings, responsible for introducing the worship of Baal to the Israelites (First Kings 16.31; 21.5-15; Second Kings 9.30-37). She dies a horrible death.
Vice President Harris has not even completed her first month in office so how can these two men come to such a conclusion? It only took two days for the name to emerge but it is too easy. Because it is racial trope. David Pilgrim writes in Understanding Jim Crow, “The portrayal of black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting and lewd.” The Jezebel image replaced the mammy portrayal of socially colored black women. In America, a woman who is called a Jezebel is a sexual deviant.
Ironically, we do not have a male version. I would suggest King David but despite the fact that he was a “Peeping Tom,” raped Bathsheba and murdered her husband to keep it a secret, he was described as “a man after God’s own heart” (First Samuel 13.14). But he grabbed her by the… Never mind. Vice President Harris had only been in office two days and already she was being described as “godless” though a “woman in power.” The first female vice president and a Baptist with Hindu roots, her parents are Jamaican and Indian. Still, I suppose that she is not their kind of Baptist or practicing Christian. Bearing no children of her own, she couldn’t be saved through childrearing.
She wears earrings and make up. She wears pants and she’s very expressive too. She is also in a position of authority, the second highest office in the land. There is no doubt that she has authority over men and women alike. She is an attorney and served as the 32nd Attorney General for the State of California. So why didn’t they call her Deborah, the judge from the Book of Judges?
And why aren’t more Christians asking, “Who you callin’ a Jezebel?”