"She's a little Jezebel, that one. Painted face little Jezebel..."
November 5, 2014 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Jezebel. The Painted Face. She is, as we've defined her, a scheming and shamelessly evil woman. She's Lolita and Eve. A woman of easy virtue. A temptress, a mistress and a courtesan.

Call her a hussy, hootchie, hooker, whore. Harlot. Jade. Vamp. Vixen. Tart, tease, trollop, tramp. Siren, seductress, strumpet, skank. Coquette, floozy. Wench, hoe. Loose. Slut. Minx.

Find a male equivalent. Look up "gigolo" in your handy thesaurus. Find "playboy," "socialite," "pleasure-seeker," "ladies' man." A stud, a player. A father, an uncle. A boy toy. A bachelor. A groom.
Anna Vodicka: On Modesty. posted by divined by radio (25 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
A small point, but not irrelevant: Lolita, in the book, is not a seductress. Lolita is a twelve year old girl. The desire and the blame are Humbert's; to cast her as a seductress is to accept his framing of their relationship, cast the blame where he wants it cast. It's not Nabokov's frame; Nabokov commended her bravery. It's a frame even Humbert rejects, by the end, in his final moments of self-realisation. And yet here she is again, abused by us, blamed by us, become an emblem of seduction when she was the victim of a crime, and a child. It always bothers me to see her evoked in this way, though I know it's too late. Amy Fisher, etc.
posted by Diablevert at 10:24 AM on November 5, 2014 [51 favorites]


Diablevert: see also Abigail in The Crucible.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:35 AM on November 5, 2014


This is a well written explanation of what it's like to grow up female in our society. The burden is misplaced on the woman, because men have run things exclusively for too long and we have been reluctant to bring our brothers to heel before bad behavior escalates to criminal behavior. The victims are our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters. That should be all it takes to remind us.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:37 AM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


The victims are our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters. That should be all it takes to remind us.

Well, yes and no. One should not need a direct family connection to a woman in order to care about how women in general are treated. I understand the sentiment, though, and agree that it may unfortunately be the only way to get some people to catch on to what should be the baseline standard for human behavior.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:56 AM on November 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


Lothario, user, fratboy, john, date rapist, scammer, scrub, playa, don juan, pervert.

It's an interesting essay. People are shamed differently, and most of us have do our primal nudity trained out of us.
posted by ssr_of_V at 11:02 AM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


“I desire, therefore, that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 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.”

See, to me, this reads more like "Don't go around flaunting your wealth with fancy clothes; the best way to look good is to be a good person" as opposed to "Cover yourself up", and is a good example of how "literal" readings of the Bible can be so off the mark of what the verse is actually trying to say.
posted by damayanti at 11:03 AM on November 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I thought that the makeup we wore on our cheeks was meant to simulate a flush of excitement and health rather than a blush of shame.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:08 AM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's meant to be a difference between the excitement and the shame.
posted by maryr at 11:42 AM on November 5, 2014


Cad, bounder, rotter, rogue, heel, seducer, louse, rake, lout, heel, knave.

While male misbehavior can make for fun fiction, the real thing is not as much applauded by other men as some would have us believe. Thus, the words.

On the other hand, Clinton got a major pass, largely I imagine because he's just so darn friendly. Plus he's on the right side of women's issues.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:49 AM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"And I understood then that no matter how many layers I wore, or how much concealer I used to mask the red, or how privately I bathed, it would never be enough."

And so I became numb and unaware. Dissociating from the body and living in the mind. Subtly, passively neglecting the body. Loath to spend time on the nails, the teeth, the hair. The feeding or care or maintenance of the body would be left to reluctant, platonic showers, barely awake. Unruly hair pulled into a knot and nails cut only when they broke or got in the way. Fed in a drive by, drive thru, feed-if-food-happened-to-appear way, not caring or curious how it tasted or felt in the body.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:02 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Predator, pimp, womanizer, manwhore. Scoundrel, scumbag, cheater, douche. The article made me think of a strange little movie I watched this year: Crystal Fairy and the Magic Cactus. Both seem to be thinking about little embers of innocence that get carried along into adulthood, by protection or other means.
posted by ssr_of_V at 12:09 PM on November 5, 2014


Lothario, user, fratboy, john, date rapist, scammer, scrub, playa, don juan, pervert.
Cad, bounder, rotter, rogue, heel, seducer, louse, rake, lout, heel, knave.

Knave? For real? When was the last time someone called you a knave, c. 1350?

I will admit that I've never heard the terms "bounder" or "rotter" in my life, so I have no idea if they're commonly wielded slurs, but I'll take the first set point by point: A lothario is a man whose chief interest is seducing women. A user is a person who has treated another person poorly, who has taken something from them. A frat boy is a guy who belongs to a frat. A john is a man who solicits prostitutes. A date rapist is, well, a date rapist. A scammer is a dishonest person, someone who rips you off for money or goods or anything, really. Playa and Don Juan are both commonly used as compliments, a la "ladies' man." Pervert refers to a person who is considered to be sexually deviant.

None of these terms are screamed out car windows, none of them are used by disapproving parents, none of them are used in reference to the perception that a man is worthless or filthy because he has ever voluntarily had sex, worn "too much" makeup, or worn "revealing" clothing. Like, does anyone seriously believe that a man is going to be called a lothario, rake, or date rapist because he wore a Speedo to the beach? Because let me tell you, if I wear a bikini* and head out there to join him -- no, scratch that. I can barely head out the door in my drab, boxy business casual get-up without some dude or another taking it upon himself to call me a slut.

And when has "john" ever been used to refer to guys who are just going about their business and not, like, actively soliciting prostitutes? In what universe are these terms considered remotely equivalent or afforded even a tenth of the weight and power as skank, hussy, tramp, or loose? Can I move there? Because in the world I live in, there is absolutely no kind of attire or behavior that a woman can adopt that will reliably inure or insulate her from having these slurs hurled at her just for daring to exist while female-bodied.

While male misbehavior can make for fun fiction, the real thing is not as much applauded by other men as some would have us believe. Thus, the words.

If you've read the article, you'll know that words like slut and whore aren't words for female "misbehavior." They're pretty much just words for female humans. That's the whole point.

* I would rather throw myself off of a very tall building than wear a bikini for any reason
posted by divined by radio at 12:10 PM on November 5, 2014 [25 favorites]


One should not need a direct family connection to a woman in order to care about how women in general are treated.

I believe you misunderstood what I said. I didn't say we had to have a direct connection, only that remembering that our relatives are women should help remind us to protect all women. Reminding is all. Not that we should only care when they are, in fact, connected to us. And I suspect that the number of us who have no women in our lives is vanishingly small.

Or perhaps I am misunderstanding your critique.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:13 PM on November 5, 2014


I will admit that I've never heard the terms "bounder" or "rotter" in my life, so I have no idea if they're commonly wielded slurs

They are Regency-era terms for men who behave scandalously.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:20 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Technically I guess it would go back as far as Georgian.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:22 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


See, to me, this reads more like "Don't go around flaunting your wealth with fancy clothes; the best way to look good is to be a good person" as opposed to "Cover yourself up"

UGH welcome to the eternal schism between the women in my church growing up.

Although, there are many who contend it means both. We actually had a children's "stories with moral lessons" book in which one of the stories was about a little girl who had the vanity to sneakily purchase some lace to sew onto her dress collar without her mother's knowledge, but eventually realized her pride and rebellion and repented.

Yes I am in therapy
posted by celtalitha at 12:25 PM on November 5, 2014


Knave? For real? When was the last time someone called you a knave, c. 1350?

Well, the word "strumpet" is pretty old too.

The word comparison device irked me because it's a weak setup, and after I read the article it still bugged me because it's not illustrative of the quality or subject of the article itself. I've added to the list of words for predatory males pretty much in a spirit of irritation. Those jerks deserve a good telling off and it's not true that they are celebrated instead of despised. I like enumerations for their own sake, but it's hard to do better than the evocative and economical term I used the last time I called someone out for being a sexually disrespectful creep: asshole.

I'm glad that I was irked into reading the article, because the author is up to something better than the "men-called-this, women-called-that for same behavior" essay. It struck me as being about the dysfunctional structures that parents build for their children to protect them while they are too old for child seats and too young for marriage; and what it's like years later to sort through the wreckage of your original innocence after the crash.
posted by ssr_of_V at 12:45 PM on November 5, 2014


Roué.

I think I picked it up from doing crossword puzzles and have only seen it used in novels of a certain era.

Well, the word "strumpet" is pretty old too.

That word is still in use on soap operas.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:49 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I knew a lovely woman who was first chair strumpet for the Philharmonic.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:08 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


I will admit that I've never heard the terms "bounder" or "rotter" in my life

P.G. Wodehouse's characters use them quite a bit (along with "cad" and "knave"), but they're definitely not slurs in the same way as the list from the essay, and how much they're meant to sting depends heavily on the context - your best friend is a "rotter" if he won't lend you five pounds for last call at the pub, but so is the chap who's been your mortal enemy since you were five.

so I have no idea if they're commonly wielded slurs

Commonly wielded in comic novels set in English upper class society surrounding World War 1, anyway . . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 1:24 PM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I called a man a roué and was so immediately understood that he took out an 18th-century pistol and shot me in the crotch for a jackanapes. Post Through The Pain has always been my life philosophy
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:02 PM on November 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


I was once called a slut for refusing to have sex with someone.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:13 PM on November 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


Putting aside the trite fussing over whether there are actually similar words for men as well, this is a good piece. Thanks for posting it!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:40 PM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


All I know is the next time someone tries to argue for a conclusion based on that old (and discredited) chestnut about how the Inuit have 100+ words for snow, I'm positively looking forward to asking them what they think it means that English has so many words concerned with policing women's behavior..
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:49 PM on November 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Thank you for posting it! I like her writing.

I was reminded of my favorite tumblr text post (completely different feel but it points out the silliness of "modesty" stuff we have to deal with):

"Your bra strap is showing" you say
Children begin to scream
Tears are streaming down my face
My parents disown me and sell me to a shady, mustached man for three goats
No one can ever know I wear a bra
posted by koakuma at 6:57 PM on November 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


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