Jezebel: The woman in the lyrics

Jezebel: The woman in the lyrics

Date: June 1, 2011
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A song called “Jezebel” by South African musician Professor hit South African airwaves in 2010 and remains a hot hit in entertainment joints throughout the country and beyond. A quick internet search shows that the song was uploaded on YouTube on 22 September 2010 and has since been viewed 311 969 times, with 476 fans “liking” the song and just 12 giving it a thumbs down. This demonstrates the song’s popularity on social media.

In February 2011, I had the opportunity to visit the National University of Lesotho to facilitate a gender and media literacy course with media students. Some students were dozing off from information overload but when I asked one simple question – do they know the song? -they woke up straight away. The students even began to hum and dance.

I asked them what the song said and they translated for me. They told me the song basically talked about Jezebel, who is a loose woman and goes out with a certain calibre of men. In most instances, she dates disc jockeys. The song implies that Jezebel is a temptress and has disappointed her partner.

My next question was what the female students thought about the song. They said it was just a classic song that they enjoyed. In fact, they had no words to describe how much they enjoyed it. The male students even added that the female students were charmed by Professor’s deep singing voice. Did the girls not start blushing!

Being the fair teacher, I asked the male students what they thought about the song. They said they liked the beat more than anything else.

If I may take you back to biblical times, Jezebel was wife of King Ahab. She became associated with false prophets and sex workers. She is also described as a witch who endures.

Nigerian-born singer Sade Adu also once recorded a song titled Jezebel about a girl who knows how to get what she wants. The two Jezebel songs are thus somewhat of a tribute to the biblical character of Jezebel.

However, the song lyrics are sexist, and they objectify and attempt to subjugate women. Women are portrayed as objects that use their sexual prowess to lure men. Here is a case of gender politics in South African house music. The lyrics perpetuate stereotypes that women choose to go out with rich men and also hop from one relationship to the next. Yet choosing who to enter into a relationship with, and at what point, is a matter of choice.

We also see the tensions between feminism and artistic creation in society. Whilst gender activists are attempting to liberate women, there are socialisation forces at work that are working against that agenda. The power of the media in moulding attitudes cannot be underestimated. That said, when men are portrayed as having lots of relationships with different women it’s portrayed as a good thing, with women it means they are promiscuous or loose.

Artists and music producers should also be empowered with gender and media literacy tools that can help them create music that advances the rights of women and men. They should create music that demonstrates the use of progressive language.

It is important for media consumers to be media literate and critically engage with the messages that are channelled to them every day. As we continued the discussion with the media students in Lesotho, they unanimously agreed that the lyrics of the song Jezebel represented women in an unfair way and that that the language is not progressive in terms of women’s empowerment. And we all had to agree that although the song is nice to dance to, the lyrics are regressive.

5 thoughts on “Jezebel: The woman in the lyrics”

sassy aka pt says:

kkkkkkkkkkkkkk what a girl jezebel uyabahlanyisa

Trizzie03 says:

Wow.. You guys really missed her point… Yes the song does relate to the Bible… But it’s more of how the urban/blk, woman (and this just a select few) view the (how do I get that $$$ as fast as possible ) VS the (Who puts family values first..)

Ernesto says:

The students who were interviewed should really study more. Now, it happens that Sade is polítically incorrect! Sade, according to them, gives an idea that women are objects.
Jezebel definition: an immoral woman who deceives people in order to get what she wants.
Sade sings about Jezebel, not Maria.
The problem is the frivolous way in which youngsters express their ideas nowadays. Everything displeases them. Poor unresiliant and full of frustrations. Stop playing video games and read a little.

Fabio says:

Who can actually troll after listening such a great song , the live 2011 version is marvelous .

SADE that being.

Likopo says:

Hi, I am reading a paper at the University of Stellenbosch about Jezebel at a feminist conference. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Pretoria in Old Testament studies and I find this particularly interesting and close to what I am arguing. Can we engage further on this?

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