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The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters Kindle Edition
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These questions are examined through the lens of five historical queens, all of whom had the term thrown at them, both by contemporaries and later historians: Jezebel, Kleopatra VII, Anne Boleyn, Katheryn Howard, and Catherine the Great. Some of these figures I already knew a fair bit about – Kleopatra and Anne Boleyn – but others are not my era of expertise – Jezebel, Catherine the Great. Without exception however, Kramer presents a fascinating insight into the lives of each of them, deconstructing the myths around them and presenting a clear picture of what happened and why they were denigrated. Interwoven amongst the examination of the lives of these five historical personages, Kramer links their specific cases back to what is going on in the here and now, and the weird sociocultural behaviours we’ve picked up over the centuries that are still dictating our “norms” today.
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Beginning with Jezebel, that glittering princess of Tyre, priestess of Baal and wife to King Ahab, we see how the name of harlot can be hung on a. woman who is a faithful wife. The "harlotry" for which she was attacked was not lewd sexuality, but the worship of the wrong God, and threatening the agenda of important men. Poor Jezebel came to a sad end and so did several of the royal ladies featured in this book.
Anne Boleyn and her feckless cousin Catherine Howard are prominent victims of this shaming tactic. Both cousins fell to political agendas rather than true sexual misconduct, but their falls were fatal nonetheless. A much later case was Catherine the Great, Tsarina of Russia. A shrewd politician, a gifted writer, supporter of the arts and science, a progressive ruler and yet, remembered only for her supposed voracious sexual appetites.
Kramer gives us a peek into the backgrounds of our libelled ladies and weighs the smears against the hard evidence of their known behavior. Not surprisingly, the tacky accusations are mostly fictional. Kramer gives a cogent argument as to why our societies have been so ready to fall for the fiction and ignore reality. She examines the factors that make sexual sins so staining and degrading for women, while being trivial for men.
The history is fascinating and Kramer writes it in a breezy, almost chatty fashion. Her prose pulls you along through the stories as well as good historical fiction does.
Any lover of history should just eat this up. Any feminist should give this book serious attention. The issues examined here may be oldies, but they are not going away. I gave it five stars for its relevance to modern issues, the clear, lucid writing style and the continuing fascination of its subjects