When the Scholar Becomes the Jezebel

Academia can great for a graduate student, but once you voice your opinion against a higher ranking male colleague, it can be uncomfortable and unkind, writes Tamura A. Lomax in the Feminist Wire.

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Some scholars feel that in academia on a college campus, the problems of the outside, "real" world don't exist, but that's not always the case. For Tamura A. Lomax, a post-graduate student who wrote a gutsy critique of a senior male colleague's work, she learned this the hard way. Instead of praise, she writes on the Feminist Wire, she was shunned and demeaned. 

I was punished. I wrote a critical book review essay that spoke my truth as I saw it, regardless. I knew it would cause tension. However, I never imagined fire. To my mind, I was jumping into a game of intellectual hopscotch, just as I'd seen my male colleagues do many times before. Naively, I thought it was my turn. However, I learned quickly that the game of intellectual criticism is not only gendered, but also has psychological, emotional and reputational (and thus, representational) risks—if you are a black woman.

I was a newly minted black feminist scholar of religion ... who critiqued the work of a tenured black male scholar.  Among all other sorts of criticisms re: staying in my lane, people asked, "Are they f---ing?"  Really?!??  I pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at Sigma Chapter at Clark Atlanta University in 1995.  I know full well how to let things that people say about or to me, "roll off my back," and have been known to withstand the harshest of criticisms without even flinching.  However, the idea that my work as a black feminist scholar of religion and black cultural critic was somehow underpinned by some sort of fantastic and unscrupulous sexual liaison between the author and I sent me into a year long, deep depression and almost two years of silence.

I had spent years researching linguistic and representational deployments of the Jezebel trope in scholarship, religion, and popular culture.  I never imagined that I too would be reconfigured and cast with the veil of Jezebel.  How the hell did that happen?!?  I'm a scholar—an academic M.C. (so I thought).

Read more at the Feminist Wire.

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