The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things

The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455502806
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 10/22/2013
Edition description: Illustrate
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,225,891
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Anna Holmes is an award-winning NYC-based editor, writer and the creator of She has contributed to numerous publications including the Washington Post, Glamour, Entertainment Weekly, Salon, the New Yorker online, and the New York Times, where she is currently a columnist for the Sunday Book Review. Her first book, Hell Hath No Fury: Women's Letters From the End of the Affair, was published in 2002 and she has appeared on such media outlets as NPR's "All Things Considered" and "The Takeaway," NBC's "The Today Show" and CNN's "Reliable Sources." Her Twitter feed (@AnnaHolmes) was named one of the 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013 by Time Magazine.

Read an Excerpt

The Book of Jezebel

An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things

By Anna Holmes

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2013 Anna Holmes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4555-0280-6



Aaliyah (1979–2001)

Talented nineties R&B singer who died at the age of twenty-two in a particularly celebrity way after her plane crashed coming back from a music video shoot in the Bahamas because it was weighted down with luggage. Her legacy lives on through the work of contemporaries like Missy Elliott and her producer Timbaland, in scandalous Drake remixes, and in the memory of her brief, illicit, and annulled marriage to R. Kelly (and the song "Age Ain't Nothing But A Number," which he wrote and she recorded).

Abakanowicz, Magdalena (1930–)

Polish-born sculptor who spent much of her early life under Soviet domination and learned to make do with the materials she could cobble together. In the 1960s, Abakanowicz created three-dimensional Abakans forms with materials she wove herself. In the eighties, she moved on to bronze, stone, wood, and iron sculptures. Her work is installed around the world. In 2006, Agora, a large permanent project for Chicago's Grant Park consisting of more than a hundred nine-foot-tall iron cast figures, was installed.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Venerable retailer of safari gear loved by Theodore Roosevelt that was acquired and transformed in 1988 by Ohio-based Limited Brands into a suburban prep staple known as much for its cologne-drenched mall stores and shirtless catalog models as for its questionable employee "look policy" and its history of releasing sexist and racist T-shirts. Nineties boy band LFO once sang the refrain "I like girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch," but when the company began selling T-shirts with slogans such as "Show the Twins" and "Who Needs Brains When You Have These?," it was hard not to believe the store felt the same way about its female customers.


A chemical agent or drug used to terminate a pregnancy, usually either by hormonally inducing a miscarriage, by activating contractions, or by some combination of the two. Mifepristone, the drug commonly known as RU-486, works hormonally; misoprostol (Cytotec) and most early abortifacients like ergot and cotton root bark promote contractions and are also used during childbirth for that reason. More than a century before the French chemist Georges Teutsch synthesized mifepristone, cotton root and ergot were often advertised as "French renovating pills." The term abortifacient is also regularly and deliberately misused by right-wingers to describe the "morning-after pill," Plan B, which is a contraceptive.


A safe and legal way to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Abramovi?, Marina (1946–)

Belgrade-born, New York–based performance artist, considered one of the pioneers of the genre. Abramovic's work revolves around the human body, particularly its physical limits and tolerance for pain: she's particularly well known for a six-hour 1974 performance, Rhythm 0, during which she provided the gallery audience with seventy-two objects—including a gun and a bullet, a rose, a scalpel, a whip, and honey—that they were permitted to use on her body in any way they chose. Video of the work shows gallery-goers removing Abramovic clothing, writing on her body with lipstick, and scratching her with the rose's thorns; one person aimed the gun at her head. Abramovic's 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art brought her more acclaim for her piece The Artist Is Present, in which she sat on a wooden chair across from a member of the public every day for three months. The piece was enormously popular—celebrities like Björk, James Franco, and Sharon Stone even attended—with many moved to tears.

Abramson, Jill (1954–)

The first-ever female to become executive editor of the New York Times. Before she took over the position in 2011, she gained experience (and respect) by weathering some of the paper's most trying times—including the Jayson Blair and Judith Miller scandals—as Washington bureau chief and managing editor. Has also written a book about raising a puppy.

Absolutely Fabulous

British comedy series also known as Ab Fab that ran from 1992 to 1995 starring Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders, who also created it. Back in the early nineties, the boozy, pill-popping, acid-tongued, credit-wrecking, gleefully narcissistic exploits of publicist Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and fashion editor Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) were as shocking as they were hilarious. Not to mention, you'll notice that on that list of current envelope pushers, you don't see any revolving around two middle-aged women and their mostly female comrades. More than twenty years later, there is still, truly, no other show like it—which is kind of depressing if you think about it. Where are our pills?


Purposely refraining from having sex, often because of religious objections to premarital sex and/or in an effort to avoid pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Though eliminating all contact with another person's genitals and bodily fluids is a fully effective, if frustrating, method for avoiding pregnancy and all STIs, many people nonetheless consider themselves abstinent if they only avoid vaginal penetration. (This method of abstinence, though modeled by Bill Clinton, can still transmit infections or, more rarely, viable sperm to the vagina.) Despite the fact that full, informed abstinence is increasingly rare, religious conservatives have fought for years to make it the focus of sex ed in primary and secondary schools, though this has been correlated with higher rates of teen pregnancy and STIs.

Abzug, Bella Savitsky (1920–1998)

Civil rights lawyer, feminist, peace activist, three-term congresswoman, and famous hat-wearer. A first-generation American born in the Bronx to Russian Jewish immigrants and a graduate of Hunter College and Columbia Law School, Abzug first entered politics when she raised money for the Jewish National Fund by making speeches in New York subway stations. Abzug began her law practice with cases supporting "bypassed peoples," represented Willie McGee in his appeals to the Supreme Court after his conviction for raping a white woman in Mississippi in a racially motivated trial, and took on cases of McCarthyite accusations of citizens. In 1961, Abzug and a group of friends and colleagues founded Women Strike for Peace, which advocated for a ban on nuclear testing, an end to the Vietnam War, and Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign. In 1970, she jumped into the political fray herself, primarying against Leonard Farbstein, the longtime Democratic representative of New York's Nineteenth Congressional District. Abzug rallied her supporters under the slogan "This woman's place is in the house ... the House of Representatives!" and, after her win, her uncompromising advocacy (on issues including Vietnam, child-care services for working women, her introduction of the Equality Act of 1974, and the first federal gay rights bill) led Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott to declare Abzug "the only man in the House." Other criticisms were similarly sexist: Norman Mailer famously wrote that her voice could "boil the fat off a taxicab driver's neck."

Accused, The

Unsparing 1988 drama based on the real-life case of Cheryl Araujo, starring Jodie Foster as the victim of a brutal gang rape who discovers and cultivates her own inner strength and sense of empowerment as the criminal trial against her attackers commences. Though the film was conceived and produced by capital-H Hollywood—whose idea of justice for rape victims oscillates between straight-up revenge (The Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave) and a stage on which white-guy defenders can strut their righteous stuff (A Time to Kill)—its (male) director and screenwriter were able to create a narrative that skewers ye olde "She Was Asking for It" myth.

Acker, Kathy (1947–1997)

American postmodern novelist who was tattooed and sex-positive by the late 1970s, before being tattooed and sex-positive was a big thing. Her 1984 book Blood and Guts in High School, which arguably presaged the LiveJournal style, concerned a girl named Janey Smith who is sold into prostitution by her father. Acker, said British novelist Michael Bracewell approvingly, was a courageous risk-taker as a writer, a purveyor of "a kind of reckless give-a-shit determination to be contrary—even when the celebrity and applause with which her work had first been greeted had long since died down." Others were not so kind. David Foster Wallace panned her early books in the Harvard Review, accusing her work of having too much of an "abstract and cerebral resonance" and no heart, which is just what some dudes would say, isn't it?


The curse of the hormonal teenager and retroactive blessing of the less-wrinkly old person.

A cups

Small-size breasts, commonly defined by a half- to one-inch difference in the circumference around a woman's actual breasts and that around her upper chest. For some, these mini mammaries are the locus of a certain amount of angst, so persistent and loud is the ambient culture's demand for breasts that are perky, symmetrical, and big. For others, A cups come with certain advantages, like finding clothing that fits well—most labels' pattern blocks aren't designed with larger breasts in mind—and ease of use while jogging. Those who really are gunning for president of the Itty-Bitty Titty Committee may even realize their busts are too modestly sized to benefit from bras at all. Freedom!


Inchoately sexed mud-person. Seriously. In the second account in Genesis of the creation of humanity, 'adham ("earth creature") is the human progenitor made out of dirt and divine breath. It is out of 'adham that both man and woman are taken, by being separated into sexate humanity, so the whole "first man, then woman" thing doesn't exactly hold up. Phyllis Trible, feminist biblical scholar and general superstar, wrote a watershed 1973 article about this, causing those who argue for male supremacy based on primordial male precedence to look even more daft than they did previously. Of course, then there's the fossil record, but whatevs.

Adams, Abigail (1744–1818)

The baller behind President John Adams who was the real brains behind the American Revolution, Abigail Adams also wrote a good letter, especially when she famously told husband John to get his shit together while writing the Constitution and "remember the ladies." In the made-for-TV movie 1776, her husband was played by Mr. Feeny (William Daniels) from Boy Meets World.

Adams, Carol J. (1951–)

Author and activist whose 1990 book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory linked carnivorism to patriarchy by highlighting sexual imagery in meat advertising and who was mocked a bit at the time. A little bit militant about the necessity of being a vegetarian in order to be properly antisexist. Hates PETA. (See also Gaga, Lady; Peta)

Adam's Rib

1949 film about married lawyers (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) who oppose each other in court over a case involving a married woman accused of shooting her husband. Its delightful subversion of traditional gender roles earned the movie a spot on AFI's list of 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time. (See Hepburn, Katharine)

Addams, Jane (1860–1935)

Philosopher, activist, and suffragette who, alongside Theodore Roosevelt, was one of the most prolific reformers of the Progressive Era. The first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. With Ellen Gates Starr, Addams founded Chicago's Hull House—America's first settlement house—in 1889. It eventually became a facility where women in need could live, take night classes, cultivate hobbies, and care for their children. At its peak, the settlement house was also a center for philanthropy where women would research and tackle social issues such as overcrowding, children's illiteracy, and disease. In 1910, Addams became the first female recipient of an honorary degree awarded by Yale University. In 1915, she was elected national chairman of the Women's Peace Party and, that same year, elected president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.


Miracle drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy that enables users to sit at their desks getting Tiger Mom–approved quantities of work accomplished and losing five to ten pounds at the same time. (So long as they don't mind the accompanying hand tremors, dramatic gum erosion, sometime compulsion to masturbate, occasional bloody shits, hopeless addiction, and moderate to severe acne eruptions on highly improbable areas of the body, like eyelids.)


Formal process of becoming parent to a child not biologically your own. If you're pregnant and cannot raise the child yourself, antichoicers would have you believe this is a relatively easy process and a morally superior alternative to abortion, even though it means enduring forty weeks of pregnancy, labor, and any complications that might arise from those, then handing the baby over to strangers while you're physically exhausted and maximally hormonal.


Woman with a love of travel and a curiosity about the world. To men, an unscrupulous seeker of wealth, social position, and, most threateningly, opportunity, usually by means of sexual wiles; to unsympathetic women, a gender traitor; to the rest of us, a rebel and sometimes pioneer. Gold diggers are distinct from adventuresses in that, for the former, financial security is the point, while for the latter it's a temporary respite. "What more am I, when every act of my life is a venture? What else am I, when adventure or misadventure form the whole ensemble of my existence?" wrote the anonymous author of "My Experiences as an Adventuress" in the 1888 July–December edition of Lippincott's Monthly magazine. "The ordinary adventuress adventures to gain by others' loss. An extraordinary adventuress, such as I am, adventures to benefit herself in spite of fate and to nobody's loss save the waste of prophecy to the knowing ones who declare she will yet come to grief." Famous adventuresses include literary actress Irene Adler, lady pirate Anne Bonney, the multicareered Moll Flanders, and aviatrix Beryl Markham. (See also Earhart, Amelia; Perón, Eva)


1. Simple means of informing the public about goods and services that has become a relentless global flood of symbols of commercialization so pervasive that it is now part of our culture's entertainment. 2. Industry in which Don Draper, Peggy Olson, and most of the Mad Men cast toil. 3. Unavoidable media constructed to make you feel so bad about yourself you'll have to buy something you don't need.

age of consent

More or less self-explanatory concept but one that apparently confuses and concerns a certain kind of man because he "can't help it" if he is attracted to "younger women." (Look at that poor Polanski fellow, after all, entrapped by the cleverness of a thirteen-year-old!)


Disease of the human immune system. Affects 15.9 million women around the world, most in sub-Saharan Africa. Very much misunderstood: in Botswana, one minister of health publicly blamed women for its spread, and a US study found that 59 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with an HIV-positive female child-care provider.


Apparel detailing popular in the 1980s among young women who embellished pieces of clothing—usually tops—with swirly script lettering, unicorns and palm trees and names of lovers whose relationships rarely lasted longer than the fabric on which they were immortalized. (For airbrushing of photographs, see Photoshop; Photoshop of Horrors)


Excerpted from The Book of Jezebel by Anna Holmes. Copyright © 2013 Anna Holmes. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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