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Marilyn Yarbrough with Crystal Bennett

 

Excerpted from Marilyn Yarbrough with Crystal Bennett, Cassandra and the "Sistahs": the Peculiar Treatment of African American Women in the Myth of Women as Liars Journal of Gender, Race and Justice 626-657, 634-655 (Spring 2000)(254 footnotes omitted)

 

According to historians and sociologists, the stereotypes of African American women predate their arrival in America. In the Old Testament, Jezebel was a prostitute, a loose woman, who caused Elijah to be exiled. Since that representation, though for reasons that cannot be laid totally at the Bible's door, African American women have been objectified, not just as "other," but as objects to be tamed and possessed. As women, they were expected to be servile and obedient. As African American women, they were expected to be servile, lusty and obedient. As powerless African American women, they were to be servile, lusty, obedient and available.

The Cassandra myth is often referred to as a simple tale of a mortal woman refusing the advances of a god and suffering the consequences: a clear vision of the future in which no one would believe. The fall of Troy, her rape by Ajax, and her presentation to Agamemnon as a prize followed. Further, her return to Greece with Agamemnon and his failure to believe her when she warned him of danger, led to their eventual murders by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

A fascinating 1979 "autobiography" of Cassandra purports to allow her an opportunity to "tell" her story. In her notes before the text, the author refers to Cassandra's conviction that the fall of Troy would be the beginning of "the social demotion of women for centuries to come" as "an interpretation of historical findings and their interpreters." How prophetic!...

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