The Book of Jezebel

An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things


Edited by Anna Holmes

With Kate Harding

With Amanda Hess

Formats and Prices




$19.99 CAD



  1. ebook $14.99 $19.99 CAD
  2. Hardcover $27.00 $30.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 22, 2013. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

From, the popular website for women, comes a must-read encyclopedic guide to pop culture, feminism, fashion, sex, and much more.

Within months of Jezebel’s May 2007 appearance on the new media scene, fans of the blog began referring to themselves as “Jezzies” in comment threads and organizing reader meet-ups in cities all over the world. By 2008, the devotion of the self-appointed Jezzies reached such a fever pitch that the New York Times ran a feature story about them and parody blogs and copycat websites began popping up right and left.

With contributions from the writers and creatives who give the site its distinctive tone and broad influence, The Book of Jezebel is an encyclopedia of everything important to the modern woman. Running the gamut from Abzug, Bella and Baby-sitters Club, The to Xena, Yogurt, and Zits, and filled with entertaining sidebars and arresting images, this is a must-read for the modern woman.


Begin Reading

Table of Contents


Copyright Page

In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at Thank you for your support of the author's rights.



The volume you are about to peruse is a work of fact and opinion. Or perhaps, opinion and fact. Regardless, within these pages you will find over one thousand encyclopedic entries on everything from abortion rights and the beloved YA author Judy Blume to the problematic elitism of Vogue magazine and euphemisms for the word "vagina"—many accompanied by beautiful, provocative photographs, graphics and illustrations. What you will also find: A seemingly pathological obsession with pop culture characters, bodily functions, and political heroines. Mockery of Scott Baio. Pro-choice, feminist politics. A flowchart on how to respond to a marriage proposal. Caterwauling about the patriarchy. And perhaps the most disgusting illustrated taxonomy of clogged pores and pimples ever committed to paper.

You may be thinking: okay, but why? (Also: Ew!) The answer is pretty straightforward: because we thought it might be fun to collect our various observations, fascinations, annoyances, and inspirations into one easy-to-use, attractive-looking volume. Because signing on for a book project of this size and scope always sounds a lot easier in theory than it is in reality. But most importantly, because we love and are in awe of our readers' diversity, intellect, and exuberance.

How to use this book: Buy it. Laugh with it… or at it. Give copies as gifts. React to it. (Unfortunately, due to space limitations and general forgetfulness, some people and subjects are missing altogether; give us your thoughts and suggestions by emailing Most importantly: Enjoy it.




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.

Abramović, Marina (1946–)

Belgrade-born, New York–based performance artist, considered one of the pioneers of the genre. Abramović'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 Abramovićs clothing, writing on her body with lipstick, and scratching her with the rose's thorns; one person aimed the gun at her head. Abramović'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?

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)

Akhmatova, Anna (1889–1966)

Writer, poet. Publicly, Akhmatova wrote on love. Privately, Stalin. Early in her career, Akhmatova established herself as Russia's siren ("lifting his dry hand / He lightly touched the flowers: / 'Tell me how you kiss men.' / And his lusterless eyes / Did not move from my ring"). When Stalin's regime killed her husband, threw her son in a Siberian prison camp, and began obsessively surveilling her every move, she took on the role of Russia's mother. "This woman's absolutely ill, / This woman's absolutely single," she wrote in Requiem, her elegiac condemnation of Stalin's terrors. "Her man is dead, son—in a jail, / Oh, pray for me—a poor female!" Akhmatova distributed the poem orally among fellow artists, who ritualistically memorized the text before destroying any copies. Meanwhile, she churned out written texts in praise of the regime, hoping it would help her free her son. When he was free, and Stalin dead, she published Requiem in her native USSR.

Albanian sworn virgins

Also known as "Burrnesha" or "Virginesha," women who are able to avoid arranged marriages, wear men's clothing, own and inherit property, smoke, and participate in business where all of the above have historically been prohibited (especially in remote mountain communities of northern Albania), all in exchange for a promise of lifelong celibacy. It's estimated that there are fewer than forty Burrnesha in existence today. (Related: Alice Munro's short story "The Albanian Virgin" is an excellent read.)

Albright, Madeleine (1937–)

First female secretary of state of the United States (1997–2001). Czech-born Wellesley grad and Columbia PhD. Fluent or damn close in six languages. Mother. Author. Gilmore Girls guest star. Collector of fancy brooches. Capable of leg-pressing four hundred pounds at age sixty-nine.

Alcott, Louisa May (1832–1888)

Writer of books including the much-beloved Little Women. Alcott based the novel's headstrong Jo March on herself. In real life, the author's upbringing was more colorful: her father, Bronson Alcott, was a noted transcendentalist and impractical crank who dragged the family between ill-fated utopian communities and instilled an appreciation for progressive causes. (The Alcotts housed a fugitive slave for a week during Louisa's early adolesence.) It's no wonder, then, that her narratives championed independent women. One nineteenth-century critic called her oeuvre, which featured freethinkers and early feminist themes, "among the decided 'signs of the times.' " Alcott's novels were major bestsellers, yes, but her heroines—including progressive heiress Rose Campbell and independent music teacher Polly Milton—did more than make money: they created a new model for young women. As Alcott famously wrote in her childhood journal, "I want to do something splendid… Something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead… I think I shall write books."

Alexander, Jane (1939–)

Actor (The Great White Hope, All the President's Men, Kramer vs. Kramer), writer, producer, former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ali, Laylah (1968–)

American artist best known for her Greenheads paintings, which feature androgynous figures that wouldn't be out of place in a comic book.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

1865 novel by Lewis Carroll starring a seven-year-old girl who escapes her dull seventh birthday party by falling down a rabbit hole into a world of infinite roles, including a psychedelic obstacle course of womanhood, where she confronts the forces of objectification, claustrophobia, body dysmorphia, and food issues.

Allen, Debbie (1950–)

Actress, choreographer, director, dancer, and sister to The Cosby Show's Phylicia Rashad. Alongside the dubious honor of being the only performer to appear in all three versions of Fame ("You got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying—in sweat!"), Allen has won ten NAACP Image Awards and three Emmys, has released one solo album, directed an all African American production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, created choreography for five Academy Awards shows plus every recording artist whose moves you tried to copy as a kid, and served as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance. Also the founder of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in L.A. and has made major contributions to Paula Abdul's career. (See also HUXTABLE, CLAIR)

Allen, Joan (1956–)

American actress. In the 2000 film The Contender, for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, Allen's vice presidential candidate Senator Laine Hanson faces pundits who say that "the people of this nation can stomach quite a bit. But the one thing they can't stomach is the image of a vice president with a mouthful of cock." She proves them wrong.

Allende, Isabel (1942–)

Chilean American author of nineteen books (The House of the Spirits, Daughter of Fortune), philanthropist, and international speaker on women's rights and politics. "In reality," she writes, "the most important things about my life happened in the secret chambers of my heart and have no place in a biography." All right, then.

Alley, Kirstie (1951–)

American actress who burst onto the scene as the superhot and feisty Rebecca Howe on Cheers back in the day, making us forget all about that prissy Shelly Long. Also, she was married to a Hardy Boy, which: awesome. Then, in some order, there was Look Who's Talking and addiction and Scientology and the aging process, and at some point she gained weight, so then there was Fat Actress—terribly promising; terribly disappointing. Since then she's alternated between losing weight for money and gracing tabloid covers after the inevitable regain.


Mind-bogglingly crowded entertainment and style website for teen girls that comes with a convenient built-in shop hocking cute, trendy, semidisposable clothing and accessories. Or wait, is it more of a shop with a built-in website? Tough to say! Especially when you're being assaulted by Kotex ads, horoscopes, quizzes, and AlloyTV fashion advice—on autoplay, natch—all at once. Points for carrying some clothes up to a junior size 3X, though.


American women's magazine that provides crucial information on the beauty products ladies must use to make themselves look presentable. Roundly mocked in June 2008 for an illustrated step-by-step guide to taking a shower, which taught millions of American women how to use that big spigot in their bathrooms.

Almodóvar, Pedro (1949–)

Spanish screenwriter and filmmaker for whom theatricality replaces subtext to explain intricate intersections of sexuality, death, and identity. Women are nearly always central—Almodóvar has said they are "more spectacular as dramatic subjects, they have a greater range of registers"—but gender is never stable or fixed in his films. Performance is the one constant; in the words of Agrado in Almodóvar's most acclaimed film, Todo sobre mi madre


On Sale
Oct 22, 2013
Page Count
304 pages