Posts Tagged ‘Jewesses’

Stereotyping Jews, Female and Otherwise

December 30, 2009

Over the OWU holiday break, I’ve had a number of occasions to think about being and appearing Jewish in the midwest.  As I’ve written in recent posts, the Chanukah/Christmas season routinely prompts me towards identity reflection.  Events on campus during finals week had me playing the role of BIG Jew on campus more fiercely than I have before.  And, most recently, I’ve been examining our cultural condition in relation to two Internet videos that have kept Jewish bloggers’ fingers flying through the Christmas holiday.

The first, “Coasties” was conceived by two male students at The University of Wisconsin.  The title makes reference to a term used by college students in the midwest to denote students from one of the coasts (or suburban Chicago).  The term originated as a geographic marker, but through its use a subtext emerged which suggests coasties come from economically privileged families, sometimes, as the song suggests, Jewish families.

A line from the song declares: “She a coastie, always blowin‘ daddy’s money, you a coastie, my east coast Jewish honey.”  Any Jewish coastie will quickly recognize this as code for JAP, or Jewish American Princess.  When I was growing up, being called a JAP was an insult, a sign that people thought you were spoiled and obnoxious.  Today, the term has been appropriated by some Jewish girls, like nigger in African-American circles, as a badge of honor.  (See: Zazzle)  Are there any risks of such behavior?

Heeb Magazine suggests “…the majority of the [University of Wisconsin] student body, hailing from the rural Midwest, have little or no direct exposure to Jews in their upbringing and sadly, their bite-sized understanding of our culture gets boiled down to a pair of fuzzy boots and a Lawng Aylind accent.”  In other words, when people’s first and most frequent exposure to Jews comes in the form of cultural stereotypes and jokes, often voiced by Jews themselves, that is all people think of when they think of our people.

LandlineTV’s video “The Making of Rachel and the Dragon,” which also came out last week, pokes fun at Jewish American Princesses directly.  The video depicts Jewish women as bored and judgmental.  It refers to actors and actresses whose careers have been built on comical and self-mocking brands of Jewishness, including Sarah Silverman, Larry David, and Fran Drescher.

The song and video seem innocuous jokes to some, anti-semitic slurs to others.  I wonder, where is the line and who draws it?  Have you ever made a joke about Jews with your Jewish or non-Jewish friends?  How did it play?  How did you feel after?  What damage do we, as Jews, do to ourselves by recylcing stereotypical jokes about Jewish cultural and behaviors?  If our audience isn’t familiar enough with the culture to get the joke from the inside out, are we contributing to our own condemnation?


Celebrating Modern Day Esthers

March 6, 2009

Hello Everyone,

While we will not be together for Purim which falls on March 10th this year, I want to wish you all a Hag Sameach (Happy Holiday) and give you something to think about and, perhaps, bring home to your families.

While most of us fondly, and easily, recall Purim costume parties and carnivals, we may not be as familiar with the fast that leads up to the fun.  Ta’anit Esther, or The Fast of Esther, is sometimes referred to as The Jewish Day for Justice because the story of Esther inspires us “to be mindful of what we must do and empower ourselves to make change in the world.”

Before we head off to Megillah readings and feasts of Hamantaschen, I hope we might take a moment to exchange some e-thoughts on Modern Day Esthers, “Women who speak out because they know it is the right thing to do; who identify suffering and bring it to the public eye; who commit to awareness and education.”  Folks like, playright Eve Ensler, EcoFeminist Vandana Shiva, Washington, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and Oprah.

Please “Reply All” with your honorarium (a paragraph and photo or a link to an article) of sheroes who are making a difference in the world today – at OWU, across the United States, and around the world.

Shavuah Tov,