It’s pretty annoying when someone writes something anti-Semitic. But imagine how much more annoying it is when it’s someone you like. Or liked. Or someone you kinda, sorta considered a kindred spirit. Like, if you met, you always figured you’d be, if not friends, at least people who could make each other laugh over a drink or three.
Lena Dunham was that person for me. I enjoy watching the solipsistic narcissism of “Girls.” The show allows me to be grateful that I am old and not wearing babydoll dresses with fishnet stockings in some crappy bar in Bushwick. She’s a funny person and I have always enjoyed her writing–at the risk of sounding like an old complainy codger writing in to a newspaper–until now.
In The New Yorker, of all places, is Lena (and yeah, I can call her Lena)’s piece entitled, “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz.” It’s a list of “funny” things, where you’re not supposed to be able to tell if she’s talking about her dog or her Jewish boyfriend.
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You know, funny things like “He doesn’t tip. And he never brings his wallet anywhere.” Or “I feel that he is judgmental about the food I serve him. When I make something from scratch, he doesn’t want to eat it, but he also rejects most storebought dinners. This is because he comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates. As a result of this dynamic, he expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life, and anything less than that makes him whiny and distant.”
To put it in language the usually crass Lena will understand: What. The. Fuck??
Offensive Piece or Humorous? My Answers To The Quiz:
1. I suppose Lena Dunham feels that she has some sort of humor EZ Pass, and The New Yorker has indulged her in that thinking. You know, because apparently Jews are a group you can make fun of and it is deemed kinda intellectual and funny to do so. If you take issue with what I’m saying, then do me a favor and imagine this same essay entitled, “Dog or Black Boyfriend? A Quiz.” Much easier to imagine that essay running in a Ku Klux Klan newsletter than The New Yorker, am I right? But somehow, a piece like this running in The New Yorker in 2015 is supposed to be OK with us.
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2. There are many people who seem to believe that if you are from New York and consider yourself “culturally Jewish,” then you can say whatever you want about Jewish people, no matter how derogatory, with impunity. Because you’re, like, basically Jewish, dude! Like, The New Yorker can print stuff like this because, you know, The New Yorker reader, chances are, is probably Jewish. Or at the very least, The New Yorker reader is someone who knows the difference between lox and nova, which is like TOTALLY THE SAME THING as being Jewish. Moreover, if you are someone who finds these kinds of things offensive, you’re accused of being a stick in the mud, or whatever the cool and hip pejorative term for such a weak and whiny wimp is.
3. Well, then color me a stick in the mud, because check it: When someone compares people of my ethnicity, religion, or “culture” to dogs? THEY ARE BEING AN ASSHOLE. And a bigot. And a huge, huge jerk. And that’s even if they are “cool” and “usually pretty funny” and they “totally love Russ and Daughters and whitefish and Nora Ephron and Woody Allen.” Sorry–none of those things give you a “Get Out Of Being An Asshole Free” card.
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4. To dehumanize people, one of the first steps is to call them non-people or animals. The whole “Jew and Dog” thing, in my mind, is pretty played out. But Lena, you’re not the first one to think that the two should be addressed in the same piece, or equated to one another. You don’t even have to go as far back in time as Nazi Germany to find people equating Jewish people to dogs. I mean, look at this nice café in Belgium just last year that posted a sign saying, “Dogs are allowed in this establishment, but Jews are not, under any circumstances.” Also last year, a Turkish café in Istanbul posted a sign saying “Jew-dogs” are banned from entering. So all around the world, there are not-so-nice people who equate Jews and dogs. Welcome to their ranks, Lena. Are you proud to be there?
5. Let’s say equating a Jewish boyfriend–not a boyfriend, but a Jewish boyfriend–with a dog doesn’t offend you. Lena’s characterization of a Jewish boyfriend, then–the crux from which the humor in this piece is supposed to derive–should. Basically, the boyfriend of whom she paints a picture is a weak, cheap, complaining, ungrateful, whiny jerk. To say that these qualities are obviously Jewish–and doglike?–offends me deeply.
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6. I have two boys who are kind, compassionate people. They would never think of calling a woman a “bitch,” because that would be equating a woman to a dog, and that would be profoundly, profoundly offensive. Even though they’re just in elementary school, they already know that when you respect people–regardless of gender, faith, or ethnicity–you just don’t equate them to animals in order to cut them down.
Think about it.