Dear Bintel Brief:
My 18-year-old daughter is applying to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. We are Jewish and I understand that approximately 14% of the university’s roughly 30,000 undergraduate students are Jewish.
Our daughter is not a Jewish American Princess. However, she does don some of the stereotypical trappings: Ugg boots and North Face outerwear.
I read on the Internet that the University of Wisconsin students are using a new slang word, “Coastie” It represents a wealthy, Jewish out-of-state student who wears East Coast fashion. I dislike thi social label. There’s nothing funny about these putdowns of Jewish women.
Should I suggest that my daughter apply elsewhere? My choice: Brandeis.
WORRIED JEWISH MOTHER
Dear Mom: The University of Wisconsin is 14% Jewish?! Seriously? You do realize, of course, that that number is seven times higher than the national average, meaning that if your daughter is lucky enough to gain acceptance and go to Madison, she’s practically making aliya. But we want to address your concern about the “coastie” question and whether this is implied antisemitism in a scholarly way, so we watched the video on YouTube and read the Wikipedia entry to get into a rabbinical frame of mind. According to the Wiki, here’s the “official” definition of “coastie/coasties”: “The term… [is] used in Midwestern U.S. universities to denote students who come from outside of the region, mainly from the East or West coast.” Okay, so far so good, just sounds like regional pride to us. (Though why anyone would be proud of being an “in-statey,” we’re not sure…) But in the song and video, “What’s a Coastie?”, the association to Jewish women is made more apparent, particularly in the lyrics, “What’s a coastie? Black tights all day. What’s a coastie? Starbucks, big shades. What’s a coastie? Always blowing Daddy’s money. What’s a coastie? My East Coast Jewish honey.” We have to admit… it made us laugh, particularly when, in an attempt to illustrate the point, the video flashed a picture of a pretty-looking Britney Spears wearing big sunglasses and carrying a grande frappuccino, making us think the musicians didn’t quite get all nuances down. The song goes on to describe the look of a particular type of fashion victim: a young lady in Ugg Boots, a V-Neck T-shirt and North Face apparel, carrying a big purse and holding a BlackBerry to her ear. You’ve seen this girl. We all have. Whether or not she’s a “princess,” she is, at the very least, a walking cliché. And pointing out ridiculous behaviors, mannerisms and fashion is what satire’s all about. (See: Seinfeld, Jerry; Roth, Philip; Allen, Woody; Brooks, Mel; Ceasar, Sid, etc., etc., etc.) Recall the lyrics of Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song: “So many Jews are in show biz — Tom Cruise isn’t, but I heard his agent is.” Ultimately we believe the “Coastie” song is similarly innocuous parody, and sings the praises of these hot “exotic” women, something we think Jewish men should do more of on a regular basis as well. So should your daughter apply elsewhere? If she wants to, then yes, absolutely. But should she apply to Brandeis because it’ll make you feel more comfortable? We’re not going to answer that because it would be too tempting to make a joke about Jewish mothers…
Amy Feldman and Robin Epstein are the authors of the new book “So Sue Me Jackass! Avoiding Legal Pitfalls That Can Come Back to Bite You at Work, at Home, and at Play” (Plume).
If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, e-mail email@example.com. Questions selected for publication will be printed anonymously. New installments of the Bintel Brief are published Mondays at www.forward.com.