Coastie, a new term for out-of-state students that is floating around the University of Wisconsin, Madison, definitely seems like a euphemism for Jewish American Princess. And I am just not sure it is such a bad thing.
The term, which, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been used at the school for around a decade, has just peaked in popularity due to a the “Coastie song,” and subsequent YouTube video, that has been getting its fair share of attention.
What’s a coastie?Black tights all dayThat’s a coastieStarbucks, big shades!She a coastieAlways blowin’ daddy’s moneyYou a coastieMy East Coast Jewish honey
My Jewish American princess babyWalks wit a swag and talks so crazyEast Coast accent,East Coast fashionBlack spandex wit an ass like Bascom!Smokin on a cig as she passin,
I graduated from UW, Madison in 2001, and I can’t remember anyone using the word “coastie,” though its in-state counterpart “sconie” was in circulation. Instead, we relied on good old “JAP,” though that, of course, was only something you were allowed to say publicly if you were Jewish and among Jews. I never identified with this cohort — I actually avoided wearing the color black for three years as a way to disassociate myself with the group — but I can attest to the fact that these pretty conflated in-state/ out of state, Jewish/ non-Jewish divisions existed along with a simmering tension.
This is why, despite the obvious stereotypes put forth in the song — which, by the way, I find kind of catchy and fun — I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think, if taken lightly, which the song genuinely seems to do, the whole “coastie” phenomenon might actually give students an opening to talk about these divisions, something we couldn’t really do.
Since “coastie” is a new label, unlike the already loaded JAP, there is room for improvisation of meaning. It has a colloquial lightness to it, and, in the case of UW, Madison, has its counterpart in “sconies” — removing much of the sting of JAP.
Labels can be dangerous and limiting, but, on the other hand, a shared language and a sense of humor can open doors. I hope the young Badgers have some fun with this.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.
Embracing the 'Coastie' Label