Girls creator Lena Dunham is usually the voice of the new feminist movement, but thanks to a recent article in The New Yorker, many are thinking she’s taken her very public voice to a truly ugly place. Is Dunham being xenophobic, or just trying to prove a bigger point?
Sometimes Protestants have a hard time noticing anti-Semitism in the same way that white people can’t always immediately catch underlying racism and men don’t always notice when something is sexist. It’s not right… but it’s not exactly wrong, either. We spent a lot of time with Dunham’s recent piece in the New Yorker, “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?” and tried to decide: Was it anti-Semitic? Or was it all a big joke?
In her recent quiz, Dunham posed 35 true statements and asked readers to guess whether she was talking about her dog or her Jewish boyfriend, Jack Antonoff, in each of the statements. Some anecdotes were harmless, like, “He’s crazy for cream cheese,” and, “But he has asthma.” Others, however, took a serious turn. Points like the ones below had people questioning whether Dunham was being anti-Semitic.
Image: The New Yorker
But, is that truly the case? There are two ways to look at this statement. First, we could decide that Dunham is, indeed, ignorant and anti-Semitic and believes that her boyfriend is picky and coddled thanks to his culture. That’s certainly a stereotype people assign to Jewish men and their mothers. However, the other option is to consider than Dunham is a bright, educated woman who is half-Jewish and enjoys getting our goat. Let’s be real: Anyone with an open mind would agree that all mothers (especially those with a deeply religious background) are trained to believe their offspring are all that should matter to them. And, if you look at it in a broader sense, this is actually exactly what puppies do with their mothers (except in many cases a “mate” just means new owner).
We have to wonder: Was Dunham accidentally anti-semitic, or was she proving a bigger point by describing only her dog in those 35 points (because he obviously can’t tip)? Perhaps the joke is really on all the offended people saying she’s describing a Jewish male when, really, she’s just talking about her dog in terms that sound like Jewish stereotypes. Because, side note to the ladies, how many of these descriptors actually fit most boyfriends… not just the Jewish ones?
We’re not ready to entirely excuse Dunham. We just wonder if maybe it’s not worth opening our minds a little bit further. Maybe, occasionally, we see certain words and look for reasons to be offended by the ones surrounding them, instead of taking things at face value. Maybe we could all stand to be a little less sensitive or be a little better at recognizing when someone is just trying to get us worked up. Read her post and then feel free to tell us we’re wrong in the comments below.