Saturday, February 25, 2006

Too short and intent on higher education for the runway

I've been meaning to go to the Jewish Museum's Sarah Berhardt exhibit, but for a variety of reasons (OK, an inertia preventing me from getting all the way from Prospect Heights to 92nd Street) I haven't yet seen it. But I have till April 2nd, according to this article on Bernhardt and Jewish female beauty. I will combine it with a trip to Yura, which has very good lemon tea cake and cappuccinos... but moving on...

Leslie Camhi attempts to figure out what specifically Jewish good looks would entail, if it's even right to say such a thing exists (it implies a Jewish race), and why there aren't more Jewish runway models. It is this part of her article I find the most amusing: "[M]ost Jewish girls today may be either a tad too short or far too intent on higher education to pursue the runway." I don't know how to respond to that... But while the usual tidbits surface--why, did you know Gwyneth has some Jewish blood, and let's not forget Natalie Portman, and, gosh, aren't Israelis better-looking than American Jews?--it's still a well-written article, one that ends on an uplifting note, discussing/quoting Magazine cover-girl Rachel Weisz, definitively Jewish-looking and definitively good-looking, name apparently unchanged.

While yes, it's true that Judaism is not exactly racial, that there are Jews of all races, it gets a bit irritating when article after article embraces the sudden discovery that this or that "Aryan"-looking actress has some Jewish ancestry, or is actually completely Jewish, despite appearances. There is such a thing as Jewish-looking, and it is neither attractive nor unattractive in and of itself, and so can have representatives in everyone from Weisz to Woody Allen, Barbara Streisand to (which Israeli actor to name? there are so many...).

The idea of exotic Jewish beauty must sound, well, foreign to anyone reading this in New York (or, presumably, Israel). But the concept exists elsewhere in the U.S. It's weird. I don't think anyone would say that beautiful African-American women are "exotic," and while this is still said of Asian-American women, in this context it's considered offensive, something to be transcended, not embraced. Since Americans are of all races, and basically always have been, why not scrap "exotic" altogether? It's 2006, and it's about time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Orientalist art and writing historically identified Jewish women--"Jewesses"--as exotic, lumping them in with Arabs, Turks, Africans, Asians. All viewed as other but, often, alluring. These are Jews of Western European male fantasy, so, that is, not the Jewess sitting next to them in school.