Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shiksoppeal*

Popular wisdom has it that Jewish men prefer non-Jewish women. Certain artists have based their entire careers on that notion. Anecdotal evidence suggests the Roth-Allen two-headed beast speaks the truth.

So why does Marcus attribute my claim that Rahm Emanuel is beau to my being a "jewy jew"? Shouldn't this make me less likely to think the politician is attractive, or does it only work that way for men?

Returning to the all-important realm of the anecdotal, Jewish women (did I mention I'm Jewish? I'm worried someone on the Internet missed this) go both ways. We (the royal 'we', or more like the court-Jew 'we') can appreciate the beauty of both Lior Askhenazi the Mossad-agent-turned-pacifist and Knut Berger the Nazi's grandson-turned-beautiful-gay-man. Or, to give a more familiar example, both Obama and his new Chief of Staff.

If Jewish women are Semiti-neutral, the fact remains that outside of observant circles, a Jewish woman will attract more gentile than Jewish men. I remember, neurotic, Roth-reading, raised-on-Allen high school senior that I was, worrying that by going to college in the Midwest, I was not going to have any dates or boyfriends, because there would be so many girls who looked like this. (Needless to say, I had the University of Chicago all wrong.) What I hadn't taken into account was that to some, we are exotic. But Jew-fetishists aside (not that the Bamber comment is fetishistic, but anyway), no such concept as a "shiksa" exists for the man who grew up Protestant in Sweden or Kansas. That a woman is, say, a natural blond is not enough to make her attractive to men whose mothers and sisters are as well.

So, is there a lesson to be drawn from all this, other than that men, Jewish or Robert Redfordian, do the asking? Discuss amongst yourselves.

*There is a Yiddish word for a male 'shiksa,' but 'shikso' is, I think, more easily understood.

12 comments:

Paul Gowder said...

I don't really understand racial-type-attractions at all. I have been madly attracted to Jews, WASPs, Indians, you name it. Haven't we all?

Phoebe said...

This comes back to, are Jews a race? An acquaintance of mine, a Jewish guy, was very adamant about his taste for 'shiksas'... and his girlfriend was a petite, dark-haired Catholic girl who was stereotypically Jewish in all kinds of ways. So maybe it's more cultural? Or, maybe not.

But it also seems, from all kinds of anecdotal and pop-cultural and middle-brow-literary evidence, that Jewish men more often than Jewish women have "racial-type-attractions." That's what I find baffling.

Amber said...

Is it that "racial-type attractions" are generally a product of a visual orientation, and women in general are (for whatever bio/socialized reason) less dependent on the visual? Some types of features are peculiarly eye-catching, and the presence of those features is often correlated with race/ethnicity.

At the risk of sounding terribly fetishistic, I found Jewish guys very exotic in high school. There were oodles of Persian guys, Indian guys, black guys, Chicano guys, WASPy dudes of various kinds . . . but only a handful of Jewish guys. I also found Jewishness to be a useful proxy for certain attitudes about Christianity that I enjoyed sharing with a partner.

Withywindle said...

Have we had the discussion about the small rash of "Shikso" movies the last few years? -- My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Bend it like Beckham, that Indian remake of Pride and Prejudice, where various ethnic ladies grab some Shikso to be their Prince Charming. Not sure it amounts to a hill of beans, but it seemed a small trend.

Phoebe said...

Amber:

"I also found Jewishness to be a useful proxy for certain attitudes about Christianity that I enjoyed sharing with a partner."

I've totally been on the receiving end of the situation you describe. And it can work out quite nicely!

As for the visual aspect... I think women notice men's looks far more than is usually assumed. The difference is that women do not all agree on what constitutes good-looking, the way men seem able to do re: women. (ahem, Natalie Portman.) This is, I'm guessing, because it's assumed women don't care about looks, leaving women free to decide what sort of appearance they find hot. (Men, on the other hand, are under social pressure not just to think visually, but to reject the unconventional.

All of this is to say, many women are with the man they're with 'for his looks,' even when the man is not conventionally good-looking.

Withywindle:

Only one of these movies is American (I think?) and none deals with Jews. The one American movie I can think of off-hand that deals with the "shikso"--"The Brothers McMullen," which I think has come up here before-- presents a plain-looking Jewish woman who offers a handsome-ish Irish man all kinds of money and business opportunities (via her father, because all Jewish girls' fathers are Rothschilds), and has a happy ending in which our hero ditches moneybags the Jewess for a working-class Irish girl from the neighborhood.

If my description of the film is offensive, it's my attempt to convey how off-putting this plot-line is in the movie.

Off-hand, I can think of plenty of movies in which a Jewish man rebels by running off with a non-Jewish (inevitably white, implicitly Protestant, often blond to drive the point home) woman, but no others in which the reverse is the case. Not that in real life it's some kind of impossibility, but there's apparently little interest in seeing this scenario/putting it onscreen.

Paul Gowder said...

Bah, men are not that consistent about looks. You'd be surprised how often, in the sort of conversation that men sometimes have ("she's hot." "she's hot too.") there's actual disagreement about the hotness of various shes.

Petey said...

"Anecdotal evidence suggests the Roth-Allen two-headed beast speaks the truth."

Well...

Considering the population, a Jewish man who only prefers Jewish women is the odd beast. (Same thing with the genders reversed.)

About a third of my GF's have been Jewish. Does that mean that I'm dramatically over-representing Jews in my choice of partners, or does the fact that two thirds of my GF's have been shiksas mean that I'm in Roth-Allen land?

E!!-lizabeth Crum said...

Phoebe: Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine, much to her dismay, discovers she has shiksappeal? Very funny!

Myself - blonde and blue eyed - I adored every male Jew I knew when living down in Jew Central (otherwise known as North Miami Beach). But in the end I married a Sicilian. Who, now that I think of it, was affectionately called Crumstein by The Community in honor of his many jewlike characteristics.

Phoebe said...

Well, part of what makes the episode funny is that the actress is, if not religiously Jewish, a) apparently from a famous French-Jewish family (Dreyfus, ahem), and b) stereotypically Jewish looking, whatever her heritage. And yes, the title of this post was inspired by that episode, so I've certainly seen it.

I don't dare ask what's meant by "jewlike characteristics."

Petey said...

"But in the end I married a Sicilian."

You lose a few points of IQ and gain better cuisine.

At the end of the day, choosing between Jews and Italians is a win-win situation.

Phoebe said...

Paul Gowder: "You'd be surprised how often, in the sort of conversation that men sometimes have ("she's hot." "she's hot too.") there's actual disagreement about the hotness of various shes."

See, women, past a certain age (14?), can't even have the 'he's hot' conversation. It's just assumed what one of us thinks is hot, the others don't. It leads to awkward conversations if a woman does ask her friends if they think the boy's attractive, because more often than not, they don't.

Petey: "About a third of my GF's have been Jewish. Does that mean that I'm dramatically over-representing Jews in my choice of partners, or does the fact that two thirds of my GF's have been shiksas mean that I'm in Roth-Allen land?"

Roth-Allen land is a need to articulate attraction to non-Jewish women not the normal result of living in a country where Jews are a tiny minority, but as the result of a physical revulsion to Jewish women. So no, no danger there.

Anonymous said...

Hey I'm a 18 year old Jewish man who prefers Jewish woman not just because they are Jewish it's what I find attractive.