Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rich Jews refuse gaudy attire, confuse Simon Doonan UPDATED

I think the gist of Simon Doonan's latest at Slate is that he doesn't like it when Jews dress WASPy. (Surprised?) Or something, with a forced "99%," OWS tie-in. It's obviously not new that "new money" tries to dress "old," nor that "old money" in fashion terms is about subtlety and nondescript clothes whose details only give the full story. ("Old" and "new" being, of course, constructs, as you can learn from Edith Wharton novels or common sense.) The comments about Ruth Madoff, her accent, her "shekels," and the great crime that is a woman of that background has the audacity to wear preppy outfits and is not going around dressed as "a long-nailed, tarty Long Island arriviste" make it clear enough how Doonan, at least, is defining "new money."

We're presumably meant to insert our own 'it's tongue in cheek' disclaimer, because Doonan refers to himself, a Slate columnist but more to the point a big-shot at Barneys whose memoir is on or will be adapted for BBC television, part of a famous fashion couple and general fashion-world-and-a-bit-beyond celeb, in lil' ol' me terms. But forget being offended. (Or, be offended. Because he comes from a working-class non-Jewish British background, he's forever the underdog, whereas American Jews with their unpleasant-to-his-ears working-class accents who make it big are gauche? A Slate commenter comments, "There was probably a way to write this without the subtle undertones of anti-semitism." But was there? Isn't anti-Semitism - and not all that subtle - integral to what he's saying?) Where's the originality? What new phenomenon is he pointing us toward? (OK, I could be blamed for the same - anti-Semitism is many things, but "new" isn't one of them.)

And I don't think you win any points in this contest if you're in favor of dressing like Sylvia Fine and you're from England. He doesn't have anything to prove in this area. He doesn't have any reason to dress up like an authentic British person because he is one.


What, short of a 10,000-page manifesto written in clear terms about how much you despise Jews, all Jews, even anti-Zionist ones, counts as anti-Semitism these days? A Slate commenter presents what I'd like to call the worst denial of anti-Semitism of all time, except that it's so typical. It goes:

I'm Jewish and leave Simon the heck alone. He's written an article on how grateful he is to Jewish people and how he hates anti-semitism. And I'm not sure if it's his husband or not legally, but his partner of many many years is Jewish. [...] Jews know better than anyone who runs the schmatta industry. If Simon was anti-semitic, he'd have been cast out just like Galliano was.
So if you're Jewish, or your partner is (and yes, Doonan's husband is Jewish), you can't possibly have written something anti-Semitic? It gets a bit meta, with the commenter defending Doonan while claiming himself (it's not herself, I suspect) to be immune to anti-Semitism on account of being Jewish, while claiming that the Jews "run" an industry. Doonan's piece is thoroughly anti-Semitic, but not in the Galliano, expressing-love-for-Hitler, beat-you-over-the-head-with-its-obviousness sense. I can't understand denying this, unless you are in fact Doonan or Doonan's husband. Or a Jew who thinks it shows you're enlightened and such if you nobly refuse to call out anti-Semitism.

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