Monday, March 19, 2012

For a change, trains, France, food, and Jews

-File under obvious, but I wouldn't recommend NJ Transit on St. Patrick's Day. We got seats, because (as per usual) there were empty spots in an otherwise packed car, next to a guy who happened to be black - must have been a coincidence, and not evidence that Americans/those who take this train line are all kinds of racist. I suggest a trip on the NE Corridor line for anyone in need of evidence against this being a "post-racial" nation.

Anyway, a 9:30 AM train did not mean the party hadn't started. After several months of near-seclusion among a handful of scientists, there was something kind of fun about being in a spray-tanned, hot-pants-wearing horde. I'm used to feeling mildly self-conscious about, say, wearing lilac nail polish, so I welcomed the sea of acrylic. OK, it wasn't so great when I overheard remarks about how someone has "never" had to pee this badly, and you can kind of guess what's coming. But otherwise, it had its moments.

-The market for books about France, food, and Americans' sense of inferiority is officially infinite. I fully intend to get started on mine, which will be called: "The Move To France And Have Your Jaw Wired Shut Miracle Diet." Its sequel, "Life in the Sixteenth Arrondissement With A Persistent Gastrointestinal Ailment: Fahbulous, Dahling!," is also in the works.

-Because I am incredibly suggestible, I followed Mark Bittman's advice and bought miso, without knowing quite what to make with it. I guess my favorite flavor is umami, both because I remember vividly spending a long time at a very snazzy bar mitzvah (at the Pierre hotel!) chock full of cute boys from the grade above me, affixed to a wheel of Parmesan they just had, like, out, and you could take as much as you wanted, and because now, I'm wondering if the best use for it might be eating it out of the container with a spoon.

-On the scandal that wasn't: at the tail end of the Fluke-Limbaugh debacle, a blogger evidently had a field day over the fact that Fluke's boyfriend (wait, she has a boyfriend? wouldn't that ruin the fantasy of her as the most promiscuous woman in America? or is that too rational?) is a Jew. Said blogger, whose influence it's fair to say falls short of, say, Limbaugh's, sees a connection between this fact and Jewish socialism, or Jewish money-and-power, or something. A very smart woman I met at a conference a while back has a post worth reading about this, and David Schraub, also very smart, makes a good point in his response as well.

And I feel as though I ought to weigh in on this, what with that pesky dissertation on intermarriage. My interpretation of this latest installment of the Fluke story would be that this is less about a gender-specific anti-Semitic trope, of Jewish men somehow corrupting non-Jewish women (assuming Fluke isn't Jewish), and more the broader anti-Semitic trope of Jews as anti-Christian, anti-family-values. And historically, this has hit Jewish women and men alike - the Jewish-prostitute motif, as well as the (male, generally) Jew as radical. (Léon Blum's support for premarital experimentation, Alfred Naquet's for divorce...).

I mean, it is about gender, but almost more than it's about Jewishness. To even pose the question of who Fluke's boyfriend is, to suggest that there lies the true origins of her political opinions... sure, the answer they find plays into stereotypes about Jewish intelligence/conniving, but is more obviously (and I see Sarah Seltzer made this point as well) the usual 'silly young woman inherently incapable of thinking for herself' cliché, as if she's the Gloria to his Mike "Meathead" Stivic.


Britta said...

The NYTimes article was extra egregious in this case, as it seemed like the point was "let's pretend like basic table manners are French" rather than basically a norm of Western (or really any) society. I can't believe this woman is really going to sell books.

I agree that if people are this gullible/willing to believe anything is "French" (and thus superior), you might as well cash in. The real question is, are the yuppies buying this book people who supposedly live like "average Americans" (aka. shoveling processed foods into their mouths all day with their hands, feeding their kids only chicken nuggets, etc.), or are these people actually living lives and raising children who would really not be out of place in a Montessori school anywhere in the world, but they assume that all *other* Americans are 400 lbs and don't know how to use a fork, and somehow like to pretend they're different because they're so "French"?

Phoebe said...


Re: the "real question," I think the audience is made up of people from the food-restrictions yuppie subculture, obsessed with making sure the 10:30am and 11:15am mid-morning snacks are organic, but also with making sure the kids they're helicopter-parenting don't go without food for a full hour, god forbid. Or some variant of that. I mean, American yuppies are still very American, it's just its own version of American. And even if there's a a good amount of class-weight correlation, there are still plenty of well-off Americans eating junk and trying unsuccessfully to lose weight.

David Schraub said...

Jewish men as hypersexual anti-family, or Jewish men as closet cases who desperately want to avoid sex? Every stereotype is coming out of the woodwork on this one.

Phoebe said...


Huh. I'd interpret that post completely differently. It's promoting the stereotype of feminists as sexually revolting to men, as emasculating and unattractive. There's no mention of the boyfriend being Jewish. This blogger, like so many others, thinks the question at stake was whether Fluke herself could afford birth control, and that condoms and hormonal birth control are interchangeable. In this case, it's really just misogyny.

Britta said...

That last article also played into the misogyny of "anytime a woman says something/believes something, it must be solely from her own personal experience." I highly doubt Sandra Fluke or her boyfriend can't actually afford bc. As a young, sexually active woman though, Fluke was representing not only herself, but other women of reproductive age as a class, some of the members of which may find paying $50/m to be a hardship (like her friend who lost an ovary). Also, whether or not you can afford it aside, there's a basic matter of fairness and equity, i.e., as a woman you're paying the same amount (if not more) for health insurance and getting less coverage than men. It's like equal pay for equal work. It doesn't matter how much the amount is, if a man is making more than you for doing the same job, it's sexist and ought to be changed. Another equally valid point is, as medicine, BC should be covered and the only reason it isn't is because we live in a country run by crazed fundamentalist Christians. For all those who value being secular, or are of a different religion don't like having someone else's religion shoved down their throat, this should be an issue.

Phoebe said...


Agreed. This is especially the case if a woman weighs in on something related to sex - it's presented as impossible that whichever concern is political and not autobiographical.

Anonymous said...

Late to this discussion: I thought/ assumed that Michael Stivic was Polish, but not Jewish. I thought Catholic perhaps, despite the fact that he was played by Rob Reiner. If MS were supposed to be Jewish, I believe Archie would have blasted him about that; I do not recall anything like that back in the day. JM

Phoebe said...


The Meathead was indeed a Polish Catholic, and this was indeed quasi-implausible given the actor. But my point was that it *doesn't* really matter that Fluke's dude is Jewish - what matters is that he's a dude, and thus imagined to be the puppet-master behind his girlfriend's cute little attempt at getting involved in politics.