It’s ironic. Michael J. Fox, the TV actor and dreamboat to the early adolescent set (and an Anglican) goes on record in People magazine as saying, “I’m going to marry a Jewish woman. I’m sure of it. I have yet to meet one I didn’t like. I like women who are funny, independent, hard-working and definitely the family type.” But at the same time, Jewish women have reported the following comments:
• A young Jewish doctor: “I’m pretty sure I won’t marry a Jewish woman. I’m looking for somebody who’s emotionally appropriate, not like my mother.”
• A psychologist who runs a group for divorced women: They’re all JAPs, they want everything their way.”
• A Jewish man, remarried to a non- Jew: “I’m finished with JAPs. Colleen never complains about working hard and taking care of me, the way my Jewish wife did.”
• A United Synagogue Youth national newsletter: “Are you a JAP? Test your JAP IQ…. Do you own 12 or more sweaters… Calvin Klein jeans… play tennis… have your own phone line… own Porsche sunglasses…. Is your phone bill over $200 a month?” and so on for a total of 22 questions.
It has become increasingly obvious that the stereotypes are not as harmless and ephemeral as we thought ten years ago, when the cover of LILITH’s second issue featured the arm of a woman dropping a “Princess” tee-shirt (with a Jewish star dotting the “i”) into a garbage can. At the time, we optimistically believed that the changing reality of Jewish women’s lives would consign these negative images to the garbage can of history. Instead, what has happened is the opposite: they have gotten a new lease on life. And, even more frightening, reports from college campuses reveal an increasing incidence of stereotyping—moving from nasty jokes and insulting tee-shirts to violent anti-Semitic and misogynist graffiti and verbal violence against women.
In this issue, we try to untangle, from the perspective of 20 years into the second wave of feminism, the underlying causes of the stereotyping, how these images affect the way we feel about ourselves, their impact on relationships between Jewish women and men and between Jews and non-Jews, and the reasons for the recent escalation of both their viciousness and the violent action of those who use them against us.
The evidence in these pages strongly suggests that this is a serious issue which relates to Jewish identity, to the family, and to intermarriage—all questions Jews have been engaged with over the past decade and all of which are affected by this stereotyping. It is time to give it our attention.