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March 29, 2015 11:04 am

Antisemitism or Emasculation?

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Lena Dunham compared dogs to a Jewish boyfriend in a piece for The New Yorker. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A few days ago, Jerusalem Post Managing Editor David Brinn posed a tongue-in-cheek challenge to his friends on Facebook, daring us to engage in a 24-hour moratorium on the words “Obama” and “Netanyahu.”

I have decided to take him up on it, though I suppose that what I am about to say could be considered indirectly connected to both.

I am referring to the brouhaha surrounding an article by Lena Dunham in the current issue of The New Yorker, which set social media on fire with charges of antisemitism.

The piece, called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” is literally and figuratively nothing to write home about — or to write at all, for that matter. And had it not been penned by the celebrity actress-producer-director, who became famous for her TV series Girls, it would never have made it past the editor’s slush pile.

It consists of a list of 35 descriptions of the man with whom Dunham shares an apartment and a bed. Because Dunham’s mother is a Jew, she has no qualms about making fun of what she claims are her boyfriend’s Jewish traits. Among these are not leaving tips in restaurants, never bringing his wallet anywhere, having asthma and a sensitive stomach, being judgmental about the food he is served and expecting to be waited on hand and foot.

For this ostensible humor, Dunham is being raked over the coals. Some critics are particularly offended by her having “equated” Jews with dogs, as the title of her article suggests. The Anti-Defamation League focused on this comparison, as well, calling it “tasteless.” Dog-lovers, too, were irritated by the negative connotations.

Others are disgusted that The New Yorker allowed such stereotyping in its pages. And then there are those who are wondering why anyone should be horrified by Dunham’s poking fun at Jews, when her recently published memoir revealed that she sexually molested her little sister.

Most striking about the enraged responses was what they did not include: The impunity with which women are allowed to express contempt for members of the male sex, while cloaking their own neediness and hunger for love in outdated feminist lingo.

Indeed, nobody calls them out on things that men could never get away with saying, certainly not in print.

Take, for example, Dunham’s explanation for her boyfriend’s behavior: “He comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women.”


Jack Antonoff, the boyfriend in question, is the lead singer of the band Bleachers and the lead guitarist of Fun. He is 30 years old. By virtue of his mother’s age group alone, it is safe to say that she is nothing like the woman Dunham portrays. And if she did “focus every ounce of her attention” on her kids, perhaps it was because she had a 13-year-old daughter who died of brain cancer. Not the least bit amusing or deserving of ridicule.

What is hilarious, however, is the assertion that such Jewish mothers “don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women.” In fact, it’s the only funny line in the whole piece.

Dunham must be imagining a parallel universe, because the Jewish mothers she is referring to are baby boomers — the children of Marxist-feminists or those who were influenced by their ideology.

Dunham was also raised in a feminist climate. So the following gripe against her boyfriend is revealing: “When I get home from [a] business trip, he ignores me for hours, sometimes days, forcing me to wonder whether he would be better off with a woman who has a less demanding career. ‘Why don’t you find some catalog model who just sits around all day and rubs your back? I bet you’d like that,’ I hiss. ‘I apologize for my many accomplishments. I’m sorry they mean nothing to you.'”

And then this: “One spring afternoon … we ran into my friend Jill. … She’s really slim and well dressed, in an all-American, J. Crew-model sort of way. He was immediately all over her, panting and making a fool of himself. It was humiliating. Because here’s the thing: I am not a Jill. I will never be a Jill. And if that’s what he is looking for — some anorexic hipster with a glossy braid and freaking Swedish clog boots she sewed by hand — he should never have set his sights on me in the first place.”

So, there we have it. Her true problem with her boyfriend is not that he is typically Jewish. Nor is it due to his apathy in relation to her “many accomplishments.” It all boils down to her insecurity, love-starvation and fear of abandonment. Nothing feminist about it. Merely female.

This slightly more honest version of the war between the sexes is precisely what comes across in Girls, which partly explains the show’s popularity.

More puzzling is Antonoff. Why would he stick around with Dunham after she whipped him so publicly?

The answer is going to sound just as antisemitic as Dunham’s dog analogy. It is precisely the “enlightened” — emasculated — Jewish male, conditioned to accept the bullying of women waving their “minority status” in society like a machete, who dares not unleash the beast.

In Antonoff’s case, it didn’t help. But that’s what he gets for shacking up with one.

Ruthie Blum is the editor of Voice of Israel radio (voiceofisrael.com). This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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  • Virginia Apple

    Don’t know what ole Jack looks like but, how he wakes up next to this “dog” in the light of day, is beyond me. This woman is the epitome of ugly. And, according to this article, is also ugly inside.
    This seems a strange article in these volatile times, but “oh well, whatever”.

    • Bee

      Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Corey Stoll, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy.

      Andrew Garfield is Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of his parents are).

      Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable, Ryan Potter.

      Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

      Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised. Robert Downey, Jr. and Sean Penn were also born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers.

      Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

  • kern

    Please let us forget this whole Lena Dunham brouhaha before we undermine our meaningful objections to true anti-Semitism.

    Fellow Algemeiner readers just Google New Yorker Magazine Lena Dunham, and read her innocuous little attempt at being humorous. Yes, there are a couple of cheap jokes about her boyfriend being cheap which evoke the stereotype of Jews being cheap. They are no more offensive than any of such jokes about Jews, Italians, Poles, WASPs and blondes that we have long either groaned at, laughed at or found objectionable for as long as anyone can remember. As for Denham’s “does this statement describe your boyfriend or dog frame, this is completely innocuous, and comparing it to anti-Semites calling Jews “dogs” is monumentally ridiculous.

    Lena Denham’s only real offense is the feeble level of your attempt at humor.

  • Ruthie, you are 100% on the mark. That is one strange sick couple.

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    I am convinced that many ofo the feminists are badly in need of a psychiatrist or a no holds barred good sexual encounter or two or three or more. They have repressed anger which turns them into shrews screeching when they are not catered to. The ultimate funny is that these young ladies turn into either lonely spinsters or the mothers they love to criticize.

  • steven L

    Probably well said.

  • citizenstat

    Oy! Oy! Oy! Oy!

    Who am I lamenting for? Not sure.

  • Ruthie, great response! Love it! Can’t imagine that a band musician can be such a nebish!

  • I expected very little from Dunham, so was not particularly agitated by her New Yorker piece. That the New Yorker ran it was more worrisome. Dunham is most likely more connected to Hollywood and 20-something culture than to the very real and terrifying issue of worldwide anti-semitism. She just didn’t know better. The New Yorker should have. That said, LOVED this article, which was the first to deal with the real issues of post-feminist insecurity. Brava.