Although it has been on MySpace since October, this past week has seen a flood of articles and posts about the satirical song by two University of Wisconsin undergrads who rap about longing after a stereotyped Jewish woman, called a Coastie — basically a JAP by another name. There have been a lot of thoughtful posts on this topic and what it says about class, geography, ethnic stereotypes and even the opportunity it provides for real conversation about all of the above. But, since the clock is winding down on this internet phenomenon (the story hit the Times on December 15th which means it has about five minutes left) I figured I would interview my wife, a real-live Jewish woman graduate of the University of Wisconsin about the song. This is the conversation we had (sorta) after she gave it a listen.
You went to Wisconsin?
Yes I did.
Did you like the song?
No. Just because they were mumbling so it was difficult to understand them and it was so repetitive that it became boring. I appreciate rap music, but it was like someone who didn’t truly get the genre trying their hand at it.
Were you offended?
Sure. As a Jew to have all Jews lumped-in with this stereotype of a person. I wouldn’t say all Christians are ham-sandwich eating, bible thumping, non-masturbating Christians. Yet you could certainly find them in Madison.
Would you call yourself a Coastie?
I don’t fit that bill from the fashion sense, but I am from the East Coast and went to a Midwestern state school.
Tell me about your daddy’s money?
I was on a Stafford Loan. My parents helped with my rent, but I worked for food money.
So, you had to buy your own sunglasses?
I’m still wearing the same sunglasses from high school. They still work as long as you tighten the screws each day or the lenses pop out.
When you were at Wisconsin, did you act like you were better than everybody else, or did you keep it to yourself?
Because people from Wisconsin got priority at the public dorms that meant most out-of-staters (not just Jews) ended up in the more expensive private dorms like the Statesider. It was an embarrassing thing for Wisconsinites to end up in the private dorms because it meant they were admitted later to the college and hadn’t made the public dorm lottery. And this insult sort of carried over to the whole set of public dorms. They were farther from campus, had fewer amenities (at least when I was there) and tended to carry an assortment of later admittance Wisconsinites, Minnesotans, and then the rest of the out-of-staters. In addition to being farther from campus, they were also more expensive. So they sort of sucked on multiple levels. Right from the beginning there’s a divide between the publics and the privates. But I also went there before there were cellphones, or iPods or Starbucks, so there was probably a lesser divide.
So that means you didn’t tell them you were better?
[I took her annoyed silence as agreement.]
Would you say that Jewish girls from the East Coast stood out even way back in the 90s?
No. But there was a divide between those from the Midwest and those from the coasts. It wasn’t based in religion and certainly there were many more Christian out-of-staters than Jewish out-of-staters. I ended up bringing a lot of friends home with me on vacations because it was an opportunity to travel out of the Midwest and a lot of people I met had never been to Washington, D.C.
Do you think some of this animosity comes from the fact that Wisconsinites are known as cheeseheads and most Jewish girls are at least a little-bit lactose intolerant?
What was the strangest thing anyone ever said to you at Wisconsin when they learned you were Jewish?
Beyond the girl who cried when she couldn’t find my horns and couldn’t believe that her priest had lied to her? It was my Junior year roomate’s mother who came to visit once, and as she greeted me said, “I just want you to know that I think Hitler was a wonderful man.” It was a long visit.
Are you sure your daddy’s money isn’t for the spending?
I think those guys seem really proud of themselves and I am glad their Wisconsin education has instilled such undeserved pride in their mental prowess. Wisconsin builds self-esteem, and even people who should be embarrassed for themselves have high self-esteem.