Lena Dunham Makes A "Dog Or Jewish Boyfriend?" Quiz & Unsurprisingly Offends Some People
Another day, another controversial thing said by Lena Dunham. In classic Dunham style, the provocation is in writing, but it's in a pretty prestigious publication this time — The New Yorker. Lena Dunham made a "Dog or Jewish Boyfriend?" quiz, openly requesting for the literary magazine's readers to identify whether 35 statements applied to her dog or to her Jewish boyfriend.
Some of the statements on Dunham's quiz were related to money, including, "he doesn’t tip" and "he never brings his wallet anywhere." Some of the statements directly referenced aspects of a "culture," including "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. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates." Both these statements touch on uncomfortable stereotypes of Jewish people that are still part of the cultural narrative today, such as the relationship with money and the parenting style of the Jewish mother. So, unsurprisingly, this quiz offended some Jewish people. And, also unsurprisingly, this serves as yet another reminder to comedians to tread carefully when discussing cultural stereotypes in their routines.
One Jewish writer who was offended by Dunham's quiz was Jordana Horn, a blogger for the Jewish parenting website Kveller. In a post titled "Lena Dunham Equated Jews to Dogs & That's Not OK," Horn wrote, "To dehumanize people, one of the first steps is to call them non-people or animals." Horn touched on Nazi Germany, but also gave recent examples of cafés in Belgium and Turkey that posted signs not allowing Jewish customers, calling them "Jew-dogs," among other terrible things. Horn also pointed out that a quiz in the same format would likely never fly if it focused on another group of people, such as one that was titled, "Dog or Black Boyfriend?" Horn brings up pertinent points about both the past and present use of language in dehumanization and anti-Semitism, and it is worth considering whether casual pieces like this could be problematic in regard to how Jewish people are perceived in this day and age.
And if anything else, it could serve as a reminder to Dunham and other comedians that it is always good to tread carefully when making jokes about any cultural group. After all, some of those on the receiving end of the joke may have to deal with stereotypes in everyday life — and that is no laughing matter. That being said, it is worth keeping in mind that Dunham's mother is Jewish. And Dunham has been quoted saying, "I suppose I’m Jewish, depending which way you look at things." Still, it couldn't hurt if Dunham took in consideration the feelings and opinions of those who are certain about identifying as such.
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