Coasties Ain’t Nothin’ But Rich and Jews

Leah Berkenwald has an interesting piece up at Jewesses with Attitude about “What’s a Coastie?”, the latest YouTube hit from the University of Wisconsin. Guess what, Coasties are out-of-state rich Jewish girls from the East Coast…



I know it was totally a surprise.

Anyway I suggest reading it along with the AP article, the Heeb quip and the Sisterhood response all embedded in the JWA post.

All of these articles and blog posts aren’t sure how to deal with the music video. Does it cross the line? Maybe. Is it anti-Semitic? I am sure the ADL would say so but the rest of the Jewish community might laugh it off.

I personally find the Heeb response to be closest to core of the “problem” if you could call it that. It notes:

“In fact, the majority of the student body, hailing from the rural Midwest, have little or no direct exposure to Jews in their upbringing and sadly, their bite-sized understanding of our culture gets boiled down to a pair of fuzzy boots and  Lawng Aylind accent.”

So, what do you think?

29 Responses to “Coasties Ain’t Nothin’ But Rich and Jews”

  1. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006, and I can assure that the term “coastie” is rarely, if ever, used playfully or in good humor. It is only used to refer to Jewish women who are perceived to be materialistic and vapid. Interestingly enough, the term is hardly ever applied to Jewish men. Like the term JAP, “coastie” is motivated by sexism and anti-semitism. (Why, indeed, is it only women who are perceived to be materialistic? Idiotic? Are they some how less deserving of material wealth than men? Then non-Jews?)

    There is also a significant sense of socio-economic friction behind the term’s use.

    An ancedote–>In the women’s bathroom in College Library on the UW Campus I saw the following enscribed on the stall door “Fuck all you coastie Jewish bitches.”


    MM · December 21st, 2009 at 4:56 pm
  2. Thanks for the shout-out! I think you (and Heeb) are absolutely right. I’m curious to see what others have to say, especially people from different generations.


    Leah · December 21st, 2009 at 5:34 pm
  3. Has Tobin Belzer weighed in on this yet? I’m reminded of her essay in Yentl’s Revenge about Valley Girls. (As an East Coast kid, I had no idea that the Valley Girl was an anti-Semitic stereotype until I read her essay.)


    dlevy · December 21st, 2009 at 5:44 pm
  4. Heeb writes:
    In fact, the majority of the student body, hailing from the rural Midwest,

    Really? I don’t have stats on the student body, but if we assume it’s reasonably representative of the population of Wisconsin, 2008 estimates say that the population of Wisconsin is only 27% rural.

    Also, Wisconsin is of course one of only two states with two Jewish senators.


    BZ · December 21st, 2009 at 6:01 pm
  5. I also think they’re using the term “rural” quite loosely.


    ML · December 21st, 2009 at 6:12 pm
  6. Yeah, I wonder if the writer (though a Wisconsin alum) is from the coast himself, and is using “rural” before “Midwest” as a Homer-style epithet.


    BZ · December 21st, 2009 at 6:17 pm
  7. My knee jerk guess would be the opposite. “Rural” and “Midwest” are often code words when coming from people from the coasts. I have never heard the term “coastie” before now, but I’ve often heard these code words used derogatorily to describe anyone from middle America not living in Chicago.


    ML · December 21st, 2009 at 6:24 pm
  8. As a well documented coast snob I am willing to bet the rual commentary from Heeb is more of a retort than an academic assesment of the situation.

    MM bring up an interesting point: Jewish women are always targeted with this kind of crap while Jewish men get a pass (most of the time). I wonder…


    dcc · December 21st, 2009 at 6:24 pm
  9. BZ, I think “rural” is used there to make a class distinction. Comparing the East Coast wealth barometers to Wisconsin’s would be a more revealing variable. I suspect wealthy Ann Arbor urbanites might yet feel lower on the totem pole than what they perceive of their coastal brethren.


    Kung Fu Jew · December 21st, 2009 at 6:48 pm
  10. Jewish men don’t exactly get a pass, we just have different stereotypes directed at us, such as the effeminate impotent shadow of a man or the insidious, scheming, money-grubbing puppet master of world affairs.


    dlevy · December 21st, 2009 at 7:04 pm
  11. Oh the guys have a name too, dlevy. I believe the label is trustafarian. ;)


    ML · December 21st, 2009 at 10:47 pm
  12. the line from the woman saying she’s not from a coast but from Chicago reveals the whole thing. This is a comment on socio-economic status. Having grown up in suburban Chicago and having spent lots of time in my high school years on the U of W campus in Madison, most of these “coasties” are likely from the area I grew up in, the North Shore of Chicago.

    I don’t think this is anti-Semitic. Nor do I think the term “JAP” is or the “Valley girl” stereotypes, having lived in LA for 5 years now. These are all socio-economic labels, not racial or ethnic labels. That the Jewish community in Chicago and the coasts tend to be in upper-middle to upper class, well, that’s just a fact.

    I don’t see what’s offensive about this song from the Jewish angle–clearly it’s sexist. We need to make the distinction between the anti-Semitic greed related stereotype of the Shylock and the reality that the Jewish American communities are privileged.


    Justin · December 22nd, 2009 at 12:02 am
  13. “my east coast Jewish honey” – Yes, the stereotype relies on classic tropes that associate Jewish women with overconsumption. For an excellent treatment of the JAP stereotype (which is just the older name for what is being called “coastie” here) see Riv Ellen Prell’s book “Fighting to Become Americans.”

    I don’t think the video itself is blatently antisemitic, but I have no doubt that the discourse on which it depends is (see MM’s first comment here). This is not the first time I’ve heard of this. The question is what to do about it. The answer cannot be to call the ADL (these days that can never be the answer, they blew whatever cred they had a long time ago). I do think it would be wise for the diversity/multi-cultural affairs office to think about how to educated folks in whatever way they think would work best in their campus. It would also be cool to see the local hillel team up with other ID groups on campus to address this along with campus sexism and racism.


    Chorus of Apes · December 22nd, 2009 at 2:06 am
  14. [...] 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 [...]


    Interview with a Coastie « The Blog at 16th and Q · December 22nd, 2009 at 9:39 am
  15. I don’t think this is anti-Semitic. Nor do I think the term “JAP” is or the “Valley girl” stereotypes, having lived in LA for 5 years now. These are all socio-economic labels, not racial or ethnic labels.

    Except they don’t seem to be applied to people who exhibit the same behaviors who aren’t Jewish and female. And having gone to a school in the Midwest with a lot of really well off people, some of them Jewish but many of them not, there isn’t really an equivalent label for the non-Jewish people who are totally materialistic and live in a bubble where everyone flies to Vail for winter break.


    em · December 22nd, 2009 at 12:40 pm
  16. Sometimes stereotypes are not given but earned.


    DK · December 22nd, 2009 at 12:42 pm
  17. …there isn’t really an equivalent label for the non-Jewish people who are totally materialistic and live in a bubble where everyone flies to Vail for winter break.

    Um, how about “douchebag?”


    themicah · December 22nd, 2009 at 1:09 pm
  18. Um, how about “douchebag?”

    And douchebag really is racially and ethnically neutral. It could be applied equally to a Jew or a non-Jew. That’s not what’s in question here.


    em · December 22nd, 2009 at 1:24 pm
  19. I agree with DK.

    I am Jewish but not from a “coast” and went to a Big 10 school with a large ‘coastie’/North Shore population. I worked at a bagel shop on the weekends, and the way those customers – male and female – acted and treated others made me a little anti-Semitic. I could only imagine how my non-Jewish co-workers reacted. It was embarrassing for my co-workers to see a Star of David necklace on someone who was being a jerk.

    Again – some stereotypes are not given, but earned.


    MR · December 22nd, 2009 at 1:41 pm
  20. Technically “enema” would be more sex-neutral than “douchebag.” But I fear I’m leading this conversation in the wrong direction….


    themicah · December 22nd, 2009 at 1:58 pm
  21. Here is an idea for the people who are offended by Jews being called “coasties” or “JAPs” (which, at least in New York, was applied to both men and women). If you are offended that we, as Jews get stereotyped for being materialistic, and vapid then stop being materialistic and vapid. Are New York Jewish stereotypes offensive? Yes. But shouldn’t we be more offended by the behavior of our fellow Jews? Have you ever been anywhere in public when someone with a decidedly New York accent and/or affect does something that makes you cringe and change your last name?
    Why do we, as a people get so pumped up at something that could possibly considered Anti-semetic? This is not a condemnation, it’s an actual question. I think that we sometimes look for things that might offend us. There is a charge that we get out of being picked on. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?


    erevrav · December 22nd, 2009 at 3:42 pm
  22. When did the Jewschool comments section turn into a Philip Roth short story?


    dlevy · December 22nd, 2009 at 4:20 pm
  23. wasn’t it always? What do you think people have been doing other than turning their neurosis into what they think of as socially conscious political commentary?


    erevrav · December 22nd, 2009 at 4:45 pm
  24. wasn’t it always? What do you think people have been doing other than turning their neurosis into what they think of as socially conscious political commentary

    Lol.


    Jonathan1 · December 22nd, 2009 at 4:52 pm
  25. JAP, Coastie, whatever the next evolution of this concept will be, I’m not a fan. While musically the parody is fine (the vocoder-style homage to Kanye), the content is what I find disturbing because it perpetuates this concept that all Jewish women care about is money – and not even money earned, but money given for frivolous spending.

    But this stereotype, while particularly overused to pertain to Jewish women, is not exclusive to Jews – women in popular culture are often seen as crass and materialistic (I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger…), which I also don’t enjoy, but at least the specificity of the stereotype as “Jewish” is missing, which widens the lens of the generalization quite a bit and makes it a bit more comfortable to me as a Jew, even though it makes me the same degree of uncomfortable as a woman.

    Thanks, DCC, for inspiring an upcoming post on MyUrbanKvetch.com. Will send you the link when it’s up.


    EstherK · December 22nd, 2009 at 4:55 pm
  26. Coasties, JAPs, Sexism, Weeds, Rejuveniles and the Definition of Hotness…

    I seldom use this space to cry “anti-Semitism” or to rail at the misogynist patriarchy, but every once in a while, the Jewish feminist in me uses her guest posting privileges. Over the past week or so, my Jewish circles online and off have been buzzi…


    MY URBAN KVETCH · December 22nd, 2009 at 8:44 pm
  27. [...] now, that old cocktail of anti-Semitism and sexism has been back on the rise–whether given faux-new-language, used as a way to cloak Jewish women comics, a way to talk about one’s suburban upbringing [...]


    More of the New JAP-baiting | Jewschool · December 24th, 2009 at 2:54 pm
  28. “….Here is an idea for the people who are offended by Jews being called “coasties” or “JAPs” (which, at least in New York, was applied to both men and women). If you are offended that we, as Jews get stereotyped for being materialistic, and vapid then stop being materialistic and vapid….”

    Here’s an idea for people offended by African-Americans being called n*gers, and gangbangers. If you are offended at being stereotyped for being violent and stupid, then stop being violent and stupid.

    So simple! I’m sure we can apply this formula to many other kinds of bigotry…


    Yehudit · December 29th, 2009 at 12:26 am
  29. I go to UW right now, and have for the last three years. Now, I can’t speak for all 30,000 of my schoolmates, but in my experience there is absolutely nothing religious about the term “coastie.” It just means a rich person who comes into the midwest and doesn’t understand that we’re a modest people. Sconnies are a people who derive a lot of their humor from self-deprecation, so if we make fun of you it’s kind of our way of showing you that we think you’re one of us. I mean the song kind of epitomizes it- you’re a coastie, and yeah, that’s kind of used in a derogatory way but I’m not gonna hate on you, I’m gonna flirt with you. The most derogatory thing about the term is that it means you’re rude (that’s a stereotype we have about people from out east) and have a sense of entitlement. And yeah, people are a little jealous of the money and the fashion, but honestly, that stuff isn’t really our priority. We care about eating cheese, going to the Rose Bowl, surviving the winters, and running a world class research institution. Oh, and drinking beer. So wearing boots that are expensive and not sensible given our wet, slushy winters (and given the amount of beer and cheese that will get spilled on them) kind of confuses us. It makes us think, “Gee, that person isn’t from here. They’re wearing boots that were created for use on Australian beaches, not Wisconsin winters.” It also makes us think “Oh man, if that’s what the cool thing is, I’m going to have to do it, and I’m gonna be colder than a witch’s tit.” So that explains why it applies mostly to women. Men don’t wear Uggs, and they don’t get cold the same way women do.


    Misha · August 8th, 2012 at 8:33 pm

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