Culture, Mishegas, Sex & Gender

David Abitbol's (lame) defense of Jewlicious

This rather misogynistic blog post from Jewlicious raised quite a few eyebrows.  Fortunately, the Forward’s Sisterhood blog was on hand to get an even-more-embarrassing defense from Jewlicious’ founder:

I know it might seem a little … how did someone on Twitter put it? “Gross.” However, we will not accept a donation from anyone with ulterior motives, and Michelle and Jessica will at all times be accompanied by a burly chaperon. No donations will be accepted without a prior interview and all meetings will take place in public. I know this offer seemed provocative, and it is, but it’s not sleazy. What’s really provocative is the notion that charging a Jewish philanthropist $5,000-$7,500 for a chance to speak to intelligent and articulate young Jews is actually a good deal compared to whatever outreach they are doing now. That’s totally fucking outrageous if you ask me.

Dude, this whole thing isn’t objectionable because of the possibility that someone might try to have sex with these women (I’m not going to mince words here).  It’s objectionable because that’s what they’re supposed to want.  It’s transparently obvious that Jewlicious is selling these women on the basis of their sex appeal.  As Naomi Zeveloff points out (from that same Sisterhood post):

Strangely, the site doesn’t link to the work of either of these “capable, intelligent and fierce” women, leaving one to guess that it’s not their dazzling resumes that might be of interest to potential donors, but the photos at the top of the post.

It’s nice of her to say “strangely,” but let’s be honest: this kind of thing is only strange to people who’ve never heard of sexism.  To anyone with any understanding of patriarchy , this kind of stunt is depressingly normal.

19 thoughts on “David Abitbol's (lame) defense of Jewlicious

  1. Oh Jewschool. I miss you guys! I wish Michelle and Jessica weren’t otherwise occupied tonight. Perhaps they’d be able to set you straight. So Naomi Zeveloff likened our two very capable bloggers to prostitutes. I don’t have a television (neither does Jessica, not sure about Michelle) but, if I understand the Mad Men reference correctly, she did compare our fundraising gimmick to a man who procured two hookers in order to have sexual intercourse with prospective clients. I think that represents a rather grievous insult to Jessica and Michelle. In any case, it is a rather gross distortion of what we were doing. But it’s ok. I understand. Provocative words, like “misogynist,” even when their use is meaningless and completely unjustified, equals eye balls. I mean would it have been ok if Jessica and Michelle weren’t attractive? Neither was dressed provocatively at all, but perhaps we should have arranged for a photo shoot with them dressed in Hassidic or Islamic garb?
    Thanks for the self righteous twaddle. Plus que ça change, plus que c’est la même chose.

  2. It’s also disgusting that this entire pitch presupposed that any of their potential big donors would be hetero males (I seriously doubt they were thinking about lesbians). And “burly chaperons”? Blech.

  3. ck, what do you mean by “set us straight?” Honestly curious.

    Naomi Zeveloff likened our two very capable bloggers to prostitutes.

    Um, no, that would be you. Naomi’s not the one who offered to sell their company for money. She merely observed that that’s what you were doing.

    I think that represents a rather grievous insult to Jessica and Michelle.

    Yup, it does.

    In any case, it is a rather gross distortion of what we were doing.

    Care to explain how?

    I mean would it have been ok if Jessica and Michelle weren’t attractive? Neither was dressed provocatively at all…

    Not really sure what to say to this, except that you’re not really building your non-misogynist credentials here…

  4. CK, with all due respect, answer the critique instead of complaining you’re not getting a fair shake. It is indeed sexist to rely on sex appeal to make a buck. Ignoring it and calling those who raise it as anti-feminist is intellectual poverty. You’re not an idiot and no doubt predicted this was an attention-getter. You also have your own blog and our comments for replies, so nobody needs to apologize to you for opening the issue. Just answer the critique.

  5. I fell like there’s a good Whore of MENSA joke in here somewhere, I just can’t find it beneath the ick…
    As long as Jewlicious is going this route, why aim for high rollers? Pimp them out low. Sell them wholesale, like meat or silk, and make it up on volume…
    And anyone who watches Mad Men will get the reference correct. Not that a blog claiming to be on top of anything Jewy would know about the last season’s Jewish connections… but I digress.
    I’m willing to put up $20 to buy Abitol a can, furry hat and platform shoes. Anyone else care to chip in for the stereotypical pimp outfit?

  6. Muffti doesn’t presume to speak on behalf of ck…and he certainly tries to speak with less vitriol (at least these days)…but he thinks that this critique may be relying on a rather unsympathetic reading of what ck was up to. Kung Fu Jew is right that ck was doing something that he knew would be seen as provocative, but does it really seem realistic to suppose that he was seriously entertaining the prospect of a charity for flesh trade? Or that donors would really be expecting that this is what their dollar is buying? Or even that our bloggers would be used as good looking accoutrements rather than as interesting people to talk to? Muffti certainly would be horrified if this was at all a realistic proposition (by contrast, paying some women for intercourse with horny business men in return for their business is a rather realistic presupposition – at least if madmen is characterizing their times well!).
    If the cash for play/expected play is realistic, then Muffti agrees that what jewlicious is doing is terrible and should be immediately withdrawn. Perhaps it is objectionable to pay for company at all, whether male, female, attractive, ugly, smart or stupid. But he thinks that that is a different issue.
    It is, of course, very easy to take something nasty and try to cover it in a faux blanket of comedy and mirth so Muffti isn’t really sure how he can persuade that this isn’t what is going on. But, to throw in his two cents, he’s pretty sure that this isn’t what is going on. He also knows that comedy can still be misogynistic (or racist, anti-semitic, classist…), but he thinks that a sympathetic read will see ck as playing with misogynist themes rather than playing into them by really trading pulchritude for cash. Perhaps muffti is wrong, but that’s how he sees things. Then again, it’s up to you if you want to read things sympathetically.

  7. Sorry, just to clarify the nature of things here. I think the question that needs to be answered so we’re all on the same page is, if you claim that this is misogynistic/selling these girls based on their sex appeal/whatever:
    How would one do such a thing in such a way that avoids this criticism? What form of getting to meet two women as incentive for fundraising would not be prostitution or whatever?
    The answer cannot be “it’s impossible” because that is the most objectifying to women; one can certainly do such a thing for men.
    Once someone can explain how to present this in a non-misogynistic way, we’ll be on the same page about what the criticism is – i.e., it will be, “You are misogynistic because your particular presentation of this offer objectified these women unacceptably, and you should have presented this offer in a non-objectifying way, such as X.”

  8. It would have been less misogynistic if a) they hadn’t been described as “gorgeous” (clearly selling them on their physical attributes) or b) if, as Naomi Zeveloff very succinctly noted, the site had linked to the work of two women described as “capable, intelligent and fierce.”
    To clarify: no one is accusing David Abitol of being some kind of terrible woman-hating supremacist. My issue with all this is that it reduces two smart women to commodities to be bought and sold – and that Jewlicious feels that that’s okay because they’re attractive (and female).

  9. Muffti, I don’t think that ck is actually trying to sell sex for money. No one is claiming that Jewlicious is secretly running a prostitution business. I’m objecting to this event because it’s sleazy and misogynistic to solicit donations based on sex appeal.

  10. Muffti gets that you aren’t accusing jewlicious of running an online brothel. But he’s saying that jewlicious also isnt soliciting cash on the basis of sex appeal. The idea, though not conceived of by muffti, is a play on the misogynist theme of selling sex appeal for cash. Muffti thinks it’s pretty obvious that jewlicious isn’t floating as a realistic possibility that sex appeal of a blogger (or two, or four at this point) is really going to play a role in getting donors to shell out ridiculous amounts of money. At least, as muffti said above, that’s muffti’s take on this. Hence the joke…
    If one doesn’t share that pressuposition, the play on the theme is upsetting and downright exploitative. But muffti is pretty sure ck at least thought that it was shared when he wrote it up. Muffti certainly assumed when he saw it that it was a play on a theme rather than a crass (and highly implausible) attempt to solicit money using sex appeal. Jewlicious assumes, hopefully rightly, that our donors aren’t going to start tossing cash at us on the basis of our bloggers good looks. Does that seem realistic to you? (muffti is genuinely curious.)

  11. The idea, though not conceived of by muffti, is a play on the misogynist theme of selling sex appeal for cash.

    Fair enough, I suppose; although I’m far from the only one who didn’t think this was as tongue-in-cheek as you’re implying.

    Jewlicious assumes, hopefully rightly, that our donors aren’t going to start tossing cash at us on the basis of our bloggers good looks. Does that seem realistic to you?

    It would seem a lot more realistic if the post hadn’t gone out of its way to mention the women’s good looks – and included pictures of them at the top.

  12. Here’s let’s clarify: a bunch of unrelated people at Jewschool, the Forward (and probably elsewhere too) came independently to the conclusion that it was sexist and disgusting. The defense so far has consisted of “No, it’s not!!!!”
    Well, frankly, if all these people independently concluded that it was…
    you know the talmud says that if one person says you’re an ass, ignore him, but if two say it, buy yourself a saddle.

  13. To be fair, I’m pretty sure that Jewschool and The Forward coordinated our responses at the last meeting of the Elders of Zion Ladies’ Auxiliary.

  14. So here I am in Vienna, hanging half way out a window, not in a pensive Herzl inspired moment where I contemplate der juden staat, but rather in an attempt to leech off the downstairs beer garden’s wifi. So where are we with this?
    1) Raysh says that it’s disgusting that our post presupposes that the philanthropists will be heterosexual men. I appreciate the clarification that Raysh doesn’t necessarily think that I am disgusting (phew). I too don’t think that Raysh, a person I have never met, is disgusting. But I am appalled at the presumption that only heterosexual men would have any interest in anything our bloggers would have to say over dinner, or as speakers presenting their ideas in a public forum to an audience (one of the suggested choices everyone conveniently chose to ignore, perhaps because it didn’t fit into the image of a disgusting, albeit modest, proposal).
    2) Benjamin brings up some interesting points and the answer is that this happens all the time. People pay other people for their time. Sadly the Forward chose to only publish half my response, omitting the part where I explained our inspiration. When I am by my computer I will paste it in all it’s lameness. But the inspiration was more consultancy than prostitution.
    3) KRG’s comment is pretty lame. Because a number of like minded individuals came to the same conclusion, then said conclusion must be true. Huh? I can point to other individuals who took no offense to the post. Are you all smarter than they are? More sensitive? Or might this be a good time to admit that you have an ideological axe to grind and you would jump, three times no less, at any opportunity to crow no matter how flimsy the premise.
    Can you all at least be honest and up front about that? I mean seriously, three posts???

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