Lena Dunham's "Shouts and Murmers" piece,"Dog Or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz" in the March 30, 2015 issue of the New Yorker, is a poke in my eye. I don't like to be poked in the eye.
The column starts by asking: "Do the following statements refer to (a) my dog or (b) my Jewish boyfriend?"
It then goes on to list 35 attributes, relating to food issues, generosity/cheapness, medical conditions, interpersonal foibles and more. The magazine accepted Dunham's piece and published it. It is, at this writing, flying around the Interwebs like a fart in a revolving door.
I am Jewish. I am male. I am not religious. I have been on the receiving end of anti-semitism, but do not consider myself overly sensitive. My insult meter is fairly well regulated.
And yet, I felt like spitting blood upon reading Dunham's piece. Is the magazine business so fragile that it requires the New Yorker to publish this kind of click bait?
Couldn't the editors have been mindful of the fact that comparing Jews and dogs, in any context, might be considered -- oh, just maybe -- insulting?
I already sense the tsk tsking out there, based on comments online. "That's Dunham being Dunham," blah, blah, blah.
Reverse the genders and religions. The story is now written by a Jewish TV humorist/actor about his gentile girlfriend, comparing her to a dog. Still hilarious enough to publish in the New Yorker?
Reverse the ethnicities. The story is now written by Dunham, about her boyfriend, a man of color. Does that scenario pass muster for the pages of the New Yorker?
Maybe the true column has yet to be written: "Dog or Lena Dunham? A Quiz" -- anyone out there up to the task of tackling that one, and pitching the New Yorker?
Perhaps in this instance the words of my Vilna-born, Jewish grandma would be appropriate: "Don't pay attention; it only encourages her."