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When Nice Jewish Boys Don’t Quite Cut It

A little while ago I saw a film about how photoshopped pictures in magazines can affect body image. The film is called “Wet Dreams and False Images” and it centers on a Brooklyn barber who insists that the girls he sees in ads and magazines are “all natural.” After watching the movie there was a discussion of how body image issues might be relevant to the Jewish community, and how we can avoid idolizing the pictures of models that we see every day. One of the women in the crowd said something to the effect of, “Well, our girls aren’t likely to end up with men like that barber anyway, so it’s not really a problem for us.” Okay, so clearly that’s ridiculous on a number of levels. Barbers from Brooklyn are definitely not the only people who venerate half naked women in perfume ads. And anytime anyone speaks for the entire Jewish people I’m already annoyed. But here’s what really made me squirm: “Our girls aren’t likely to end up with men like that.” Oh, really? I went to thirteen years of Jewish day school. I am highly educated, and observant. On paper, at least, I am a pretty good candidate for a Nice Jewish Girl. And while I can’t say the barber in the film did anything for me, my romantic interests have strayed quite a bit out of the ‘short cute Ivy League lawyer from New Jersey’ prototype.
The idea that Nice Jewish Girls won’t want to go out with Hispanic guys, or won’t drink too much, or won’t fail physics–I think that’s as much of a problem as all of the body image stuff. The flipside of the rich spectrum of observancy we find today is that we have all the problems everyone else has. And sure, it would be great if being an NJG precluded one from needing decades of therapy, or shacking up with a bad guy, or smoking up, but that’s just not the case. So instead of pretending that we’re not members of the club, and that our daughters won’t have to deal with all of this, we need to start being realistic. This means accepting that sometimes “our girls” will end up with barbers from Brooklyn, and that’s not the worst thing in the world. It also means accepting that “our girls” might bring home Nice Jewish Boys who aren’t doctors, lawyers, or academics. And that’s okay, too. But denying that we have the problem, or any small facet of the problem? That doesn’t help anyone, least of all, “our girls.”

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