Wednesday, October 12, 2011

(stereo)Typical

Okay, I’m going to try to keep this post uncharacteristically short. I’ve got approximately a billion things to do over the course of the next 18 or so hours until Chag, including studying for/taking my anthropology midterm, writing three pages of a philosophy essay, lots of cooking, and oh yeah, sleeping, so I don’t know how much time I can really devote to this right now.* True, Arbitribe is one of my favorite things to participate in, but it doesn’t even come close to topping the “finish college education” entry on my list of priorities. I figured I could either write a normal-sized post with more effort put into stretching it out and fluffing it up than on the actual content, or I could write a well put together, well thought out piece that’s a little bit shorter than my standard. Given a choice like that, the latter option is the obvious answer. Therefore, with apologies to my legions of fans, let’s briefly get into Jewish dating stereotypes and why they’re never going to go away.

There’s a long stretch of billboards on Rockaway Boulevard that seem to never change. It therefore surprised me when, looming over one of the busier intersections, the billboard I saw was not the familiar one about how keeping to the speed limit is good for the structural integrity of your face. What shocked me more than the actual replacement of the billboard that had been there for as long as I can remember was the content of the one that replaced it, an ad for a Jewish singles website called Young Jewish Matchmakers. It basically touts itself as a more modern Jewish dating site because it’s staffed by “young hip matchmakers” as opposed to the “old, out of touch” variety. As soon as I saw that, I got really annoyed, but at the time I couldn’t tell you why. I originally thought I would write about just that feeling, but yesterday, in the interest of good journalism, I decided that I would actually visit the site and do a little research instead of just spouting off my uninformed opinions. Crazy, I know. However, what I found during a cursory perusal of the site helped me understand exactly why things like this make me crazy. Let me preface this though by saying that I have nothing personally against this organization; it is one example of a more widespread problem, and it is only due to pure coincidence that this is the particular case that will serve as the sacrificial lamb I need to make my point. But I will make my point.

So I signed on to youngjewishmatchmakers.com and the first thing I noticed was that the banner on the homepage had the same basic two images as the ones on the billboard: a picture of an old, angry looking lady with a big red X over her face and the caption “OLD” at the top, and a picture of young, happy looking couple in bright color with the caption “YOUNG” at the top. Now, I’m taking a class this semester on media literacy, and my media spidey sense went berserk right about then. I hadn’t even gotten past the banner at the top of the page and I was picking up propaganda vibes. Yes, if you pick someone closely resembling the Old Maid lady to represent your “out of touch” matchmaker, then everything else will look great by comparison. What’s worse though, is the picture of the younger couple that they chose. During a break from writing this, I happened upon an ad for a Christian singles website WITH THE VERY SAME PICTURE. Um, what? Can you say “stock photo?” Is this couple even Jewish? So without reading a word I’m already annoyed by this site.

This is turning out to be quite longer than I expected it to be so I’ll be brief in describing the textual aspect of this website. They say such things as “our service is completely free. If we help you get married then it will be up to you how much you reward us” (total guilt trip and probably misleading) and “Dating Tip #7: The male always pays for the date” (sexist). One of the recommended dating places is a café, like Starbucks, but heaven forbid you should go to Dunkin Donuts…okay maybe that’s valid. The point is that there’s a lot of this nonsense about materialism that’s touted as what the main focus of dating should be. The young, pretty people, the specific dating locations, the overt attitude of the site; all that superficiality should be secondary to the core of dating, which is finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. The first impression I got from this site was that that’s not important. The sad part is, the ostentatious garbage is only a small part of what this site has to offer, but it outshines the other stuff. Upon closer inspection, there’s some advice in there that’s very good, even if it’s completely obvious.

I think the problem then is that stereotypes like the “Jewish girls only want rich doctors/lawyers” are not necessarily true or even strictly Jewish, but they are kept alive by attitudes like that of this website. The fact that the homepage image seems to have been procured through a Google image search of “happy young couple” doesn’t exactly lend credibility to the site, and the dating tips come across as a bland sequence of “freaking duh” moments, but I believe there’s potential there to do good things for people. I’m sure that there are hundreds if not thousands out there who want someone more relatable than the usual cheek-pinching old crone or the Torah-is-Everything rabbi to help them decide on a life partner. Those two approaches may be valid, but not everyone is the same and not everyone needs those approaches. This is something fresh that could really be helpful to people, but the catch is that you have to survive the first impression, which is not good. I’m not sure how many people will stick around to peel away the waste if that’s all they see on a first look. In the end, I feel like we’re perpetuating our own stereotypes.

There’s so much more to say about this and the Jewish dating/shidduch scene in general but if I don’t cut this right now then I’ll never get it posted before Chag. I’m thinking I’ll do a part two for next time, and I’d imagine there will be what to respond to in the comments, so this discussion will definitely not end here. Whetting the palate is what I do, folks. And, apparently, I can’t write short posts to save my soul. Typical.

To conclude with a totally unrelated and shameless self plug just in case you missed it in last week’s update, my own column, tentatively titled Diary of a Music Nerd, is set to launch on this blog in two weeks, so stay tuned and get pumped for musical awesomness!

Chag Sameach to everyone!!!

Song of the Day: By Horror Haunted - Anterior

*I wrote this intro at midnight last night, so the timing still makes sense. I guess all that stuff I had to do would explain why I’m now posting this something like 15 hours later. Anthro went well, just in case anyone was wondering :)

2 comments:

  1. Ok, rather than a whole introductory spiel, a few points that I'd like to add that I am too tired to bother making coherent:

    In my humble, 22-year-old opinion, age comes experience. Yes, it is a lot easier to be more in tune with the challenges of dating when you were single recently yourself, but, on the flipside, I feel that many younger people to get married are more likely still in the "honeymoon" period of their marriage and therefore it is common to either fall off the face of this planet, or to be overly optimistic, which I don't think does anyone any good. I've noticed (as a newlywed) that a lot of my peers who have gotten married think that because they have been married for all of 6 months, they have aaaaalllll the answers and therefore know exactly what it takes to be married -- and they don't. With age and being married longer comes the ability to see past the glamour of "getting married" and gives you the knowledge to help those see and find the important attributes needed in "being married".

    Secondly, as someone who did experience the "shidduch system" as it stands, in both a more modern way as well as a more right-wing Orthodox way, as well as have met relationships outside of the "system", I believe it is incredibly disrespectful to everyone who was ever set up by a shadchan to, as Tzvi said, perpetuate the old hag of a shadchan -- I believe that idea will turn off many people from using a matchmaker (and really, anyone who tries to set up anyone is considered a matchmaker) while matchmakers can really be helpful in many situations. Also, the fact that it was done in such a public forum such as a billboard is also not only perpetuating a lousy stereotype to Jews, but to everyone who passes it and disrespecting and mocking anyone who has used any sort of a matchmaker in the Jewish world, and making Jews in general look crazy yet again.

    Thirdly, (and this is just my own personal problem) if you have a website and are trying to reach young people, for pete's sake, BRAND YOURSELF AS SUCH. Make yourself LOOK GOOD. If you want a young organization that is built on the premise that its young people helping young people, don't look like your website was created by a cat stepping on the keyboard and publishing the website by accident. For a "unique" and "fresh" approach, it's really not well done at all.

    In conclusion, it could be a good idea, but it is not executed well.

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  2. I think u encapsuled the whole post with " freaking duh" . These thing irritate me

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