In a short BuzzFeed-produced video called “The Perks of Dating a Jewish Girl,” a cute, bewildered (and presumably gentile) young man with all the stylistic hallmarks of an early-millennial hipster, marvels repeatedly at the competence, directness, efficiency, and preparedness of his equally cute Jewish girlfriend. Her purse contains every possible remedy you could desire for allergies or mosquito bites. Want something to eat? She’s packed a few light snacks, including cheesecake, two kinds of sandwiches (in case you can’t make up your mind), and a whole rotisserie chicken. She’s not afraid to assert herself—with relative smoothness and grace—whether she’s (successfully!) sending food back in a restaurant or playing a game of Jewish geography with your boss, immediately warming him to you for the first time. Hence, the title: a Jewish girlfriend comes with major perks.
This, I feel, is a little troubling.
As a Jewish woman who manages to have neither food nor medicine (nor Tylenol, tampons, a pen, a phone charger/charged phone) with her at all times, and for whom it has taken nearly two decades of living on the both coasts to vanquish a crippling Midwestern-ness so that I’m able to complain about anything to a restaurant server—let alone ask someone a personal question on a topic that they haven’t already volunteered—I’m a little troubled by the idea of presenting a Jewish girlfriend (or frankly, any girlfriend) as a sort of hyper-competent helpmeet whose main function is to get a passive man-child to step out of himself, get his life together and send his hamburger back to the kitchen (and then, presumably, to back up her Mary Poppins bag full of mango salsa and antihistamines and be on her way.)
But it’s still a cute video, full of adorable people who seem genuinely untouched by previous decades of popular culture presenting these exact traits—the hypochondria, the need to feed, the pushiness, the ethnocentricty—as unattractive or even shameful. For Millennial men, Jewish or not, who themselves are often stereotyped (unfairly) as childlike, passive, and unable to take care of themselves, these attributes are suddenly strengths, something a woman can fulfill. Hence, a Jewish girlfriend, with her endless supply of snacks and ability to take charge of any situation, is suddenly the ultimate safe space: attractively decorated, able to negotiate on your behalf with the terrifying world outside, and willing to have sex with you. Generations of men have feared, loathed, and demonized the castrating, overbearing Jewish mother; this one, who probably still texts their real moms 17 times a day, fetishizes her. It’s an improvement, and here’s hoping we’re right now raising a generation of men who won’t need their girlfriends to be their mommies at all.