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What's a Coastie? -- the latest "JAP" attack

News of the University of Wisconsin's slang term "Coastie" exploded over the weekend with a song called "What's a Coastie" quickly going viral on Youtube.  A "Coastie," as explained in the song, is an out-of-state student who wears East Coast fashion and is a "rich Jewish girl."  The lyrics say:

What’s a coastie?

Black tights all day

That’s a coastie

Starbucks, big shades!

She a coastie

Always blowin’ daddy’s money

You a coastie

My East Coast Jewish honey

Later in the song they actually say the words "Jewish American Princess," just in case you missed the reference. Watch the video below:

The Jewish community has taken note.  Most sources are outraged at the continuation of the damaging stereotype of Jewish women as spoiled daddy's girls from Long Island. The New York Times reported that many Jewish students at the University of Wisconsin were offended by the song.  That article also reports that the song's writers meant it to be complimentary, and to that Heeb raises an important question: "Does good-natured satire do more harm or good when most of the audience isn’t in on the joke?"  The writers are clearly trying to pursue these "Coastie" girls, and find them desirable despite the negative qualities they list.  Could this be endemic of the alleged "Jewish girl fetish" recently decried in Details magazine?

An interesting response came from Elissa Straus of the Sisterhood, a University of Wisconsin alum.  Though she doesn't remember anyone using the term "Coastie" when she was there, she is familiar with the alternate term "Sconnie," referring to in-state students. She writes:

This is why, despite the obvious stereotypes put forth in the song — which, by the way, I find kind of catchy and fun — I don’t think this is a bad thing. I think, if taken lightly, which the song genuinely seems to do, the whole “coastie” phenomenon might actually give students an opening to talk about these divisions something we couldn’t really do.

Since “coastie” is a new label, unlike the already loaded JAP, there is room for improvisation of meaning. It has a colloquial lightness to it, and, in the case of UW, Madison, has its counterpart in “sconies” — removing much of the sting of JAP.

Is "Coastie" as bad as "JAP?" Or, since being a "Coastie" seems to be as much about fashion and region as it is about religion, are the terms comprable?  What do you think? Does the Coastie song rub you the wrong way?

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3 Comments

...not the song, but the conversation.

as a west coaster who taught undergrads at Wisconsin (politics, culture, etc), i can tell you that the Coastie term is NOT about being Jewish or female. it's about privilege, class, and entitlement. it's about importing east coast (Boston to Philly) and west coast (LA to San Diego) notions of fashion and decency to the midwest. it's about bringing crass fashion and self-importance to a reserved midwestern culture that relies on politeness and shaming for social cohesion.

in the case of this video, the "east coast Jewish honey" is just an example of what they're talking about. there are plenty of non-Jewish male jackasses on campus, too. certainly it doesn't apply to every Jewish woman (duh) and straw-manning it like that falls right into the "i'm entitled, hear me roar" act that 'sconnies loathe.

Have you seen the mock trailer for the faux Disney animated film called, "Rachel and the Dragon," whose heroine in a Jewish American Princess? Here's a link to it:http://ramascreen.com/rachel-a...

The 16thStreetJ blog has a funny interview up on this topic!

And there is a great conversation going on at Jewschool as well.

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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "What's a Coastie? -- the latest "JAP" attack." 21 December 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 26, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/coastie>.

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