I attended McGill University for a few years, which definitely had a party culture, so it was not surprising that I wound up at a house party during the first few weeks of the academic year.
I felt pretty comfortable going into the party, as I had quite a few friends who were there. All seemed normal — most people were clutching a then-legal Four Loko and trying to avoid previous hook-ups as if their life depended on it (which was very amusing considering the apartment was very small).
I plopped down on a nearby sofa when a guy who I had never met — who I will call Chad because that is the most douchebag name that I can think of — started making small talk with me. Frankly, he did all of the talking. Then Chad decided to tell me a story.
“So, in high school, someone told me the worst insult ever about my physical appearance. Want to know what it was?”
So not only was Chad a talker, he also seemed super superficial. “Sure,” I said while trying to signal a friend to rescue me from this conversation.
“Some dude said I looked like a Jew…”
I honestly cannot recall what he said after that. I was so enraged. “I’m Jewish,” I said while staring at the floor, while avoiding eye contact at all costs.
“Really? You don’t look like a Jew,” he said. “You’re actually pretty.”
I got up and stormed away, trying to put as much space between him and me as possible. I had no desire to feign interest in someone who believes Jews look a certain way, and that Jewish women cannot be attractive.
I’ve received comments about how I do not “look Jewish,” including from people who are Jewish, my entire life. But just because I do not have stereotypical Ashkenazi Eastern European features does not make me less Jewish than someone who does.
Also, the notion that Jewish women are not pretty or attractive is ridiculous. Actually, it’s more than ridiculous — it’s anti-Semitic.
I quickly found one of my friends at the other side of the room and let out a huge sigh. For most of the time, I am very much someone who will call out anti-Semitism when I hear it and explain why their comment is problematic. But it’s a lot of emotional labor to do that all the time, especially in settings where I just want to have fun and relax, like at a party.
My friend, seeing that I was visibly annoyed and did not want to stay, dragged me to a nearby 24/7 Tim Hortons. When I told her what happened, she was just as disgusted as I was, and we both agreed to call it a night.
Back at my apartment, I stayed up all night creating a plan on how to simultaneously smash the patriarchy and dismantle anti-Semitism. Just kidding, I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow and woke up hungover and annoyed. I’m still mad at Chad — and all the other Chads like him — who think that Judaism can be reduced to looks, and that there is something insulting about being a Jew.
Header image via Tuttotonno on giphy.