Sisterhood Blog

Embracing the 'Coastie' Label

By Elissa Strauss

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Coastie, a new term for out-of-state students that is floating around the University of Wisconsin, Madison, definitely seems like a euphemism for Jewish American Princess. And I am just not sure it is such a bad thing.

The term, which, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been used at the school for around a decade, has just peaked in popularity due to a the “Coastie song,” and subsequent YouTube video, that has been getting its fair share of attention.

Lyrics include:

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

And later:

My Jewish American princess baby

Walks wit a swag and talks so crazy

East Coast accent,

East Coast fashion

Black spandex wit an ass like Bascom!

Smokin on a cig as she passin,

I graduated from UW, Madison in 2001, and I can’t remember anyone using the word “coastie,” though its in-state counterpart “sconie” was in circulation. Instead, we relied on good old “JAP,” though that, of course, was only something you were allowed to say publicly if you were Jewish and among Jews. I never identified with this cohort — I actually avoided wearing the color black for three years as a way to disassociate myself with the group — but I can attest to the fact that these pretty conflated in-state/ out of state, Jewish/ non-Jewish divisions existed along with a simmering tension.

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.

Labels can be dangerous and limiting, but, on the other hand, a shared language and a sense of humor can open doors. I hope the young Badgers have some fun with this.



Comments
MM Mon. Dec 21, 2009

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2006, and I can assure that the term "coastie" is rarely, if ever, used playfully or in good humor. It is only used to refer to Jewish women who are perceived to be materialistic and vapid. Interestingly enough, the term is hardly ever applied to Jewish men. Like the term JAP, "coastie" is motivated by sexism and anti-semitism. (Why, indeed, is it only women who are perceived to be materialistic? Idiotic? Are they some how less deserving of material wealth than men? Then non-Jews?)

There is also a significant sense of socio-economic friction behind the term's use.

An ancedote-->In the women's bathroom in College Library on the UW Campus I saw the following enscribed on the stall door "F--k all you coastie Jewish bitches."

Not exactly something I found "fun" or in "good humor."

e Tue. Dec 22, 2009

I agree. This does not sound "playful" to me and I wouldn't be taking it so lightly. It's just another form of anti-semitism, with a frat-house sexist twist.

Daniel Brenner Tue. Dec 22, 2009

ok, I am ancient compared to the writer and commentator above - I graduated UW -Madison in 1991 - but I have to say that while I certainly find the video disturbing on multiple levels, it is more a sign of the class divide that develops between the Freshmen who live in the private dorms (the Towers and Statesider which are featured in the video) and those who live in the public dorms than it is about Jewish folks on campus. I was a Jew from North Carolina but I lived in the public dorms (Sellery B)and I ended up in social circles with folks from Wisconsin. I experienced very little anti-Semitism. I'm not sure what happens on other public university campuses, but the idea of "private" dorms which end up populated by out-of State students is going to lead to the "Coastie" phenomenon...and lots more bad rap videos.

BK Tue. Dec 29, 2009

If it wasn't anti-semitic, it wouldn't include anything about being Jewish. Mr. Brenner, it's idiotic to hold a double standard for racism. There would be no ambiguity on anyone's part if the object of derision in a merely "bad rap video" were African-American, Asian, or whathaveyou.

Why are we so willing to trivialize anti-semitic misogyny? Both you and the author seem quite happy to do so, and it's high time we start calling you folks out as "race traitors."

william Fri. Jan 8, 2010

buy home

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