The First-Ever Jewish(?) Swimsuit Calendar and the Fetishization of the Female Other

In 2008, the popular Jewish culture magazine, Heeb, put out the self proclaimed first-ever Jewish Swimsuit Calendar featuring the lovely ladies of 69- a double entendre on the Hebrew year 5769 and the well-known sex position. What’s strange about this “notorious issue,” which serves to promote the less publicized “Jewish beauty,” is that almost every Jewish girl pictured fails to fit the typical characteristics associated with being Jewish. The blonde Bar Refaeli and other “shiksa” looking models line the pages, and while it is great to show diversity within the looks of the religion, it is problematic that the only girls promoted in this calendar are the ones who characteristically don’t match Jewish phenotypes. This “Jewish girls are hot, but only when they don’t look Jewish” mentality, along with the emphasis of their religion which makes it clear to the reader how exceptional and new it is to find attractive female Jews, only serves to continue the common racial tropes and perpetuate the idea that the Jewish female is still subpar to the White Christian female.

Furthermore, the very nature of this calendar exemplifies the fetishization and objectification of the female Other. Objectifying and sexualized lines such as “Bar Refaeli, catch of the day” and “the ladies of 69” seek to portray Jewish women in general only as rare objects for male enjoyment. While at first glance this calendar seems as an appraisal of Jewish women, deserving of gratitude, it is exactly the opposite. Displaying and publicizing this type of female Other portrayal whether it is “jewresses”, “geishas”, or “jezebels”, only succeeds in maintaining these women as exotic objects for sexual pleasure rather than diverse human beings with much more to offer than their appearance as sex symbols.

In relations to previous related blog posts, what are some of the other implications that the fetishization of race and ethnicity have? What are some other examples of this practice? Could Heeb have improved this article in any ways or at all to use it as device against the racial heiracrchy?

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