By Jake Baum
For the Mitzpeh
Political correctness is an essential component of an inclusive society. The concept allows individuals to become conscious of stereotypes and to form our own opinions of the people around us. Recognizing and taking down these stereotypes ensures that we judge others by the content of their character and not the perceived characteristics that separate us.
It is clear that many clothing companies have forgotten this concept in their creative processes. In the past few years, major department stores and clothing lines have produced offensive pieces of clothing that, if political correctness were considered, would never have been produced in the first place.
In 2012, teenage-oriented brand Urban Outfitters sold yellow t-shirt with a Star of David embroidered on the pocket, evoking images of Jews in Nazi Germany and the yellow stars they were forced to wear on their clothes in the early stages of the Holocaust.
Just last year, another retailer, Zara, put on the market a black and white striped shirt with a yellow star on the front – also eerily resembling the yellow pointed star and striped outfit that Jews were forced to wear in the concentration camps. The company claimed that the outfit, for young children no less, was meant to create imagery of sheriffs in the Wild, Wild West.
Recently another upscale retailer, Nordstrom, began selling a Hanukkah sweater, captioned with the phrase “Chai Maintenance, Hanukkah JAP.” With the Jewish community in outrage, the retailer pulled the piece from its holiday line.
As a Jew, I want to consider this offensive. I want to join my fellow Jews in condemning Nordstrom for its insensitivity towards the Jewish segment of consumers who they cater to. I want to justify to myself that pulling the sweater from their line was the right response. As a feminist, I want to see this (like many others have) as encouraging the stereotype of high-strung, privileged Jewish girls. But to do so would be a lie.
In the past, I have been invited to many ugly Christmas sweater parties and, as a Jew, I felt left out. Of course the party would be fun, but I felt separated from my peers. I felt more comfortable simply attending in normal attire, constantly repeating that I was Jewish. As such, it did not make sense to me to honor a tradition that I did not grow up in, one that did not apply to me.
In reality, I feel honored in a way. From the end of October all the way up to New Year’s Eve, Americans are bombarded with Christmas decorations and spirit, and for some people like me it seems unfair. However, I see this sweater as a symbol of the changing times. As much as I enjoy the merry and cheerful Christmas atmosphere, what I get from this sweater is more a feeling of corporations and society as a whole finally taking notice of cultural diversity. Appealing to new markets is a win for all. It allows these corporations to expand their brands as well as make sure that Hanukkah becomes an integral part of the general merriness of the winter holidays that, in the past, was monopolized by Christmas.