Stern Students Respond to the “Build a Stern Girl” BuzzFeed Quiz

By: Leah Klahr  |  September 26, 2017

Last Monday night in the Uptown YU library Shifra Lindenberg, Syms ‘20, and a friend who requested to remain anonymous, created the BuzzFeed quiz that has made waves in YU and the broader Jewish community.  The quiz, called “Build a Stern Girl and We’ll Tell You How Old You’ll Be When You Get Married”, has sparked a wide range of responses, including Tablet’s article “Bigoted BuzzFeed Quiz Mocks Orthodox Women”. The quiz was taken down by BuzzFeed moderators on Sunday morning due to reports of offensive content.

Among the quiz questions were “Pick a Seminary Your Stern Girl Went to”, “Pick a Graduate School for Your Stern Girl to Drop Out of”, “Pick a Maternity Shirt for your Stern Girl to Wear”, and “Pick a Job for Your Stern Girl to Have After College”. The choices to choose from highlighted classic stereotypes about Stern students; for example, the only job choices offered in the “Pick a Job for Your Stern Girl” question were “stay at home mom”, “working at a preschool”, “working at an elementary school”, and “nurse”. The quiz ended with “Pick an Engagement Ring for Your Stern Girl”, and then calculated “How Old You’ll Be When You Get Married”.

While some Stern students expressed frustration with the negative stereotypes about Stern women emphasized in the quiz, others found it funny and astute. Lindenberg reported to The Observer, “That night when we posted the quiz, I kept hearing people talk about the quiz, mostly describing it as hilarious, accurate, and even ‘dope’. Everyone on the shuttle that night was raving about it… I’ve surprisingly received lots of positive feedback about the quiz. In fact, I’m pretty sure I got more positive feedback than negative feedback.”

Lindenberg explained that that quiz was intended as entertainment and satire, as well as content for her Facebook page “Jewish Shifposting”. “I didn’t think the quiz would get this much response and attention,” Lindenberg said. “I’ve made other Jewish-themed BuzzFeed quizzes that received less attention than this one, like my “We Know if You’re Not Shomer Negia” quiz, and “We Know What Yeshiva Your Bashert is in”’, she added.

Once the quiz was posted in the “Stern: In the know” Facebook group, it triggered varied comments from Stern students. While some students joked about the quiz results they received, others expressed their disapproval of the quiz’s content. “This is offensive to the entire Stern student body,” commented Jasmine Razi, Syms ‘18. “Every student here is unique and is on her own path. It’s sad to see a fellow student spreading harmful stereotypes, and putting down other students instead of empowering one another.” Other comments expressed frustration with the misrepresentation of Stern women created by the quiz answer choices.

Another student, Kira Paley, SCW ‘19, commented on the difference between “satire…and spreading unnecessary, unwanted pessimism.” Paley told The Observer, “While the creator of the quiz probably intended it as satire, the quiz’s lack of creativity and humor simply reinforced a negative stereotype; it’s important that satirical material about YU accomplishes something other than just bringing students down.”

However, other students argued that the quiz was harmless. “It seems like the goal of the quiz is to just make fun of this stereotype because it barely exists, yet is over-exaggerated. We all know it’s a minority of students that come out this way, so it’s just making fun of how over-exaggerated it is,” commented Efrat Malachi, SCW ‘20.

When questioned about the line between satire and offensive content, Lindenberg responded to The Observer, “Should there be a balance between calling out certain phenomena and censorship? It depends, because balance is relative, and can be used a source of censorship. I personally am against censorship to some extent, because it limits creativity, and doesn’t allow for people to make statements that need to be heard…Could I have had a better balance in in my quiz, consequently offending less people? Probably. But that would have been at the cost of the quiz’s effectiveness.”  

Lindenberg stressed, “The quiz was created as satire; I’m not out to offend, harass, or bully anyone. My goal initially was to create a product that achieved its goal effectively…it got a lot of attention, and even caused some people to face the problem of how many women in our community feel that they need to get married at such a young age.”

Lindeberg also explained that though the quiz was removed by BuzzFeed, she was planning to take down the quiz herself because of the negative feelings it had created.