This is the first time I really get what it means to “go viral.”
I know this is my third blog in a row about breasts, so I’ll try to be brief.
Most of you know the story: A muslim cleric, Kazem Sedighi, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune: “Many women who do not dress modestly, lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.”
Purdue student, Jen McCreight, challenged the cleric on her blog and a Facebook page encouraging women to show some cleavage Monday, April 26 and see if they could incite an earthquake. The idea obviously is to challenge a culture that oppresses female sexuality.
CBS news reports 80,000 women have signed up for Boobquake. Though The Sexist reports so far there’s more media coverage than actual participants at Boobquake events.
McCreight writes she never expected her joke to get so much attention and that if she’d known, she would’ve been more careful about wording and execution.
So the question is obviously whether or not it’s empowering for women to bare breasts to humiliate the cleric, not only offending him with immodesty but also proving how ridiculous his claims are. Do these acts in fact challenge a sexist culture or is Boobquake instead capitulating to it, exploiting women’s bodies with a voluntary sex show? It’s the same endlessly debated question of third and fourth wave feminism: is it empowering to express your sexuality when it involves ‘traditionally’ feminine accouterments such as high heels and clinging clothing?
It can go either way.
Certainly expressing sexuality shouldn’t be at odds with attaining other kinds of power, as second wave feminism was interpreted by many. If you were serious about the movement, supposedly you couldn’t shave your legs or wear lipstick. (I imagine that’s all exaggerated; I know bras were never burned, but certainly just the reputation of stodgy feminists was enough to scare many women away from joining “women’s libbers”.) The challenge remains today that it can be difficult for women to express sexuality and simultaneously keep control of it, still living in a culture where men as a group are the ones in power.
Years ago, I started a “Team Pussy” movement, or tried to, before Facebook and Twitter, with an article I wrote for Salon, and then a site I started, and some T-shirts. I hoped to transform the word “pussy” from an insult into a compliment, meaning the person referred to as a “pussy” was not wimpy, but brave or cool. Ten years earlier, with many less resources than it has today, the male dominated internet managed to co-opt my attempt to some degree, linking my Salon piece to hundreds of porn sites.
And I’ve got to wonder: what would it mean if the breast baring does actually bring on an earthquake? I guess the cleric would be proved right, but it would be kind of a cool testament to female power. Not a big, long earthquake, nothing that hurt anyone, just a quickie.
I guess no one knows what will come of Boobquake yet. The only thing evident so far is that women are smarter than men. If men were more intelligent, they would’ve thought this up years ago. Or maybe they did. If we see the cleric at the Make Out Room tonight, we’ll know for sure. Here’s some info on the festivities taking place there tonight, one of, apparently many, local Boobquake events in SF:
Monday 4/26: Ladies, participate in a global experiment you’ll surely tell your grandchildren about some day: Boobquake! The brainchild of blogger, Jen McCreight, Boobquake aims to disprove an Iranian prayer leader’s recent assertion that immodesty causes earthquakes. Then, get your decolletage down to The Makeout Room for a mod edition of Cat’s Pajamas, an evening of music and dance hosted by Ginger of Whore Magazine. 21+, $5, 8pm @ 3225 22nd Street.