April 26, 2010 • 2:34 pm

Okay, we all know that Blag Hag (Jen McCreight) had the bright idea of “Boobquake,” a way to make fun of a Muslim cleric’s accusation that immodestly dressed females cause earthquakes.  Jen jokingly suggested a “scientific” experiment in which women would test this hypothesis by showing their breasts today on the internet and looking for an increase in seismic activity. (Actually, this isn’t really a test of the cleric’s idea, since he blamed earthquakes on the adultery attendant on display of boobage):

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Regardless, the idea has been taken up with approbation by some of my favorite bloggers, including P.Z., erv, and Russell Blackford.  How do I feel?

I can’t get behind it.

Call me humorless, call me a militant pro-feminist, call me a prude—call me what you want, but somehow the idea of women mocking religion by showing their breasts comes perilously close to making points through sexuality instead of through good arguments and brains. (Just imagine how tepid the response would be if, in the same cause, all of us male bloggers decided to show ourselves in jockstraps).  The predictably leering response of men, who of course have tendered enthusiastic thanks for the mammaries, just confirms this suspicion.

What’s worse is that some women who don’t want to participate in this affair have been derided as anti-sex.  Even Russell Blackford took this tack:

Unfortunately, there was a lot of 1980s pseudo-feminism that took a similar attitude to that of Christianity and Islam, problematising displays of female beauty and even expressing disgust with heterosexuality itself. The worst offender was the egregious Andrea Dworkin – who died relatively young back in 2005. In her case, good riddance. These pseudo-feminists merely use feminist-sounding language to rationalise the religion-based anti-sex morality into which they were socialised. But they lack the self-insight to understand that it’s what they’re doing.

Look, Russell, if you really think that male and female bodies are both beautiful, why do you suppose that this event is getting much more publicity than would a similar display of male skin? Do you think CNN would be all over the event if it was men who were showing their junk? Of course not—and you know why.

And do you really want to tar women who object to selling ideas with sex as acolytes of Andrea Dworkin?  That’s simply unfair.  Some women don’t want to bare their mammae, and NOT because they have a “religion based anti-sex morality”; they simply have good reason to think that in the long run such stunts will hinder women being taken seriously as thinkers and colleagues.

I have to agree with the take of Miranda Hale at Exquisite With Love,  who is an atheist and a feminist, but won’t be doffing her duds today:

The idea is fantastic and well-intentioned. It points out both the ridiculousness of the cleric’s claim and the despicable and harmful practice of blaming all sorts of horrible things (including sexual assault) on women.

However, the great majority of the responses to this effort have been anything but fantastic. Instead, it has inspired, primarily at its Facebook event page, many comments of the “show us your tits!” or “Dude, awesome, I’ll get to see some boob photos on Monday” variety. And, for some reason, women are complying. They’re posting photos of their cleavage and men are responding with “awesome boobs!”, etc. The Facebook event page has almost 200,000 “attendees” and the effort has received a great deal of media coverage. And that’s all well and good, but how many of these individuals are actually concerned with raising awareness of this issue? Very, very few, I’d say.

Sure, one can assert that the event has been unfairly “hijacked” by the men who are reacting in this way, but this response wasn’t hard to predict. And although the men making these types of comments are solely responsible for the attitudes expressed in them, why provide them with fodder? I understand that this is intended to be a lighthearted attempt to point out the ridiculousness and stupidity of the assertions made by the cleric, but that intention has been completely buried under a constant stream of “show us your tits” comments. . .

. . . Let’s dress however we want to, let’s be as modest or as immodest as we choose, and let’s use our sexuality however we see fit. It’s all about choice. If Boobquake is your kind of thing, then, by all means, enjoy it. But don’t stop there. Write about these issues. Raise consciousness about them. Speak out against the “show us your tits” reactions. And please don’t pretend that merely showing as much cleavage as possible is somehow making any kind of difference. It’s not.

If it doesn’t make a difference in promoting atheism and mocking faith, what good is it? It’s just Playboy on the internet.

UPDATE:  Ceiling Cat weighs in.

101 thoughts on “Boobquake

  1. This stupid idea could have exactly the opposite effect that was intended. As we all know, there has been a substantial amount of seismic activity in recent weeks, and there may well be more. If that happens, then the idiot clerics will claim the earthquakes resulting from the showing of tits on the internet as evidence for their position. What a dumb-ass box to put ourselves into.

    1. Don’t be silly – if it works they can tell Iran to drop its nuclear fuel refinement program and just buy fuel from the Russians or else they will flatten Tehran (though our diplomats would prefer they bought from us – not even the French are an acceptable supplier).

    1. Indeed. But Jerry is wrong about a tepid response if it was about men scantily clad. In fact, Rebecca Watson offered, very tongue-in-cheek, an “alternate theory” to the one of the Iranian guy:

      Obviously, for her, the latest tectonic catastrophe, that volcano eruption in Iceland, was caused by Matt Smith getting naked in the premiere of Doctor Who! And she asked for more such exhibitions if we are to test the theory!


  2. I’m afraid you’re right: you are humorless.

    Of course it attracts ‘show me your tits’ remarks, but that’s just a minor price to pay for the greater good.

    The main purpose was to get this religious stupidity greater audience attention and get people to talk about it.

    If that takes showing some innocent cleavage (NOBODY has shown her breasts!), so be it.
    To then start about whether this constitutes demeaning women, etc, is missing the point entirely.

    The intent was to raise awareness about religious stupidity. It worked. It worked VERY well.

    You REALLY think you can get through to this particular cleric through “good arguments and brains”?
    Trying that would be utterly pointless.
    Mockery is called for here!
    Call him a kook, stick out your tongue, or show some innocent cleavage. Who cares.

    1. What’s your evidence that it’s “worked very well”? Sure, it has garnered attention, but that doesn’t automatically imply consciousness-raising.

      And do you think that this event has actually affected this particular cleric? Or that he cares about it in the least?

      1. I wouldn’t expect the cleric to become any less stupid, but this reinforces the notion that you shouldn’t believe the stupid things these self-proclaimed holy men say.

      2. “What’s your evidence”

        Isn’t that obvious? All the comments on the various blogs about the issue, by people revealing that they were not aware of this cleric’s statement, and now they are. And horrified by it. Didn’t you read those comments? Can’t believe you had to ask.

        “do you think that this event has actually affected this particular cleric”

        No, of course not, nobody does. That’s part of the point! You CAN’T ‘affect’ this guy. So mock him. If that’s not your style, fine. But don’t deny a few folks with some innocent tongue-in-cheek counter action some fun.

        1. So the “smart” white guy doesn’t get it about why this whole response and attendant gawking and stupidity by white het men isn’t harmful to women.

          Hmmm. I’m about as surprised by that as I am that the cleric wouldn’t be transformed by the reactions to his comments.

          Of course it’s all just unserious fun and good ol’ mockery to you.

          You’re not part of the group who is harassed and groped in public by heterosexual men trained to “take what they want” from women. Why, I bet your response to me even saying that is “women don’t experience that!!!”. Right. Little do you know what women around the world, and even exclusively in the West, experience. Very little do you know.

          You can’t see the connections between promoting the objectification of women’s bodies, again, and again, and again, and the advertising and pornography industries which use up and toss out pimped girls who become women who become too old (say, 25) to be considered “profitable”. You don’t get the overlap with that and trafficking, and with trafficking and sexual slavery. And guess what, Jacobus van Beverningk, you don’t have to.

          Yes, in your “lucky” white man world, all phenomena exist “discretely”, independent of one another.

          Meanwhile, for women of color around the world, this is not how the world works at all. But what the hell would you know? You’re just a silly white dude, who pretends to be smarter than intelligence itself.

          So please own the position of privilege and statused being from which you speak, sir. Because you are a minority in this world, white man, and you don’t speak for the majority. You just get to have the arrogance and ego of a god, if not the knowledge and wisdom presumed to exist in concocted monotheistic gods, or any other kind.

          This is not a theist writing to you, so don’t get your underpants in a twist over some religious nut critiquing you. I despise patriarchal religion.

          Why don’t you show some concern about sexual slavery, sir? Isn’t that reality more important to address than you spouting off about how harmless and productively fun “boobquake” is?

          Oh, right, you’re a privileged ignorant-arrogant white man who gets to ignore and deny atrocities if they don’t negatively impact white men like yourself. How could I forget?

          Tell me, smart sir, how many people–disproportionately children and women of color–not white men like you, right now, are being trafficked across the globe and within various systems of sexist exploitation and violation, with no human rights at all, by pimps for procurers who think it is ethical to sell and purchase human beings so they might stick their dicks in them?

          Oh, how unfunny it all gets when we’re asked to focus on something of import. So sorry to ruin your good times.

          1. Muslim clerics insisting on women dressing modestly so as not to inflame the men (and/or cause seismic disturbances) is objectification of women’s bodies, and there are lots of Muslim women of colour who are being subjugated in this way. Women who have the privilege of dressing how they choose can protest such objectification by showing as much (or as little) flesh as they see fit.

          2. I will not debate whether the ‘Boobquake’ is demeaning or insensitive, however I will argue that it was effective at getting the word out. I am an atheist, like most of those here I suspect, but I am 40 years old and this is the first time I have ever read an atheist blog.

            I have hit the Atheist International page and read some articles. I’ve even had some rousing chats with friends back in the day, but it has never occurred to me to organize or seek out like minded people for discussions.

            Until now, that is. This event has caused me to research about the reason for it, either to mock it or to find another example of media sensationalism creating a distorted impression. In the course of doing so I now know about another radical anti-feminist cleric, by name, and have found at least three sources of current information on atheism.

            So, I can say for sure that I personally have gained knowledge and insight from this stunt. I also know that I have passed on this information to the people around me, some highly religious but very media numbed, who have now been exposed to a bit of freethought.

            Change is not brought about through massive shifts, but through individuals making thoughtful choices when presented with options. If this has allowed a bit of doubt/reason to leak into some otherwise closed minds, then it was well worth it IMO.

          3. This just in: apparently boobquake leads to sexual slavery. And apparently it’s all Jacobus’s fault. Wow. Someone should tell all the women involved in this that by mocking the objectification of women they are encouraging child prostitution. Just wow.

    2. Does mocking one guy who’s way out on the fringes of what anyone believes do anything to make anybody think twice about believing other religious figures? I seriously doubt it. In fact, I think it distracts from the fact that there’s this huge center of people who are saying ridiculous things but that we’re supposed to “respect” for some reason. Now they can point and laugh at the crazy guy too, comfortable in the fact that their religion is nothing like his.

      I’ll bet you have no trouble finding regular church-going Christians who are happily participating in this mockery.

      1. Sorry, but I have to tell you you are wrong. Among the world’s millions-rather billions- of Muslims the views of Mr Sedighi is about as “fringe” as Fox News (generically) is here in the states.
        And I don’t mind followers of one faith mocking the other. I don’t see the harm.

      2. I’m happy to mock all the jesus eaters and non-jesus-eating jesus cultists. Every religion is as stupid as the next; you can’t expect people to poke fun at every single religion in one event. In this case religion itself is not the direct target, just some ignorant holy man who claims to have a god-given truth.

  3. You’re a prude, as are most Americans (which includes me – the American part, not the prude part).

    Anyone who complains about the fact that men (non-homosexuals, at any rate) like seeing breasts is complaining about human nature. Are you a woman who doesn’t want to show your cleavage, regardless of the reason? Fine, but don’t call men sexist for wanting to see it.

    And for the sake of all that is good and unholy, don’t, as a man who wants to see cleavage as much as the rest of us, pretend that the shared and self-denied desire is sexist.

    Sexism is lending undue importance to sex, not lending any importance to it.

    1. Do you really think that it’s that simple? Women should be able to show their cleavage all they want. What I objected to (among other things) is pretending that doing so is going to effect any sort of change.

      What does “shared and self-denied desire” mean?

      1. Kudo’s to Jerry and you, Miranda. The reaction “oh, you’re a prude,” is a nice, simplistic way to dismiss a valid critique. And Jerry, one exception to your blog: acolytes of Andrea Dworkin are not necessarily anti-sex as the statement: “And do you really want to tar women who object to selling ideas with sex as acolytes of Andrea Dworkin?” implies. I know you are responding to Blackford’s comment so this isn’t really towards you so much, but just to point out that he is simplistically responding to his ideas of HER, and with an ad hominem to boot (happy she is dead). In many instances Dworkin had the courage to ask questions that needed to be asked. Yes, she was extreme, but …

        In any case, thanks for the post!

        Proud to call myself a feminist and wonder about the worthiness of BOOBQUAKE!

      2. The phrase “shared and self-denied” refers to men who like cleavage just fine, but pretend to be offended by it, in an attempt to seem sensitive, whether consciously or otherwise.

        Thousands of men and women have had a more enjoyable Monday than they would have had without “Boobquake”. Whether that was through joy at mockery of religious wingnuts, joy at seeing or displaying partially exposed mammaries, or the even the simple joy of participating with other humans in doing anything, is open for debate. Oh, and let’s not forget the news coverage, which will have at least made one person think, “Hmmm… I started to read this because of boobs, but now I see that there are some really crazy religious people out there. Perhaps that’s something worth thinking about.”

        Wars have not been ended; hunger has not been abolished; but to pretend that nothing changed is to be merely be obstinate.

        And yes, it is that simple.

      3. I didn’t get the impression that anyone was expecting any change – it’s just ridiculing some prat who blames natural disasters on women.

      4. “pretending that doing so [showing cleavage] is going to effect any sort of change”

        Absolutely NOBODY is pretending that. Nor claiming it. Where did you get THAT weird idea?

        Did you actually READ any of what Jen wrote about it? When she wrote “And if we really get through to him, maybe it’ll be one involving plate tectonics” .. she was .. now get this novel approach .. JOKING!

        You may not like the type of humor involved, but don’t go around pretending as if this all was some misguided and “doomed-to-fail” serious attempt to convert someone. It’s just a few people sticking out their tongue.

  4. The amount of hand-ringing over this has been truly puzzling to me. I think Jen summed it up quite clearly in one of her follow-ups

    (I’m paraphrasing) “wear whatever you feel comfortable with. I’m not suggestion you go beyond your comfort level”. In other words, wear something you already own and have no problem wearing already.

    If that is “anti-feminism”, then I’m a bit baffled.

    That being said, as a male, I’m going to show support by wearing a tank top and shorts. Sorry if it doesn’t have the same effect, but I support this, and am quite comfortable with such attire.

  5. The whole thing lends credence to those who argue we in the west are just as hobbled as women in hijab (looking at the Louboutin shoes, can’t really argue the hobbled part) Young women in the west think there is power in our objectification. There is none, not in a naked objectified body, nor a covered one.

    As for promoting atheism, I think all those breasts free on the internet will only make many men thank god for bimbos.

    1. Does anybody have any scientific data on the effectiveness of any atheist tactics? What are we measuring, anyway? Anybody? (Sorry about that last one.)

      To conclude that Jen’s idea is countereffective requires some kind of evidence… doesn’t it? Or maybe we’re just expressing opinions in the absence of evidence. Puerile, juvenile reactions on Youtube hardly qualify as the kind of evidence needed to establish the effectiveness of Boobquake in terms of secularizing the world.

      In terms of raising awareness, the publicity alone is worth a few upset prudes. I’ve read reports that Jen is getting emails from Muslims in Islamic states!

      In fact, I think Professor Coyne’s idea for Jockquake is going up on my blog.


  6. I must disagree Jerry. Feminism is about choice and equality. If a woman wants to participate then that’s her right. If a guy wants to look, that’s his right. It really is that simple.

    1. Thank you. Really, it is nothing more than an excuse to have fun while putting a metaphorical stick in the eye of religious fundies everywhere.

      Those who want to join in can, and those who don’t want do, won’t.

  7. Just imagine how tepid the response would be if, in the same cause, all of us male bloggers decided to show ourselves in jockstraps

    I double dare you.

        1. Real life: we did have a male septuagenarian who used to swim laps in a thong swim suit. 😛

          It didn’t cause an earth quake but it did keep the number of swimmers down and made it easier to get a lane.

  8. I do not think nudity is embarrassing. I have been to all-nude beaches (in the US and outside). No earthquakes happened and there were no people making stupid comments like “show me your tits”. The only results I experiences were the need for more sun screen and swimming was easier (even if worried about jellyfish).

    Most of the world is hung up or paralyzed about the human body. Sometimes (rarely) is is a thing of beauty, but for most of us it is a “ugly bag of mostly water”*

    *Quote from alien life form on Star Trek The Next Generation—The First Season.

  9. I felt about the same way as Jerry. I was all for this idea until the comments divulged into an incessant stream of “show me ur boobz.” It doesn’t take cleavage to dress “immodestly” in Iranian standards – simply not wearing a head scarf would do. I think the focus should have been on women dressing how they wanted. I don’t supposed there would have been as much attention or support, but if that’s the case then it would mean that people don’t care about the ideal, they just care about the boobeez.

  10. Well, the objective was not for women to BARE their breasts. Only to wear something already in their closets that an Iranian imam might consider “immodest”…which for all intents and purposes would be just about anything.

    And, of course, the earthquakes are caused by men being “inflamed” by such immodesty.

  11. Not a Tim Minchin fan, are ya?

    Lyrics to Confessions – in three movements :
    This first movement is called:

    I believe that women have the right
    To walk the streets at night
    And not be afraid for their lives
    I believe that a woman has the right
    To choose what happens to her body
    Without suffering the judgement
    Of the conservative right

    And I believe that women have the right
    to wear the clothes they like
    Without being treated like dirt
    And I believe we men are pathetic
    how we seem to judge aesthetic
    As the measure of a woman’s worth
    I’m ashamed on behalf of my sex
    For making women feel like objects

    Fuck I love boobs though, I just really love them
    Fuck I love boobs though, I just wanna rub them
    They’re just so jooby, they make me feel groovy
    I would rather watch boobs than a movie
    Be doop be doo. I just really like boobs.

    And this second movement is called:
    Poverty (altruism)

    I believe people are entitled to basic human rights
    Whether they are rich or they’re poor
    I believe a world where no children are starving
    Is a world worth fighting for
    And I try to remind myself
    Even when I’m struggling
    How incredibly lucky I am
    And I don’t think it’s ok
    That the luxuries I crave
    Should come at the expense of my fellow man
    I’m sure I could give a little more
    To alleviate the suffering of the poor.

    Fuck I love boobs though
    I just really love them
    I don’t really mind if I am behind
    Below or above them

    They’re just so jubbly
    They make me feel lovely
    I’d rather own boobs than a pub, be
    Doop be doop doop doo doo doo
    I really love boobs

    The third movement:

    I believe the that planet we live in
    Is a living organism
    And we must treat her carefully
    I don’t think we can assume
    We can just go on consuming
    Her resources indefinitely
    The world’s not a bottomless pit
    And we can all do our little bit

    Fuck I love boobs though
    I just really care for ’em
    They’re equally fun
    When they’re aged 21
    Or octogenarian
    They’re just so flappy
    They make me feel happy
    I’d rather eat boobs than a bap, be
    Doop be doo
    I just really love boobs

    Evolutionary theory says bosoms are buttock-like protrusions
    Designed to tempt men in situations
    When they can’t get a glimpse of your bum
    I find such hypotheses dumb
    It’s like the one that says
    Lipstick is for making your lips look more
    Like the lips of a happy vagina
    Since they said that
    I can’t look my great aunt
    In the eye
    Why’d they have to say that, oh why?

    From that first little suck of colostrum
    To the grope of the the nurse in the old people’s hostel
    We’re just fucking monkeys in shoes
    And I
    Will always love boobs
    I will always love boobs

  12. I’ll vote for humorless. The Blag Hag thinks it’s all fun and I’ll bet those supporting her do too. I’ve thanked the Hag for contributing her mammaries to science, but I won’t even take time to check out the boobs on the tubes. I think people who will be tuning in just to check out tits really need to get a life (well, unless the tit is a bird of course – but what would they be doing on the ‘net)>

  13. What’s enraging is that the responsibility for curbing or inciting male lust is dumped on the female, as always.

    The problem is that “boobquake” may satisfy the males who want something to leer at but it does not benefit women one iota. Come to think of it though, “boobquake” is not a bad moniker for the idea.

    1. Agreed. It seem to quickly devolve into a bunch of high school girls trying to get popular by dressing the sluttiest – with all the boys egging them on.

  14. This so-called experiment is neither scientific (she’s running stats!), nor subversive. Indeed, Playboy has jumped on board!

    It is very true that women who disagree with the tactics have been painted as anti-sex. Some have even shouted down criticism by suggesting that women who don’t support the event must have small chests!

    I am all for the sexual expression, but this is neither creative nor groundbreaking.

    Personally, I don’t need Halloween or a pseudo-scientific, pseudo-feminist cause to break out my cleavage…and most women don’t. If you want cleavage shots, log onto any online dating site.

    Give me a real challenge, I say! I posted on Twitter that: “Boobquake makes me want to post a fully naked picture of myself, wearing only a gorilla head and hairy hobbit feet.”

    Is that not pro-sex?!

    That might actually be subversive, but I doubt many want to brave the “big event” without push-up bras and camera angles that satisfy the male gaze.

    Boobquake has revealed more about Western culture and patriarchy than Iranian culture and theism.

    While some may call you humorless or a prude, I think: who is this man who has not lost his critical thinking skills in the face of boobs?

  15. I think we need to distinguish between revealing sexism and encouraging sexism.

    The “show me your boobs” comments definitely show that there’s a lot of dumb objectification going on out there.

    But, I’m having some serious trouble with the idea that Jen is creating new problems. Cleavage isn’t that exotic or unusual.

    Even more troubling is the subtext that undesirable responses are /so/ bad that Jen ought proactively censor herself.

    Just because some men are sexist and will make stupid jokes doesn’t seem to place a moral burden on women.

    1. Exactly — I’m most disturbed by the idea that Jen should censor herself, as you say, proactively, on the basis of anticipating bad responses.

      In the late 1980’s, I knew two Wellelsley graduates Trish and Elsie who were best friends bonded by their self-identified feminism. At a house party, Trish was stepping up from a chair to a table to dance, and Elsie scolded Trish, “Don’t you do it! You’re making women look bad!” Trish glared back at Elsie, then stepped up onto the table to dance anyway. After dancing on the table for a minute or two, as she was stepping back down off the table, Trish leaned her face down into Elsie’s face and stressed, “Number of women hurt — ZERO!” with her thumb and forefinger in a circle.

  16. it has got out of hand. My thoughts were that there would just be encouragement for women to wear ‘that top that displays my cleavage’ on this particular day.
    I would not encourage breast exposure because it will just satiate too many ‘leerers’. Probably especially amongst the god-botherers who go to church and perve on the young.

  17. My feelings about BoobQuake are similar to my feelings about the Christian fish with DARWIN inside: A clever joke which is easily subject to being misunderstood.

    Even had I been so inclined, I would not have had the opportunity to personally did not participate – I telecommute, and today did not see anyone other than my husband (of 30 years today!) and my cats. Nevertheless, I do fully support the right of anyone who wants to make statements with their body, and to dress however they like (today or any other day).

    All that being said, I still call it a *win* that I woke up this morning to an item on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation morning news about a “science major at Purdue organizing an experiment to test the validity of an Iranian cleric’s claim that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes”.

  18. I totally agree. These women like the blag hag totally don’t know what they want, or what’s good for them. Luckily, Jerry and his Y chromosome are here to set them straight.

    Dude, lighten up. Blackford’s right.

  19. gods above and below!! Has the whole world lost its sense of humor. So this fool of a cleric over in Iran makes this nutsy statement statement connecting provocative dress and earthquakes. Now a bunch of women want to disprove this idiotic hypothesis and have a good laugh while they do it…

    How did this silly bit of mischief become such a politically charged issue?

  20. Yeah, this is just humor and sex – neither of which are objectionable, together or separate.

    This got a lot of publicity, due entirely to the sex angle. Surprise, surprise. And so what? Men like to look at women’s bodies. That’s just nature. Are you shocked by that? Disgusted? I don’t get it.

    There’s some adolescent male behavior? Well, yes, no doubt. Again, no big surprise. Of course, more mature males enjoy looking, too. We just try to be more discreet about it.

    There is a lot more to women than just their bodies, and anyone who thinks otherwise is warped. But there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with sex appeal, either. It’s biology. It’s life. And it’s fun.

    This is just a lighthearted joke. What’s the problem? We don’t have to be serious ALL the time. And frankly, a joke like this will make the point a lot better than any serious argument would AND get far more publicity, too.

  21. We’re talking about women voluntarily wearing clothes which seem to them to be fun and sexy. Note that it was a woman who had the idea and that many other women are getting into it enthusiastically. I think there’s a reason for that.

    We’re not talking about pornographic images that are meant to do dirt on female beauty for the benefit of men who fear it. I’m not a fan of pornography because I think that this is what a lot of pornography is all about. In that sense it’s deeply misogynist.

    But we need to make the distinction between rational critique of this kind of pornography and getting upset at the sort of sexual display by women that the women themselves feel good about. Women are entitled to dress in ways that strike them as wild, and fun, and sexy, and we are all entitled to enjoy it. The difference between this and misogynist pornography is like the difference between laughing at someone and laughing with someone.

    1980s pseudo-feminism was too unnuanced to make these sorts of distinctions. Sure, some of its targets – the kind of pornography I mentioned – were legitimate ones. But much of it was so scattergun as to give the impression of rationalising anxieties about sex and the body. The people concerned would have been in good company with Saint Augustine.

  22. “1980s pseudo-feminism was too unnuanced to make these sorts of distinctions.”

    I think calling it ‘pseudo-feminism’ is rather harsh and unfair; on the other hand, I will grant you ‘unnuanced’ as entirely appropriate. When I started my career in 1980 as a newly graduated electrical engineer, the guys at the office often went out to a strip club for lunch. I declined to join them – perhaps I was not liberated enough?

  23. Methinks folks having been thinking too much about this, and have lost sight of being young and fun and, well, finding joy in one’s own body. Liking one’s body enough to show it off. And in an age where body-images are sadly dismal, I think a celebration of the power of being a woman–having so much power that the merest hint of boob can drive men crazy with lust and cause the ground to literally shake and tremble–is pretty darn cool.

    Being a feminst means enjoying the freedom to wear what I want, to reveal or not as I see fit, not as someone else–especially a man claiming a religious reason–tells me too.

    Had he said alcohol was the cause, I would have drank a beer (oh, I hope he says that next!); had he claimed TV the cause, I would have had a marathon couch session; had he claimed sex, my husband would have had one memorable day! The point was to thumb a nose at the absurdity of the statement. Scared of boobs? Here they are. Here is more of them. Be afraid, for we have enough low-cut tops to destroy the world! Mwhaaa…

    Oops, sorry, back on track…the point was ridicule of a ridiculous idea. I don’t think everyone has to participate, or even to like the idea, but making it some weird feminist/political issue shows just how far feminism actually had to go.

    Had the issue been men wearing jeans, and so men everywhere wore jeans, do ya think it would have gotten the same response from the naysayers? Ask yourself: if the accusation was that eating chocolate caused earthquakes, would you be as humorless and critical of those with chocate smeared on our faces?

    Or is it that, even in 2010, women’s bodies are still not able to be seen, or shown, or discussed, without an undercurrent of discomfort and distaste and so many implications and hidden agendas it’s a wonder we can even leave the house.

    It’s another form of a burka. Just a verbal shaming instead of throwing stones. A matter of degree. And exactly why we should flaunt our cleavage, or not if don’t want, but to wear what I want to wear without judgement, and in support of any damn reason I want.

    Although I am hoping that chocolate will be mentioned. Just sayin’…

    1. Being a feminst means enjoying the freedom to wear what I want, to reveal or not as I see fit, not as someone else — especially a man claiming a religious reason — tells me to.

      Yes, and I support your freedom to wear what you want, to reveal or not as you see fit, not as someone else — especially a woman (Miranda) claiming a secular or “liberal” or “feminist” reason — tells you to.

      It’s another form of a burka. Just a verbal shaming instead of throwing stones.

      Yes, I still don’t understand why some women feel a responsibility to censor other women like this.

      1. Please point to where I told anyone what they should or should not be wearing. Please tell me where I advocated any sort of censorship. As Jerry quoted above, I wrote this:

        “Let’s dress however we want to, let’s be as modest or as immodest as we choose, and let’s use our sexuality however we see fit. It’s all about choice. If Boobquake is your kind of thing, then, by all means, enjoy it. But don’t stop there. Write about these issues. Raise consciousness about them. Speak out against the “show us your tits” reactions. And please don’t pretend that merely showing as much cleavage as possible is somehow making any kind of difference. It’s not.”

        1. Miranda,

          You are repeating yourself. And it is starting to make you look humorless and uptight. Is that what you are going for?

          1. I’m not repeating myself. I quoted what I wrote simply because I’m wondering where, exactly, I told women what they should or should not wear or where I told anyone to censor themselves.

          2. You are repeating yourself. Yeah, yeah… you give lip service to the idea that women can wear what they want… I’m sure they thank you for the permission. But you also keep saying it won’t make any difference or that it won’t change the clerics mind… when that wasn’t really the point.

            Humorless and uptight. (Damn… now I’m repeating myself!)

  24. I think this one kinda just passed me by. I think it is clever and a nice role reversal. Then I kinda forgot about it. I didn’t know it became such a big deal. And yeah, I guess it is a big deal primarily because of boobs not because people are interested in ridiculing the inanity of that cleric. A pity. One can’t even mildly tease* the pope without being forced to apologize.

    Of course, you could try the social experiment to see if a follow up involving speedos, jockstraps, and banana slings will engender the same response… <runs>

    * It wasn’t even mostly teasing as much as suggesting that the pope would actually submit to well-intention and well-earned criticism.

  25. To me the whole thing just seemed like a bit of fun, to make fun of a ridiculous religious statement. Obviously those who didn’t think so did not participate anyway.

    There’s no harm in it, either way.

  26. I considered it a rather harmless bit of fun but noted the ridiculous amount of attention it was able to garner. For a scientist to get this much publicity in such a short amount of time through their own work you’d have to cure cancer or heart disease (probably both!)
    By the way, “Boobquake” is a terrible name.
    What about “Arsequake”?

  27. “Look, Russell, if you really think that male and female bodies are both beautiful, why do you suppose that this event is getting much more publicity than would a similar display of male skin?”

    I believe all of us know why: because muslims are only this anal about women, not men. Thousands of women (women!) are mocking islam – good for them, no matter what the comments are!

    This is not a discussion, and sex is not an argument. This is (in my opinion) just a chance to openly mock the idiotic statements of a religious freak.

    1. Sure, the intent is to have fun. However, I would find the argument that this is about people being free to display their bodies (and not about titillation*) to be much more convincing if some people were not so eagerly contemplating the prospect of 20-something females exposing more of their physique while simultaneously giggling disparagingly about septuagenarians in thongs clearing out swimming pools.

      * OK, pun intended – too hard to resist…

      1. The exact point is that the titillation is not a problem. This is NOT only about people being free to display their bodies, this is also about them being free to display their bodies in an erotic fashion or even with the sole purpose to arouse. The sexualization of this event is not a problem – the whole point is that sexuality is ok. Wantonness doesn’t cause earthquakes! If nobody reacted to the whole event like they do, it would defeat the point: even if we get out in the streets and copulate wildly, no natural disasters are going to occur. It draws the attention to people of different religions saying that natural disasters occur because we don’t adhere to a particular set of morals. Which is, of course, ridiculous.

      2. What’s wrong with a bit of titillation? Dancing with someone special is usually a bit titillating… kissing someone special or watching others kiss is usually a bit titillating… cuddling with someone or watching others cuddling can also be a bit titillating… Yeah… seeing someone nude can be titillating too; so what??

        Damn I always find it a bit titillating to have a candle lit dinner and a glass of wine with my the woman I love… and I also find it a little titillating to see her and her friends in bikini’s. Why not? I wear my speedo for them. Some of them like it others couldn’t care less.

        1. Nothing is wrong with titillation. My point is that those who are in favour of the exposure of pretty bodies but not unattractive ones are not speaking from a position of defending the principle of freedom to display body parts.

          1. >> My point is that those
            >> who are in favour of the >> exposure of pretty
            >> bodies but not
            >> unattractive ones are
            >> not speaking from a
            >> position of defending
            >> the principle of freedom
            >> to display body parts.
            I agree. However, I believe that the human body is attractive in all its forms… that activities such as these should be something for everyone who feels like kicking back, letting go, and just enjoying a bit of silliness.

  28. Women get to do what they want with their own bodies, don’t they? Isn’t that the point? Doesn’t that include the idea that they should be safe – whatever they do – from people who don’t understand the difference between things being on display and available to them personally? Or things not being on display. Is there a difference?

  29. Of course the obvious counter-argument is that exhorting women to modify their behavior as a result of the reactions of men is itself anti-feminist… But I hear ya. The leering reactions are disappointing to say the least.

    making points through sexuality instead of through good arguments and brains

    I don’t really see what the problem is with this…? The argument is solid, so adding another (highly effective) weapon to the arsenal doesn’t seem problematic to me.

  30. “the idea of women mocking religion by showing their breasts comes perilously close to making points through sexuality instead of through good arguments and brains.”

    If you think that’s not true you’re living in a dreamworld. It’s like Lisa Cuddy in “House” – what’s the point of her? That she’s so clever and knowledgeable and good at her job? Of course not – it’s her tits. If it weren’t, why would she always be flashing them? If it weren’t, why wouldn’t she just dress in an ordinary routine workaday-professional way like all the men on that show?

    If you think all that is is happy free erotic mutual liberated sexuality, you’re nuts.

    1. If it weren’t, why would she always be flashing them?

      She’s clearly nothing but a boob possessor. If she’s always flashing her tits, then that’s what she’s all about. Why else would she always be flashing them? There couldn’t be any other reason. That’s easy to see. Obviously. Clearly.

  31. I think it’s important to remember that one of the main things that separates rational people from zealots is that the former can step back occasionally and, just for a minute, not take themselves so daggone seriously. Irrational people seem incapable of self-mockery.

    Reading Blag Hag’s comments, “Boobquake” is all about humor — a fun way to poke fun at an idiotic idea, and it also gives some of us who possess Y-chromosomes a chance to catch ourselves and say, “You know, it’s pretty pathetic how easily the word ‘boob’ suddenly gets my attention!” If the whole event makes you feel like a bozo, then maybe that’s a useful side-effect, not a reason for disapproval — it’s all in how you look at it.

    Laugh at the event! Laugh at your own reaction to it! Because neither of these is something that a zealot is capable of.

  32. To all those who keep insisting that Boobquake would not make any kind of difference. Or that showing cleavage is pretending that it is going to effect some sort of change.

    Two things:
    First, I want to echo Jacobus above, in that NOBODY even remotely suggested this. Certainly not change in any grand sort of way. No, that moronic cleric isn’t going to suddenly change his mind. Most other superstitious ignoramuses will continue on as usual. Religion itself will not disappear. But that wasn’t the point, was it? No. Blag Hag made it clear it was a goof. Making a statement, yes. But in a lighthearted fun way. There was no doubt about this.

    On the other hand:
    These events/rallies were covered pretty thoroughly. People like Franklin Graham and that Muslim cleric are likely not unaware of them. Random religious people all over the world saw and heard about them. If nothing else these rallies caused a fair amount of consternation and/or irritation to these folks. This is good! Not only that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a small number of otherwise timid people were given a little bit of courage to be who they really want to be. Seeing others acting boldly and confidently can do that. It may be a small ripple but it is not nothing, in my book anyway. This is also good.

    Did it make a difference? Can’t say for sure. But I really don’t think you can say it made NO difference.

  33. I understand the ambivalence of some feminists about Boobquake. But I also think that if some of them can’t get behind it, then it’s too bad.

    I agree, such a manifestation is close to dangerous territory, but I think Jen did a good job in her second post, “Quick clarification about Boobquake”, to explain what was and wasn’t her intention.

    Another thing I can well understand is the reluctance, for an individual woman, to wear clothes that show more of her body than she feels comfortable with. Even to make a very good political point. And a lot of women are, for all sorts of reasons, not very comfortable with their bodies. For instance, I know some women who simply dislike to wear make-up, don’t feel comfortable showing their knees or the top of their arms. (BTW, I grew up a Catholic. Dress below the knee and sleeves to the elbow is still the “correct” style for a lot of Catholics. And no or very little make-up. No wonder these are the standards women uncomfortable with their bodies end up sticking up to, among the Catholic and lapse-Catholic of my acquaintance. In a dominently Muslim country, it would probably be a headscarf, dress to the ankle and sleeves to the wrist. But make-up would be no biggie.)

    I also know women who are perfectly at their ease while wearing deep, plunging V-neck blouses that show even more than Cuddy’s. But for myself, I’d rather stay between these two extremes of the quite wide range of “normal” female wear available in the society I live in. I can enjoy showing a little cleavage, for instance, but wouldn’t display it like a trophy. I would resent pressure to cover myself from head to toe, as an attempt to shame me for having a body. And I would also resent pressure to put very short, clinging and revealing clothes, as an attempt to make nothing of me but a body!

    Now, I think *some* of the feminists who reject Boobquake may not be very clear of the reasons why they do so. In fact, the words and arguments they use remind me, in a way, of something I’ve heard from some often young but very conservatively dressed Muslim women who claim that they are actually feminists and that they wear a niqab because they want to protect something very precious to them from what they perceive as always lewd, encroaching stares. And that they wouldn’t feel good if they didn’t “protect” themselves. I hear it from women who live in either in Western countries or in secularised Muslim countries, they often went to schools where girls and boys study together, they have jobs or go to college, etc. But from what they express, they feel threatened by every male eyes, even the most fleetingly passing.

    Don’t take me wrong, please: I’m not equating every feminist objection against “Boobquake” with the case of these confused young women who have so well internalized social and religious repression.

    I’m just saying: let every one of us be wary of our own good motives, especially when it comes to so sensitive a matter.

    And finally, another thing: I’m afraid there’s still a misconception or confusion in Jerry’s post above: the important point about “Boobquake” wasn’t to show off naked breasts (a la Playboy model), but to wear revealing clothes, because the Iranian cleric said that “immodest clothing” leads to adultery and hence to other kinds of trouble, in society and even at the scale of the earth.

    Which should also put to rest another common criticism about this event:

    “Actually, this isn’t really a test of the cleric’s idea, since he blamed earthquakes on the adultery attendant on display of boobage”

    Sorry, Jerry, but if the cleric’s theory is that revealing clothes leads to adultery and adultery to earthquakes, a display of clevage followed by no earthquakes should also make clear to everybody that his chain of consequences was broken!

  34. “I would resent pressure to cover myself from head to toe, as an attempt to shame me for having a body. And I would also resent pressure to put very short, clinging and revealing clothes, as an attempt to make nothing of me but a body!”

    This is what I’m saying. Both have political content. Both have to do with reasons. Both are about not being reduced to our bodies.

    There is no simple answer, no book of rules, but I’m less than charmed by some of the very brisk dismissals.

  35. The intent was just a pun by a college student sent to several of her personal friends to prove immodesty does NOT cause calamities on earth sent by an angry God.
    Even IF God did such things it wouldn’t be over a bit of exposed skin, he made us naked in the first place. It wouldn’t be over ogling at that skin, He made us to be attractive to each other. No my friends it would have to involve some very despicable behavior that went on for many years. So a one day “Boobquake, or Boobfest, or Boob-anything” will not likely cause any earthly calamities.
    But that will still stand to prove the Islamic cleric to be wrong, and wasn’t that the intent in the first place?

        1. No, I wouldnt. I would prefer that the field of action was framed only by reason and not the insanity of ‘clerics” or the abundance of “boobs”. Actually I find the whole thing sad. The “newsmedia” treatment, the videos shown (someone said girls gone wild..on disneyland), the whole thing sucks.

      1. Yes, it was funny. (And I say that despite my stated personal reservations.) It was an accomplishment for Jen to get coverage* on national and international news (and the **Colbert Report** too). How many people sympathetic to the cause came to the realization that there are lots of others like them out there, accessible within a few clicks, all because of one woman’s idea?


        *sorry, the only other word I could think of was “exposure” and that was equally bad

        1. No it wasnt funny…to me. It is funny to take off your clothes anymore. Moonlightning Wimbledon: thats funny.Not so much for the naked, but for the reactions of the players, the cops, the tv. The Colbert Report, for what it is worth, was laughing AT the whole thing.

  36. I fully support the right of women to objectify themselves, but I don’t think they should exercise it. In a society where women gain power by wearing revealing clothing, those who dress modestly put themselves at a disadvantage. As long as women’s clothing choices are tied to power, they won’t really be free to choose what they wear. They’ll be free to dress modestly just like a man is free to wear torn jeans to a job interview.

    There’s a big difference between paying attention to what women are saying and paying attention to their breasts. If women want attention to be paid to what they have to say, they should stop trying to get it with their cleavage. This is not to say that women should keep themselves covered; only that they shouldn’t use their sexuality as a tool for gaining attention or advantage. As soon as they do, all women have to if they want to compete. That’s not freedom.

    1. This mindset that women have to keep themselves wrapped up and keep their legs crossed lest they in some way harm the perception of women is a problematic idea, and big part of what the “feminist sex wars” were fought over.

      Its not freedom if one can’t express one’s sexuality without looking over your shoulder to see if other women are feeling some variation on a “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” chagrin.

      Women’s sexuality is a not a competition, and women policing each other’s sexuality to “set a standard” is truly not freedom.

      1. Women’s sexuality is a competition – but it should be a competition for mates and dates, not for other things. I want to live in a society where people pay just as much attention to what I have to say when I’m dressed modestly. I don’t think boobquake helps.

        1. So *other people* have to cover up so that *you* can feel that you’re taken seriously?

          Do you have any idea how disrespectful of other people’s autonomy that is?

          1. No, other people don’t *have* to cover up. They *should* refrain from using their sexuality for the purpose of gaining power and advantage.

  37. A reasonable test of a civilised society might be whether someone could choose for themself how much flesh to show in public free of the unwanted attention of the lecherous, religious or politically correct. Grounds for limiting such freedom might include public health but that’s another matter.

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