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A Feminist Defense of Boobquake

Chances are you've heard about Boobquake. It went viral pretty fast.

In case you haven't: Iranian Muslim prayer leader Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was recently quoted as saying, "Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

No, really. I know, you thought earthquakes were caused by plate tectonics—but really, it's immodestly dressed women, leading young men astray.

So Jen McCreight—feminist/ atheist blogger, student leader, award-winning scholar in evolution and genetics, and all-around bad-ass—decided to conduct a fun little pop-science experiment: Encourage women to dress immodestly for one day, and see if there was any significant increase in earthquakes or seismic activity. It was meant to be a small, offhand joke among her blog readers and Facebook friends; instead, it went totally viral on the Internets, and wound up with news coverage on CNN, the BBC, the Washington Post, and all over the damn place. (Conflict of interest alert: I know McCreight, and have a friendly collegial relationship with her.)

But many feminists responded very negatively to Boobquake, calling it exploitative, demeaning, trivializing, objectifying, and a whole host of other sexist bad things. Beth Mann at Salon said, "Women on parade again ... sigh. Since when did we "stick it to the man" by wearing low-cut shirts or short shorts?... Unfortunately, we live in a world that sees that kind of freedom of expression as a photo opportunity or another cheap thrill." Jill at I Blame the Patriarchy described the event as "encouraging women to protest oppression by capitulating to Dude Nation’s fondest desire." Negar Mottahedeh and Golbarg Bashi) created a Facebook group in response, Brainquake... describing McCreight as a "so-called feminist," decrying how Boobquake "has aroused the evidently insatiable enthusiasm of the web community, male supporters in particular who can't wait to see 'regular' girls and women, many their direct friends to 'showing off their tits'," and arguing that "Violence against women and girls has a direct correlation to the sexualisation of women and girls." Etc. Etc.

So before I begin my rant, let me summarize.

A patriarchal, profoundly misogynist man used his position of religious authority to demonize and control women, and to irrelevantly blame the ills of the world on our vile, dangerous sexuality.

Women responded by saying, "Screw you. Our sexuality is not responsible for earthquakes—snicker—or any other horrible ills. Our sexuality is amazing, and we will claim it and flaunt it any damn way we choose. Our bodies, our right to decide."

How, exactly, is that not feminist?

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I wholeheartedly agree; feminist anger & infighting is horrific

Greta, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. I'm curious if you've seen Femquake, which was my response to the negativity and infighting I saw.

When some women learned that I am a man, they said that the "good point" I made with Femquake "means less." I find it insulting that because I am a man, my standing for gender equality means less to these feminists. What do you think?

I wholeheartedly agree; feminist anger & infighting is horrific

Greta, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. I'm curious if you've seen Femquake, which was my response to the negativity and infighting I saw.

 When some women learned that I am a man, they said that the "good point" I made with Femquake "means less." I find it insulting that because I am a man, my standing for gender equality means less to these feminists. What do you think? 

Not all critiques were based on the "boob" part of "boobquake"

I wanted to support the boobquake idea, but it smacks of imperialism and islamophobia to me.
I know this comment will probably not make it through moderation again.

Feminism != misandry

As a teenager, I took a dim view of feminism. It seemed that every time I read something by a self-declared feminist author, or heard a speech from a feminist speaker, or was personally denigrated for... something by a self-declared feminist, it was always about what a bad little boy I was. I wound up at the mistaken conclusion that feminism was a synonym for misandry.

I didn't have the word 'misandry' in my vocabulary at the time. I do now. It's a good word.

I have at least one good reason beyond personal experience to think that most people don't know the word 'misandry'. The word is not part of my spell-checker's dictionary. Misogyny and misanthropy, yes, they're in. Feminism too, of course. But not misandry. It would seem that people don't realize that misandry is a thing.

It's important to know the difference between misandry and feminist. Far too often have misandrists successfully hidden behind the skirts of feminism. The articles you've linked to send up some powerful red flags.

I'm a heterosexual male (also white, middle-class, and university educated - truly, I am the devil incarnate). I've supported boobquake in particular, and I encourage the expression of female sexuality in general. Firstly, because it's a good cause. Secondly, I like expressions of female sexuality.

But until this article (thanks Greta) I haven't read anything about boobquake from self-declared feminists that seem open to the slightest possibility of myself and those like me. When we manly menfolk get mentioned at all, we're drooling horndogs and yahoos only. If we were good little boys, we'd keep our moths shut and avert our gaze from all that those lovely breasts, butts and thighs. We would restrict our attention and duologue to fashion-choices, shoes, eyes and hair... If we behave ourselves, maybe we'll even be permitted, in hushed tones, to notice and talk about a woman's lips. Wouldn't that be a treat for a good little boy!

Fuck That Noise™

Yes, self-aggrandizing sexist male jerks exist. Yes, they're going to make a ruckus over something like boobquake. This is regrettably unavoidable at the moment.

But emphasizing those idiots to the exclusion of men who a) aren't sexist jerks, and b) enjoy female sexuality... That's just spouting misandry under the guise of feminism. It's reinforcing the very stereotype of male sexuality that's contributing to all this bullshit in the first place. Ladies - give us menfolk some fucking credit. Please. Not just for our sake, but for feminism as well. Muddying the waters of feminism with misandry reeks of hypocrisy - and that's bad for any progressive movement, including feminism.

And if women are going to alter how they choose to express their sexuality, it shouldn't be controlled by concern for the opinions of an audience of men, yahoos or otherwise. Period. Controlling the sexual behavior of women to meet with the concerns of men... Isn't that exactly the kind of few that feminism is meant to be combating in the first place? Women shouldn't be relegated to the status of fragile little flowers that must be protected from wilting under the blowtorch of male sexuality.

Which leads to another important point - if a woman does intend to express her sexuality, and she does want her sexuality to be noticed and appreciated by an audience of men... Shouldn't that be okay too? I mean - are men such horrible, nasty, abusive, drooling slack-jawed horndogs that it is unthinkable that a woman might choose, for her own pleasure, to enjoy a man's appreciation of her sexuality? The argument that this would make a woman some kind of anti-feminist skank that's betraying the cause... that is misandry and mysogyny, wall rapped up in a convenient little package of sexual hatred. How lovely.

Thanks for articles like this, Greta. You give me hope.

Well written.

Well said.

A Feminist Defense

I have been reading Blag Hag for what seems like forever, but probably around a year now. Her insights and stories are what keeps it a favorite in my reader.

I actually saw the cleric's comments before Jen created the first boobquake post. Then, when I read the post, I thought it rocked!

I absolutely get all of your points about exploitation and the good ole boy "show us your tits" reaction. I also totally embrace the "my body, my choice" concept.

I have to say that from a thinking man's perspective though, this was a great event. It pointed out the absurdity and craziness of claims about the evils of female sexuality causing earthquakes by using a humorous approach. It was a perfect for women who were inclined to give the patriarchy and the Ayatollahs the figurative finger for some of their outmoded and ridiculous beliefs, thereby standing up for and owning their sexuality. And if one is an introspective, observant man who knows better than to be too obvious, it was a great show by smart secure confident women who know how to have a little fun. That is what really makes them attractive to me. Plus for me the whole dress as immodestly as you are comfortable with thing is just really good icing on a really good cake.

Excellent post

Great post, Greta. Not to be all "what about da mens," but the sentiments from the cleric and the anti-Boobquakers are similar in another regard, possessing a bright streak of insulting misandry. I hear, quite commonly, from religious fundamentalists (often but not always of the Muslim variety) that women who dress/act immodestly are just asking to be raped/attacked/ogled/etc., because men are unable to control themselves. In particular, I recall the brouhaha from a few years back where a Muslim cleric compared immodest women to "uncovered meat," which if left in the street, gets eaten by cats. Most of the outrage--rightly so--was directed at the insinuation that women are to blame for being victimized. Almost as offensive, though, is the notion that I (and all men) am like a feral cat, unable to help myself if I see a piece of meat lying in the open. I'm moderately more civilized than that.

Yes, many men acted like idiots over Boobquake. It's certainly not women's fault that men do and say stupid things, and people should stop blaming women for "causing" those sorts of things to happen. On the other hand, it's also not simply caused by being male, which the clerics' and anti-Boobquakers' "women need to not tempt men" rhetoric ignores. Women are not meat, men are not animals, and people need to stop blaming bad behavior on entire genders.

Sorry to soapbox, there.

Don't be.

Tsk, tsk, Tom.

Never be sorry to soapbox. ^_^

The Revolution

"Sisters! You have ceded control over your sexuality to men, who used it to naughty ends! It's time to change the world... by taking back that control and ceding it to feminist leaders, who will use it only to noble ends!"

Uh huh.

[captcha bonus: "improperly minted". Like a naughty Pompeii coin, or a bag of disgusting potato chips, I suppose.]

feminism as humanism

I long for the day when feminism will be a particular subset of humanism, where the goal is freedom and respect of *every* person in our society. Sure, feminism can rightly exist as focused on one group of persons traditionally excluded, but nothing done in support of feminism should ever contradict the overarching goal of respecting the self-worth and freedom of every single person.

Sometimes it seems some self-branded feminists don't share that goal, but want to retain the hierarchy and just upend the players. Not only is that unethical, but I doubt it's going to *work* even, as vast numbers of women are going to still be stuck on the bottom rung. (heck, the hierarchy isn't that great to individual men most of the time, either.)

Some individuals rule all others, gender-neutrally

Vast numbers of everybody will always be stuck on the bottom rung. In other contexts, offering an explanation for that state of affairs involving demonisation of other people equally stuck on the bottom rung is called fascism.

That's all fine and dandy, but...

Let me preface this by saying I am a sex-positive queer white agnostic woman in a poly relationship(s), so I am not trying to do any of the usual oppositional posturing against 'boobquake', I could care less about people showing their tits in any other circumstances... but this event? This was Islamophobic, racist, and imperialist. I think it was one of the worst shows of western feminists' privilege, and completely erased Islamic women in Iran and their leadership--it's not a punchline for them. I wrote a post on it that I have gotten flack for from white feminists, but support from from Islamic feminists, and firmly believed that the women who were most affected by the statements of this cleric were marginalised by this event. Feminists with other privileges need to be really careful, because this event was harmful to our sisters in the middle east.

Re: That's all fine and dandy, but...

Switchintoglide: The problem with that argument is that many Iranian women liked and supported Boobquake. They said they were happy that it was making this misogynist asshole look like a jackass, and they enjoyed the funny and raunchy way it was happening.

In other words: Opinions about Boobquake among Iranian women seem to be divided -- much as they are among Western women.

i agree that Boobquake was a complicated event -- but it's clearly not a simple case of Islamophobia, racism, imperialism, or Western privilege. Unless you think any commentary by Westerners on non-Western culture is racist, imperialist, or Western privilege. In which case... boy, do I not agree with you.

Re: That's all fine and dandy, but...

And speaking of the positive response to Boobquake from many Iranians, men and women: Here's a post from McCreight herself on this very topic.

The Iranian and Muslim response to Boobquake


Since my participation in Boobquake i was beginning to think there were almost no sex positive feminists left!


Feminists are so militant in their attitude that I am willing to bet the majority of them will not and are not married. I am left scratching me head when I see those who are married because after all, what is the sense of being married if feminism is all about woman power? Usually that mentality has no room for a man in their lives except to have a baby but a baby justs get in the way of careers. Isn't that a very mild, watered down definition of feminism?

Feminist Negative Response To Boobquake

I didn't see the other feminist blog's response to Boobquake but I did read about Brainquake on the Ms. Magazine blog. My first thought was that either the women who created Brainquake didn't get the joke behind Boobquake or they did, didn't care, and thought of Boobquake as objectifying women. Nothing could have been more wrong, and I saw Brainquake as yet more "proof" that feminists have no sense of humor. I participated in Boobquake and I didn't feel objectified at all. Brainquake and the negative feminist response struck me as yet another example of some clueless feminist women throwing a wet blanket on something that was fun, full of impact, and politically representative of women's issues. And I wasn't surprised to see such a feminist response. I was sad to see it.

Here's the litmus test

I have a great idea. All those great non-sexist, non-drooling guys who appreciated boobquake as a feminist expression of choice in sexuality can send their subscription checks to Ms. Magazine today! Feminism needs your cash a lot more than your drooling. Thanks ever so much. Then, to let us know what great guys you are, post your subscription email. I'll see it when I believe it.

A bad litmus test

Anonymous: Why should they do that? Hell, *I* don't even subscribe to Ms. Magazine. Among other things, they have a terrible history of presenting sex-negative feminism as the only way of being feminist, and their attitude to women who choose different sex lives from their own has been appalling.

There are lots of ways to show one's feminism in the real world. There's no reason people have to do it in exactly the way you demand.

Ah, corporate feminism

So, Feminism = Ms. Magazine? Is the only way to support feminism to order a subscription to a publication? And only this publication--not, say, "Bitch" or "BUST" or "off our backs"? Or are you just not a true feminist unless one drops $25+ a year on a print magazine that doesn't necessarily cater to their interests? Am I also not pro-gay rights because I don't have a subscription to "The Advocate"? Should I express my support for racial equality by subscribing to "Ebony" or "Jet"?

I don't think I'm alone in this, but on the rare occasion that I subscribe to a magazine, it's because I consistently enjoy the content, not because I want to support a political ideology or social cause (or validate my social and political beliefs by having some related publications on my shelf). I'll certainly give Ms. a look next time I'm in my local bookstore, but after your crass suggestion, I think I'd be better off to give my subscription money to Planned Parenthood, NOW, RAINN, or Amnesty International.

Bad test

Is the mag any better than it was back in the seventies when I read it? Lots of pretty bad thinking with an occasional insight, just as with the comments here.

I'm great, I'm non-sexist, and I drool.

"Feminism needs your cash a lot more than your drooling." Ranks right up there with fish needing bicycles.

There 2 kinds of litmus paper

Or go the other way and send the sub. to Cosmo, which sounds like the more BoobQuake friendly venue to me.
Ms. is more the cold crap on a paper plate venue to me.

The Femanazis would be leaders need to make the close encounter
of the truly twisted people, who then lovingly oil up their nine bladed Gor-ian (John Norman reference)slave whips at the
S + M wana-be Paga Tavern.

Hasn't the point been missed entirely?

Am I the only one here who saw Jen's exercise as a two-fingered salute to supernaturalist nonsense, and saw the bra ditching merely as a satirical device that ensured the popularity of her adventure?

Yes, I happen to be male, and yes, I happen to find breasts appealing to look at, but when dealing with verminous and pestilential outpourings such as those issued by the ranting Iranian cleric, I prefer to engage my brain cells and not my genitals. And it was the 'scientific experiment' part of Jen's exercise that made me smile the most. What better way to show up the ignorance and fulminating stupidity of this sponge-headed mullah, than to provide an empirical demonstration that he's talking horseshit? THAT was what made me laugh the most, not "OMG boobies". As someone who has been engaging in the business of flushing blind supernaturalist assertions and fatuous canards down the toilet for three years, this is my primary focus here, not ogling tits.

And with respect to the sexual politics, here's another point that seems to have been missed here. Misogyny is endemic to Abrahamic religions, and probably runs as a pernicious thread through some others as well. Snarky old men smelling of wee only get away with telling women how to run their lives, and to be ashamed of their bodies, because the blind assertions of supernaturalism continue to be accepted uncritically and given a wholly unwarranted privileged influence upon human affairs. The moment that the basic principle underlying supernaturalism as a whole - namely, that blind assertions about invisible magic men should be accepted as established fact, without ever being questioned - then anything becomes permissible, because that principle embodies the disengaging and atrophying of critical faculties. Attack that core notion, and everything that follows is open to scrutiny, including absurd and inhuman proclamations about women and their sexuality. The snarky old men smelling of wee only get away with telling women what to do, because they wield power through maintaining ignorance, and enforcing conformity to doctrines that frankly are nothing more than grand ideological masturbation fantasies. The moment the whole "accept uncritically my blind assertions about my magic man" nonsense is swept away, and people are allowed to find out about REALITY, instead of wasting their time with mythological excrement, then misogyny and inhuman attitudes toward women become far less tenable, not least because the women thus affected have a chance to learn what they need to deliver a rocket-propelled kick in the balls thereto. The reason we are able to point and laugh at the stupidity of mullahs is because, thankfully, we've learned enough about the real world to know that he's talking through an orifice more usually associated with a more solid form of waste. Even if most of the women reading this don't possess doctorates in geophysics, they've learned enough in science classes (assuming these haven't been corrupted by other religious fantasists such as the loony creationists) to know what really causes earthquakes, and it isn't their neither regions. THAT is what leads to misogyny being put in its place, giving women the tools to tell the bigots and the wankers where to get off, and the confidence to toss them and their shitty ideas into the bin. And if the end result is that women like Jen exercise that confidence and education to show up noxious supernaturalist poison for the intellectually bankrupt and perniciously malign influence that it is, and do so with an elegant comedy flourish, then shouldn't we be welcoming this because it's the right thing to do, instead of getting into a tizzy about boobs?

That's one reason I welcome Greta's article, though as I said above, the REAL enemy is blind assertions accepted uncritically as established fact without question, because they are what led to the whole sorry erection of institutionalised misogyny in the first place. Without that, sad inadequates who compensate for their tiny dicks and even tinier minds through bluster and bullying would be consigned to eventual extinction.

BOOBQUAKE - Vancouver shakes big time!

Hey I organized a live action in response to Jen's opinion. It was not inspired by feminist ideals but more by freedom of expression. If some wingding wherever chooses to speak such rubbish he needs to be ridiculed and that he was out front, on the Media, big time in Vancouver, BC, Canada. So up yours to the lot of you negative do nothing wankers -:)

We're created equally. No

We're created equally. No doubts about that. By the way, this personal safety devices for women like us might interest you. Thanks and more power!

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Greta Christina
April 29th, 2010
Greta Christina's picture
Greta Christina is editor of the annual Best Erotic Comics series. She is also editor of Paying for It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients, and author of "Bending," an erotica novella in the...