30 April 2010

black magic woman

"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. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.

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

Jen McCreight, a feminist and blogger decided to conduct a fun little experiment called Boobquake. The idea was to encourage women to dress "immodestly" for one day, whatever that may be for each individual woman.  It could be a cleavage baring shirt or a pair of booty shorts...whatever you choose, and then it was  wait and see if there was any significant increase in earthquakes or seismic activity.  Chances are you've heard about Boobquake. It went viral pretty fast.  It was meant to be a small, offhand joke among her blog readers and Facebook friends; instead, she wound up with coverage on CNN, the BBC, the Washington Post, and all over the place.

 (That would be Jen at her local Boobquake rally.  Loves the lab goggles!)

But many feminists responded very negatively to Boobquake, calling it exploitative, demeaning, trivializing, objectifying, and a whole host of other sexist bad things.  A Facebook group called Brainquake was created in response, saying that 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."

So, lets see if I've got this straight - a misogynist man used his position of religious authority to imply that all of the world's problems were to be blamed on female sexuality and women responded by saying, "Fuck you. Our sexuality is not responsible for earthquakes or any other evilness that may exist.  We are amazing and we will flaunt our sexuality any way we want.  It's our body, our right to choose", and that is being seen as not feminist?

The main feminist objection to Boobquake seemed to be that the women who participated were letting ourselves be exploited. They argued that many men reacted to the event with sexist, "Show us your tits!" idiocy, which was to be expected, really. Apparently women should not display our sexuality because men can't be trusted. In the presence of a display of desirable female flesh, men will lose control of themselves. Women ought to dress modestly, and ought not to encourage other women to dress immodestly... and if we persist in our immodesty, and men respond by behaving badly, it's women's fault.

 How, exactly, is this "feminist" response to Boobquake anything but a version of the statement by the Muslim prayer leader, minus the garbage about earthquakes?

I get that this is a complicated issue. I get that the line between women expressing our sexuality and letting ourselves be exploited is often blurry, and even I find myself wavering on how I feel about it.. I get that using sexuality to draw attention to an issue can be a tricky business, and that the sex can distract from the issue at hand. And I get that, yes, a lot of men acted like idiots around Boobquake, ignoring its political and religious and scientific context, and turning it into another opportunity to scream, "Show us your tits!" However, none of this was Jen McCreight's intention.

She made it clear that this was an event initiated by women, to be participated in voluntarily by women who got the joke. She made it very clear that it was open to all women who wanted to play... and that every woman could decide for herself what "dressing immodestly" meant. She made it very clear that this was a social and political protest—albeit a humorous one—and not simply another opportunity for men to clumsily ogle women.

 Bagging on her and the thousands of women who participated in Boobquake because society's response to female sexuality is sometimes sexist and stupid? That's messed up. There needs to be a way for thoughtful, feminist women to express our sexual desirability without automatically being treated as dumb, exploited bimbos who don't understand what men really think of us.

Our bodies. Our right to decide.

If that's not what the feminist movement is about, then what the hell is the point?

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