Coup de Ta-Tas: Cleric’s comment ignites skin-bearing backlash

By Herald de Paris Contributor's Bureau on April 27, 2010

By Kirsten Brownrigg

COLUMBUS, OH (Herald de Paris) – If you were on Twitter yesterday, you may have noticed the world of social media exploding into outright mammary mutiny. It all began with an Iranian cleric’s bizarre conjecture on the cause of recent seismic events.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society,” said Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi in an interview, “which increases earthquakes.”

Nothing we haven’t heard before. Wait … repeat that last part again?

Enter Jennifer McCreight, code name “Blag Hag.” McCreight (which rhymes with “is always right,” she boasts) is a self-professed “perverted atheist feminist” who studies genetics and evolution at Purdue.

“I have a modest proposal,” McCreight blogged. “Time for a Boobquake. On Monday, April 26, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts.”

“Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty,” she added, helpfully.

In sum, McCreight called for retaliatory revolution in its most salacious—dare I say titillating?—form. She dubbed it a “scientific experiment,” but really, participants wanted to send a very conspicuous message to the hard-line cleric and others like him: don’t blame our lactic lady-parts for natural disasters. That’s just insulting.

“With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake,” McCreight quipped. “If not, I’m sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn’t rumble.”

What started as a battle cry for glandular grandstanding quickly spawned a Facebook event (which McCreight facetiously categorized as an “arts exhibit”) attracting more than 200,000 attendees at last count, and then a Boobquake rally scheduled in Washington, DC. There was even talk of Boobquake “flash mobs,” whatever that meant, and Twitter was awash with commentary.

“This kinda seems lose-lose for him,” tweeted military analyst Mercedes Stephenson. “Either women are incredibly powerful, or he’s wrong.”

Supporters leapt on the milk wagon left and right, with girls proudly “Twitpicking” their hot commodities in what seemed a never-ending contest to see who could push the limits of immodesty the furthest. Needless to say, plenty of male observers were onboard with this particular campaign.

“Extreme boobage is not compatible with extremist views,” one male supporter Darren Flynn said blithely. “One of them has to go—and I know which one most people would prefer to be around.”

Meanwhile, another Jennifer—i.e., Jennifer Lawson, better known to throngs of Internet devotees as the lovably irreverent “The Bloggess”—added more fuel to the fire with one of her characteristic stream-of-consciousness blog posts.

“[Husband] Victor woke up and wanted to know why I was screaming and taking half-naked pictures of myself and I was all, ‘Uh … it’s an experiment to see if my boobs can create earthquakes?’” Lawson wrote. “I’m all ‘I’M DOING THIS FOR SCIENCE …’”

In short order this parade of feminine assets lured in the media, snowballing into coverage on CNN’s The Situation Room, an interview with the Young Turks, and, perhaps most interestingly, an appearance by BBC Persia at the Boobquake pow-wow in Washington. And of course, the spectacles offered up endless fodder for puns and innuendo-laden jokes for comedians like Stephen Colbert.

“This is America,” Colbert said, “where everyone has the right to life, liberty, and letting their milkshake bring all the boys to the yard!”

Classic Colbert.

But members of a counter movement aren’t laughing. Formed in part as a response to Boobquake, “Brainquake” encourages feminists to strike back by flexing their cerebral muscle, rather than resorting to their womanly wares.

“It’s not clear that all participants in the Boobquake movement understand that this is about Iran,” said Negar Mottahedeh, an associate professor at Duke whose work as an academic focuses on Iranian cinema and women’s history. “In Iran today women and men are dying for the right to be free, dying for the right to have civil liberties. It’s not a joke, you know.”

Born in Iran but raised in Norway, Mottahedeh closely follows social media trends that relate to the post-election crisis in the Islamic republic. She and her colleague Golbarg Bashi, who teaches Iranian studies at Rutgers University, co-founded their Facebook group to address what they saw as the derailment of the Boobquake movement.

“I’ve been totally in support of Jen [McCreight], for her ingenuity and for really bringing attention to the question of gender and rights,” Mottahedeh said. “I don’t see any animosity between Golbarg and I, and Jen. But I do want to point out that the Boobquake movement is playing right into the hands of venues such as Playboy, which I don’t think was at all Jen’s intention.”

She’s right: Playboy picked up on Boobquake’s scent not long after its start with a celebratory video, which should really come as no surprise. Exhibitionism is, after all, Playboy’s spécialité.

Similarly distressing for some is Boobquake’s timing, as it happened to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month, said Shelly Blair, co-host of Texas radio talk show “Fair and Feminist.”

“It is really hard for feminists to get a voice in the media, yet this has been picked up by major networks and news sources. You know why? Because sex sells,” Blair said. “If a woman gets power by being desirable, and what’s desirable is decided by another institution, women do not have power.”

Blair also finds it irksome that modeling your Mamacitas seems OK if it’s for social justice, but not if they’re visible while breastfeeding.

But as Iranian-American author Melody Moezzi pointed out, there need be no conflict between the bawdier response to Sedighi and its demure counterpart.

“As an unapologetically brainy, busty and well-accomplished Iranian American Muslim,” Moezzi writes in her Ms. Magazine blog, “I have no qualms admitting that I am happily attending both protests and eagerly awaiting the aftershocks.”

Ironically, there were aftershocks—literal ones—that came on the heels of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake on Taiwan’s southeast coast. But McCreight didn’t sound worried in her blog’s conclusion post the day after her “experiment.”

“Hey, I’d like magical control over plate tectonics too, but that single earthquake wasn’t significant,” McCreight wrote. “Sorry, Sedighi. To quote something that was floating around twitter—women can move mountains, but they don’t cause earthquakes.”


Comments
Steven Ross April 27, 2010

All over YouTube, all us guys are saying, THANK YOU IRANIAN CLERICS!

Now if we could just get Mr. Sedighi to say nudism causes forest fires or something… ;-)

Benito April 27, 2010

THIS MOMENTOUS DAY!

Not one day in anyone’s life is an uneventful day, no day without profound meaning, no matter how dull and boring it might seem, no matter whether you are a seamstress or a queen, a shoeshine boy or a movie star, a renowned philosopher or a Down’s syndrome child.

Because in every day of your life, there are opportunities to perform little kindnesses for others, both by conscious acts of will and unconscious example.

Each smallest act of kindness – even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, a compliment that engenders a smile – reverberates across great distances and spans of time, affecting lives unknown to the one whose generous spirit was the source of this good echo, because kindness is passed on and grows each time it’s passed, until a simple courtesy becomes an act of selfless courage years later and far away.

Likewise, each small meanness, each thoughtless expression of hatred, each envious and bitter act, regardless of how petty, can inspire others, and is therefore the seed that ultimately produces evil fruit, poisoning people whom you have never met and never will.

All human lives are so profoundly and intricately entwined – those dead, those living, those generations yet to come – that the fate of all is the fate of each, and the hope of humanity rests in every heart and in every pair of hands.

Therefore, after every failure, we are obliged to strive again for success, and when faced with the end of one thing, we must build something new and better in the ashes, just as from pain and grief, we must weave hope, for each of us is a thread critical to the strength – the very survival – of the human tapestry.

Every hour in every life contains such often-unrecognized potential to affect the world that the great days for which we, in our dissatisfaction, so often yearn are already with us; all great days and thrilling possibilities are combined always in THIS MOMENTOUS DAY! – Rev. H.R. White

Excerpt from Dean Koontz’s book, “From the Corner of His Eye”.

It embodies the idea of how the smallest of acts can have such a profound effect on each of our lives.

Prophecy GIrl April 27, 2010

Steven Ross:
That kind of male chauvinistic attitude is exactly the problem in the world today. Exactly why boobquake started out as a joke and quickly devolved into a bunch of idiot men slobbering over breasts like they’ve never seen them before.

Boobquake was ridiculous, and the creator herself said that it was a joke that people went nuts over–it had no scientific merit, and certainly did nothing at all to help the women of Iran.

Brainquake, on the other hand, was brilliant. I feel bad for women who need to show their bodies off to feel good about themselves. It’s just more social BS piled on by men. I don’t take pride in having breasts (much less putting them out for everyone to see), I take pride in being intelligent and educated. If you really want to kill these oppressive extremists where they live, be a smart, powerful, independent woman.

And stop buying into the lie that we have to show our bodies to get anyone to listen to us.

ZU April 28, 2010

well said. fine work.

Konstantin Berger June 27, 2010

Very nice! I love it when religion tries to explain how things happen in the world; especially religion mixed with dark age mysticism; and way too much seriousness. I think a boobquake is the perfect thing when followed up by a brainquake. Its like tearing society down a bit before building it back up; or at least getting it to listen. Keep up the awesome writing!

Omar Desantis February 19, 2012

Great reason. I really like to read it Marcy Lu

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