What’s the deal with boobquake?

Some of you may have been following the discussion around Boobquake, which is happening today, along with Brainquake, a oppositional action. About Boobquake:
From Amanda:

The idea started because an Iranian cleric blamed “immodest” women for the frequent earthquakes in Iran. Jen suggested that this cleric’s hypothesis be tested by American women choosing to wear something immodest on Monday, starting with Jen’s promise to wear her most cleavage-flashing shirt.

Amanda continues:

Unfortunately, a cute joke like this quickly devolved into exactly what you’d imagine, complete with drooling morons acting creepily titillated in a way that makes you wonder if they’ve ever seen a woman naked in the 20-30 years that have passed since they went through puberty.

If you want proof that Amanda is right, check out the facebook page.
Jen at Blag Hag tries to respond to some of the criticism of the event:

I just want to apologize if this comes off as demeaning toward women. To be honest, it started as silly joke that I hurriedly fired off since I was about to miss the beginning of House. I never thought it would get the attention it did. If I would have known, I would have spent more time being careful about my wording.
That being said, I don’t think the event is completely contrary to feminist ideals. I’m asking women to wear their most “immodest” outfit that they already would wear, but to coordinate it all on the same day for the sake of the experiment. Heck, just showing an ankle would be considered immodest by some people. I don’t want to force people out of their comfort zones, because I believe women have the right to choose how they want to dress. Please don’t pressure women to participate if they don’t want to. If men ogle, that’s the fault of the men, not me for dressing how I like. If I want to a show a little cleavage or joke about my boobs, that’s my prerogative.
I also hate the ideal of “big boobs are always better!” The cleavage joke was just a result of me personally having cleavage, and that being my choice of immodesty. And I thought “boobquake” just sounded funny. Really, it’s not supposed to be serious activism that is going to revolutionize women’s rights, but just a bit of fun juvenile humor. I’m a firm believer that when someone says something so stupid and hateful, serious discourse isn’t going to accomplish anything – sometimes light-hearted mockery is worthwhile.
Anyway, I’m not forcing anyone to agree with me. Maybe I am failing at Feminism 101, or maybe I’m just taking a different approach.

I think both actions are quite silly, and miss the mark of cultural relevance by centering this around an American context, when it was a comment made by an Iranian leader. But I also don’t feel the need to get so up in arms about either event.
What do you all think?

Join the Conversation

  • Alisa

    I found the original statement by the Iranian leader absolutely hilarious. Would I have chosen the boobquake action? Um, no.
    But I think it’s unfair to hold every feminist to such a high standard that we condemn her for trying to act against such sexism and misogyny. Jen called attention to the statement and certainly many people know about it now and can laugh along with me.
    I am sad, however, that a more concrete action has not come out of it. It might be nice for women’s organizations to reach out to the event page and offer other ideas for action such as a petition, LTE campaign or shat have you.
    We still have a chance to make some great lemonade.

  • Katherine

    I’m participating in Boobquake. I don’t see the big deal- I’m just wearing a shirt today that I would have worn anyway. And as a biology major attending a high-ranking liberal arts college, I don’t feel demeaned by something like this. It’s just a silly event. If there are men who want to be creeps about it (I haven’t encountered one so far today), that’s their problem, not mine.

  • redmuser

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with the boobquake thing. I’m a feminist and I’m participating because, in a small, silly way, it’s bringing people’s attention to the state of women in Iran. The fact that this is not happening in the U.S. doesn’t make any difference to me. When one section of people are oppressed, no one can be truly free. Feminism isn’t just about the rights of women in the U.S., it’s about the rights of women everywhere.
    (And for the record, I’m not wearing anything appalling today. I’m wearing a tank top with a pair of jeans, since it’s kinda chilly in Colorado right now. I’m also letting my belly button show. Ooooooo, scandalous.)

  • Ms. Junior

    I saw this yesterday (I guess I was invited to the event), and I decided to participate. My initial reaction was very wary (it kinda reminded me of the “Save the Titties” breast cancer campaign), but after reading her description of the event on the facebook page, I realized that it was mostly just for fun. I personally dress “immodestly” on a regular basis, so it’s not really a big deal to me. It sounds to me that Jen is a feminist, and is trying to stress the importance of women being able to wear what they want (although unfortunately, that isn’t always possible in some cultures). I personally agree with her assertion that sometimes something is so ridiculous that you just have to make fun of it. And I personally am a fan of juvenile humor.

  • Toongrrl

    Eeeee…I joined in and asked a few if they could….Stupid! Stupid! (Banging head)

  • Melissa

    I think Jen is making a really impressive move with Boobquake. She’s taking the cleric’s rhetoric about the power of women’s bodies and turning it on its head. At the same time she denies the power of women’s bodies to make earthquakes (okay, duh), she demonstrates that they certainly do make culturequakes. That said, I’m glad she took the time to respond to some of the criticism she received and flesh out some of the ideas she originally put forth rather flippantly. I think it was understandable for her to be flippant originally when she wasn’t expecting such a large audience and she did the responsible thing by making her feminist ideals more concrete once it got out of hand.

  • Heina

    As an ex-Muslim, this event is liberating and powerful for me. At one point in my life, I did actually believe that my sexuality was not my own and was, instead, the property of men. Furthermore, I believed that any sexual indecency that occurred was the fault of the woman in question — according to Islam, if a women even just wears perfume and a man smells it, she is an adulteress.
    I am using this day to revel in the fact that none of that is true, and that if some man is turned on by the neckline of my dress today, it’s his problem, not mine, and I am not going to Hell for it.

  • Jay

    and guess whose birthday is today?
    american seismologist charles richter!

  • tallest-spork

    I’m pretty tight-shirt-and-miniskirt anyway, though I don’t really have big enough boobs to pull cleavage off (this does not stop me from trying), so I’ll grab any excuse to do my plaid miniskirt and a spaghetti strap tank. (I wear these things anyway, but I’ll take any reason to be revealing. Or dressy. Or whatever.)
    I’ve been telling people for a few years now that the more Women Studies classes I take, the shorter my skirts get, because the more I learn about sexism and patriarchy the more I figure that attempting to control the way that I dress is, uh, bullshit. I look good in a tank top and a miniskirt and I get an extra boost of confidence when I’m wearing that; everyone should be able to dress in a way that makes them feel confident and happy :)

  • erinlaurel8

    I’m in the pro Boobquake camp. I understand why some people have hesitation about it, and I’m not surprised at all that some men are being creepy about it, but, especially when her further explanation is taken into account, I think the ideas behind it are solidly feminist.
    I think the most problematic part about is the fact that it is an American response to an Iranian cleric. Maybe that’s not enough to dissuade me from supporting the event because I think the original statement could just as easily have been uttered by Pat Robertson or his ilk.

  • Evelyn

    The way in which I cope with blatant misogyny is by responding with sarcasm. I’m sure this is how Jen prefers to respond as well.

  • casaazulbaby

    I’m participating because I’m a proud Pagan woman tired of (religious) men who are so afraid of female sexuality! People acting shocked at seeing scantily-dressed women means that we should dress this way more often.

  • R-Cop

    I liked boobquake for a couple reasons. First, I think the idea that showing cleavage (or some other scandalous body part) causes earthquakes is about as ridiculous as the idea that showing those same body parts causes harassment or objectification. Calling attention to the ridiculous claim that the Iranian cleric made might show some people how silly it is to blame so many problems on women and how they dress. Second, I like any event that encourages women to dress however they want. I didn’t read her message as pressuring women to dress sluttier than they’d be comfortable with; I really saw it as encouraging people to own and be proud of their bodies, whatever that looks like.
    To be honest, Amanda’s comment about “drooling morons acting creepily titillated” reminded me of people who say that feminism and sexual liberation sound like good deals for guys who want to get the milk for free instead of buying the cow. Yes, it’s unfortunate that some guys were immature about boobquake, but the problem was with the guys, not the boobs (or ankles, shoulders, armpits, upper thighs, toes, knees, midriffs, collar bones, ass cracks, whatevers).

  • rebekah

    I am participating in boobquake. I have huge breasts, and therefore everything I wear is apparently “obscene” and “immodest” (this includes t-shirts btw, because my breast are so huge that they turn guys large size t-shirts into midriff bearing tops). I can’t help the fact that my breasts are big, and therefore comments like the clerics really bother me. I think of this more as standing up and saying that women’s bodies are not obscene than anything else. Regardless of who said the comment (I think that feminists would have been just as up in arms had this come from say pat robertson,) what we are trying to do is stop the misogyny. I don’t care if every woman participates and if some feel uncomfortable with doing so, then they don’t have to and that is okay, but I personally am insulted by the types of comments that the cleric said. I personally feel that this is a peaceful protest which proves a point. I personally think that boobquake is a good idea. Nobody else should have the right to comment on that

  • Dawn.

    I’m totally down with Boobquake. But I have no cleavage (rocking a set of fabulous A-cups here), and no digital camera, so I couldn’t fully participate.
    I’m totally not down with feminist policing, so I’ll have to disagree with those who are criticizing Boobquake. Jen clearly meant it as a snarky prank, and holding all feminists to such a high standard is counterproductive. If men act all skeezy, that’s on them, not the ladies. Exposed cleavage (or an entire set of titties-gasp!) is not inherently demeaning.
    And Brainquake? Chill, ladies. Just because a woman flashes some boobage doesn’t mean that she is cow-towing to the patriarchy. If she’s flashing some boobage of her own accord, I salute her and will probably join in!

  • Swift

    On Being Told To Have Some Shame And Cover Up (a true Boobquake story):
    I am not ashamed of the body I was born with. I will not be ashamed of a natural part of myself simply because it has been sexualized by other people.
    I was ashamed when I started developing at ten years old, and the other girls at my school wrote me nasty notes about what a slut I was for having breasts. I was ashamed when the boys leered and catcalled and tried to grab them in gym class.
    I was ashamed at twelve when I walked down the street in a t-shirt and jeans, and had to endure the stares and whistles and propositions of grown men who slowed down to ogle me.
    I was ashamed when my molester fondled my breasts, and worse, all the while telling me it was my fault because of how my body was developing. I was ashamed for years afterward when I would try to be intimate with a man, only to recoil and freeze up in terrified flashbacks of abuse the minute he touched my breasts.
    I was ashamed when I had to ride the bus to work and school in my early 20s, and men at the bus stop – no matter how I was dressed – would breathe down my neck and insist that I succumb to whatever demands they felt entitled to make.
    I was ashamed all the countless times I was told my body was not beautiful enough to see the light of day, that I should – as you say – “cover up” instead of lying in the sun, or going swimming, or just walking down the street. I have been ashamed when I looked in the mirror and saw these parts of me I never asked for, these things that make my back ache, that have brought so much unwanted attention on me since the day they first arrived.
    And then one day I decided I wasn’t going to be ashamed anymore. Because all those things that happened to me, they aren’t my fault. They aren’t my breasts’ fault. They are the fault of ugly, evil, hurtful people who used slut-shaming as a way of inflicting their cruelty on me, as they have done to so many other people. I listened to them long enough, endured them long enough, that I almost started to hate my body, breasts and all.
    But my breasts have done nothing wrong. They are just a part of me, like any other part of me. They are not for staring or stripping or sex, though I may choose to share them with the person I love and trust. They are not for you, or anyone else. They are mine. They are for the babies I may someday choose to have. They are part of my body that was created holy and beautiful like the rest. I will love them, and cherish them, and I will not be ashamed. I will not cover them up and hide them for fear of what other people might choose to say or do.
    They are mine, and they are beautiful, and you cannot make me hate them as so many others tried to do.
    Our bodies have been considered public property for so long, treated as something to be either condemned or possessed. I am choosing to claim my body as my own. For me that means loving it as a gift from my Creator to me, the vessel for my spirit and the machine that allows me to do so many wondrous things. The way it’s clothed has nothing to do with other people’s lusts, desires, or insecurities – and everything to do with my own decision to be free and unashamed.
    This is what Boobquake means to me.

  • tatertot

    I don’t know… mixed feelings about this.
    Jen’s sarcasm was hilarious and appropriate, but the part that creeps me out the most is how popular it became amongst women. I’m wary of anything that uses sexuality as a tool or a political statement. While on paper and in theory it seems like a great idea, I can’t help but think that the “cause”, no matter how transgressive, is going to get lost between all the boobs (is that a pun?).
    It’s a good try, but we live in a world that ALREADY displays women like sexual objects. a world that ALREADY refuses to hear women. It doesn’t matter how anti-patriarchal or empowered a woman may be.. the watching world will still not ‘get the point.’ And without a point, we’re just left with boobs to oogle at.
    And I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss oogling someone’s personal problem and not mine. I ignore the misogynist, lewd things that are said to me, but at the end of the day I still haven’t changed anyone’s mind about women.

  • Newbomb Turk

    Pat Robertson blamed hurricane Katrina on homosexuality, and the earthquake in Haiti on voodoo.

  • Timmie1988

    I don’t think Islam is the problem here, I think it’s the religious extremists. Even some over zealous Christians have purity balls that deliver a similar message to young girls: Your virginity (and lack of sexual activity) defines you and belongs to a male figure (their fathers at these dances).
    As a Muslim, I have met Muslims who judge women by what they wear but I have also met Muslims who couldn’t care less. Plus, people come up with all kinds of weird rules and allegations in the name of religion, no matter what kind. You brought up the perfume myth. And the recent example is the Iranian cleric’s boobs = earthquake theory.

  • Sloppy Sandwich


  • Heina

    The perfume thing is a myth? I respectfully beg to differ. Several ahadith confirm this.
    I never said Islam was the problem, by the way, but Islam only exists as it is practiced.
    “As a Muslim, I have met Muslims who judge women by what they wear but I have also met Muslims who couldn’t care less.”
    Naturally, as people practice religions differently, but the problem is that a lot of what Islam (and Christianity and Judaism) has to say about women’s sexuality places the onus on the female for sexual sins. The perfume thing is just a small example. I don’t mean to turn this into an “is Islam okay?” debate, but when you call them “religious extremists,” you’re merely indicting them for following exactly what the religion told them to do.

  • adamnvillani

    Obviously the Iranian cleric is insane, an extreme example of the men who want to control women’s bodies and sexuality for themselves. SAnd no one has the right to make you ashamed of your body or feel like your body makes you “fair game” sexually.
    But the fact of the matter is that just as it’s natural for women to develop boobs, it’s natural for men to want to look at them. Now, there are ways to do this that are more offensive and ways that are less offensive. I think it was Jerry Seinfeld who said that it’s like looking at the sun — you glance, turn away, and then process what you just saw.
    But it’s not “moronic” for men to be titillated by breasts, especially not if they’re in clothes that showcase their form. What’s moronic is not being able to react to that titillation without making women uncomfortable. But you can’t celebrate your own sexuality while denying men’s sexuality.

  • Timmie1988

    Thank you for the information. I was unaware of this since history says that the Middle East was heavily involved in the production of various perfumes: http://ezinearticles.com/?The-History-of-Perfume&id=243957.
    But enough of perfume talk.
    Your initial comment did seem a little anti- Islam to me. It is possible that I could be jumping to conclusions but in this day in age, with so much anti-Islam around us, many Muslims feel vulnerable and want to speak out. There are Muslims who identify themselves as a Muslim and a follower of Islam but do not follow everything the hadith says for various reasons (disagreement, the text is outdated, etc.).
    When I used the term “religious extremists,” I was referring to people who use religion to judge others and to make senseless allegations or rules. This refers to the Iranian cleric. This can also refer to Pat Robertson.
    I do not disagree that there is a notion in many parts of the world that “women’s sexuality places the onus on the female for sexual sins.” This is a huge cultural problem around the world, and even in parts of the United States.

  • Heina

    I understand. I used to be a Muslim and I know it can be tough (especially since 9-11). Still, it’s important to distinguish between:
    1) your understanding and practice of Islam
    2) others’ various interpretations of Islam
    3) the textual basis of Islam
    Also, I am fully aware that sexism exists everywhere. You can’t, however, disagree that women have a lot more in terms of rights and agency in much of Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and the United States as opposed to, well, the rest of the world.

  • Swift

    adamnvillani: you’re right, if looking is respectful then it shouldn’t have to be defended.
    It’s respectful if it doesn’t cause the woman you’re looking at any distress. It’s respectful if the person looking is aware and considerate of her boundaries. It just can’t be assumed that every woman has the same boundaries – what you might think of as an innocent look, what some women might accept as an innocent look, could still be pretty distressing to a woman with a history of trauma, or a woman who’s had to undergo a lifetime of the sort of thing I described in my previous post.
    Basically, if you get called out on it, chances are you’ve crossed the line (and I mean “you” in the general sense, not you specifically.)
    No, men shouldn’t be vilified as cavemen for having natural sexual urges. But the fact that an urge is natural doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to indulge in every situation. I can celebrate my sexuality and fully expect not to be harmed by the expression of anyone else’s. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what you’re saying, but it can be easy for people to come along and misconstrue “this is natural and okay” for “I have a right to do this whenever I want to.”

  • Timmie1988

    I realize there are various ways to distinguish religion. Some people may say the texts define religion and some say it’s the people or the practices. I just didn’t think it was fair to say Islam represents this because one book, granted it’s a major one, discusses it. My opinion of what defines a religion may vary from yours and we can agree to disagree. I just don’t want people to think Islam prevents women from having any rights. There are some questionable aspects of women’s rights in the ancient texts, but this is the case with other religions as well ranging from Hinduism to Christianity.
    I never disagreed that “women have a lot more in terms of rights and agency in much of Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and the United States as opposed to, well, the rest of the world.” I just pointed out that the problem is with culture. The majority of the Middle East wants to grasp on to a world that existed when the Islamic prophets were alive. Yet, there are other Muslim countries that have become modernized and westernized to some degree and have even elected women presidents and prime ministers. I will point out that some of these countries are not perfect when it comes to women’s rights, whether it’s the form of educational opportunities, equal pay or dress code. Religion itself is not the prime problem, the problem is how a country’s culture and politics interpret and use religion in order to justify its actions.
    With finals week coming up, I can’t continuously comment on this and I’m sure you may not constantly want to reply all the time. So I’ll leave you and whoever else reads this with this interesting article and ask that you focus on number 2: http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/a/3171
    Good day.