Boobquake: A Movement?

BlogHer Original Post

Four days ago, I received an email from a Facebook friend inviting me to Boobquake. Boobquake? I filed it without exploring further. The next day, I received an email from a friend sending along a Salon article, asking what I thought about Boobquake. Seriously? Boobquake? What the hell was this? And now, this morning, I opened up Twitter to find the trending topic #boobquake staring at me from the sidebar. Third time's a charm, and it got my attention. And now I'm trying to figure out the point.

Young woman wearing bra

The project, the brain-child of Blag Hag, was started in reference to a statement made by Iranian prayer leader Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, that "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

Offensive and not very well-founded, yes. Victimizing men because evil women are their downfall (and if not for women, they would be moral, damnit!), yes. But Blag Hag didn't respond with an impassioned and well-reasoned argument. Instead, she suggested that

On Monday, April 26th, 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. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake. If not, I'm sure Sedighi can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn't rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it'll be one involving plate tectonics.

In other words, if the tits don't make the earth quake, give that idea a shake, paraphrasing the immortal words of Johnny Cochran.

Some people gleefully took the opportunity to show the world their breasts in the name of women's rights and others pointed out some of the problems inherent in Boobquake:

Since when did we "stick it to the man" by wearing low-cut shirts or short shorts? When women burned bras back in the day, there was a statement there, full of boldness and righteous anger. This type of happening feels like feminism lite, "cute" feminism or "male-friendly" feminism.

But I really need to ask the point of the project. If an earthquake occurred, Americans would still write it off as a coincidence. If an earthquake didn't occur, the Iranian prayer leader wasn't going to say, "Aaah, I was wrong. Please, dress immodestly, ladies."

Because what Blag Hag sort of missed was that modesty is a core belief of this Iranian prayer leader's religion. And core beliefs are not dismissed because a bunch of women placed pictures of their breasts online. Because, when you boil down Boobquake to its core, it was a bunch of women placing pictures of their breasts online. And frankly, with porn doing that too, as well as every girl gone wild on Spring Break, I'm not sure how we can separate the wheat from the chaff. To hold up Boobquake as a feminist movement, but Girls Gone Wild as a misogynistic spectacle.

Um ... since both seem to also have commemorative memorabilia to boot.

Which makes me think of an interesting protest that takes place in Judaism every spring during Passover. Susannah Heschel, a Jewish feminist scholar, was the founder of the idea of placing an orange on the seder plate to combat homophobia.

Heschel was visiting a college in the Northeast where she learned that some of the students had started placing crusts of bread on their seder plates as a way to express the exclusion of women and homosexuals from Judaism. Heschel thought this was great. But since it violated the Passover dietary restrictions, she decided to modify the act, placing an orange on the plate instead of the bread crust to represent both women and homosexuals. "The first year I used a tangerine," the mother of two revealed to the packed room of mostly women and some men. "Everyone at the seder got a section of it and as we ate it we would spit out the seeds in solidarity with homosexuals -- the seeds represented homophobia."

Heschel makes the point to the students, who had their heart in the right place though their execution was flawed, that their protest spits in the face of all established beliefs. Bread is forbidden on the table during Passover and putting it on the seder plate isn't getting the message to the people it is meant to educate because the only thing those people will focus on is that the act is wholly unJewish, with the same offensive nature as peeing on the Torah. If people want to change Judaism, they need to do it while respecting the laws of Judaism. If not, it's the equivalent of someone screaming at you. You don't hear the words because you're so taken aback that someone has accosted you.

Boobquake was sort of like a big, honking slice of bread on the seder plate. What Boobquake needed was Heschel's gentle hand guiding a protest that reaches millions while transgressing none of the rules held dear by the people she aims to educate.

Strangely enough, I think the Facebook stats speak an interesting story. As I write this, 207,803 are saying they're participating with an additional 68,028 maybe attending. But 307,525 took the time to hit "no" on the Facebook invite and reject the idea and 538,164 are like me and hit file without answering, hence they are marked as "awaiting reply."

Did you participate? Did you reject the idea for a particular reason? Or are you one of those half million who don't know what to think of the event?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her book is Navigating the Land of If.

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