Samia has a very thoughtful analysis of that whole Boobquake biz…I’d recommend you read it first before going on with this post.
I love Samia because she is witty, she always makes me think, and often helps me see when I am missing big, important issues. But I am not sure I am in agreement with all her points this time. I started out with a reaction to the idea of Boobquake that was very similar to her post…why get all het up about some Iranian cleric when we did not see as much a fuss here in the U.S. over the Christian fundies who said similar shit about 9/11 and other natural disasters being the fault of gays and feminists, etc. Why ask women to show their tits as a form of protest – what makes that so much better that some drunken dude at spring break yelling show yer tits?
And then I finally read the original post about Boobquake. Well, the semi-original – the clarification she posted after her initial joke post that got way more attention than she expected.
…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.
Boobquake was a joke, and the sad thing is that so many people took it so seriously, including people who praised Boobquakers for being more fun types of feminists than nasty castrating man-hating bitches like Andrea Dworkin who, thank god, is dead, and good riddance. It’s also sad if foolish young women took it as an opportunity to show their boobs in response to drunken-spring-break-d00d-types who thought Boobquake was just another great chance to ogle boobs. Not to mention those douchey d00ds themselves, and how douchey they are – but they were douchey even before Boobquake. If we have to disregard anything a woman has done because men have had a douchey response to it, the list of women’s actions that we can take pride in would be vanishingly small. So whether there was any good at all to Boobquake cannot be judged on the level of involvement of Douchey McDouchersons it garnered.
It seems to me that Boobquake functioned in some ways as a mirror, and each of us saw in it what we brought to it. A tiny fraction of women wanted to make a small, fun, and ultimately, as they knew, mostly ineffectual political gesture. In Boobquake’s mirror, they saw themselves, being themselves, and were glad they had the freedom to do so. Let us hope they also had a moment of remembrance and thought for their less free sisters, whether here in the U.S. or elsewhere – perhaps that will turn into real activism. Other women wanted to feel Empowerful! They looked in the Boobquake mirror and saw hawt chicks. Douchey McDouchersons wanted to see boobs, and, of course, they did. Sour, embittered misogynists of every stripe wanted to see evil nasty women responsible for all that is bad in the world – and that is what they see everyday, Boobquake mirror or no. A certain spinster aunt didn’t even have to look in the Boobquake mirror to know she just saw a boob joke, or, Jen McCreight “say[ing] stupid things about encouraging women to protest oppression by capitulating to Dude Nation’s fondest desire”.
Lots of the rest of us, men and women, came to the Boobquake mirror with mild confusion, and what we saw was…confusing. Boobquake good? Bad? Feminist? Anti-feminist? Trivial? Meaningful? Make jokes? Just ignore? Oh wait, it’s even on The Colbert Report!!! Gah! It will all blow over soon, and we’ll be on to the next internet hoo-ha.
Except I read Samia’s post, and as I mentioned, she always makes me think. Dammit! Even about Boobquake! Samia wrote:
1)Okay, clearly some ridiculous shit was said. But you know, I don’t feel so great about pointing and laughing (or even getting very outraged) about that kind of thing when I know the country I live in has its own serious woman-blaming problems and a rape culture that consistently condones, minimizes and excuses gender-based violence/objectificaton at every turn. There’s something very Hey, look over there! about this kind of Western feminism, and I don’t like it at all.
If Samia is suggesting that white western feminists can’t say anything when some douchebag like this Iranian cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, mouths off about how immodest women are causing earthquakes or some other crock of shit, because we haven’t completely cleaned our own house yet, I’m not buying that. I’m not going to agree that I can’t say anything about gender oppression in other nations, even in a joking manner, because I have to be ultra careful never ever to appear imperialistic. It is always best to do one’s homework and be more rather than less educated when one is going to have a say about something going on in another culture – that seems obvious, if not practiced as often as would be desirable (and I include myself right in there).
That homework* should include asking one’s self: what imperialisms might I be complicit in, because I have the privilege not to notice them? Which douchebags do I find myself more willing to give a pass to, and which ones not? Does that split recreate inequalities it would be better to dismantle, rather than saying, “there’s really no significance to be found in the Douchey McDouchersons I mock and the ones I claim are just misunderstood?”
As an example: are you inclined to mock Iranian clerics who blame immodest women for earthquakes, but see Rush Limbaugh as a patriot despite his inane natterings? Even worse, are you unlikely to see Limbaugh as equally representative of all fundamentalist Christians as Sedighi is of fundamentalist Muslims? Or, turn it on its head – are you as unlikely to view earthquake-addled-Sedighi as wholly representative of all Muslims as you would be to think that health-care-bill-obsessed-Limbaugh represents all Christians worldwide? Do you not even notice Limbaugh as particularly representative of any group – he’s just his own individual, quirky brand of crazy. But that Iranian Muslim cleric…what the hell was his name again…oh, doesn’t matter anyway, too hard to pronounce. It’s not like we need to be aware of him as an individual, any more than of Rush as a member of a group…do we?
This interesting short discussion raises some other good issues to think about.
2) This is some of the most stereotypical-ass, classic Judaeo-Christian*-white-lady-feminist crap I’ve seen in a while. It’s almost a caricature of everything that is wrong with mainstream feminism right now…This whole campaign invisibilizes women who choose to veil and makes me wonder if any of these “activists” ever considered their Facebook friends’ comfort level with these kinds of pictures or how they might feel about the statement being made. Not that many of these folks actually care about the ideas and opinions of Muslim women.
Women could argue among themselves for years whether they are freely choosing to veil, when it’s hot, and you can’t see well, and it’s uncomfortable, or freely choosing to wear high heels, when they damage your toes and back, and you can’t walk well on uneven surfaces in them, as examples. When the reality is that whatever we are “freely” choosing to wear is constrained by our culture and the expectations of those around us and our social class and our laws and our workplace rules and our disposable income and the desires that marketing agencies have tended carefully in us since our earliest days. And since women are in control of precious few of those things, arguing amongst ourselves about what we are “freely” choosing to wear can sometimes be crazy-making.
Last quote from Samia:
Ugh, I hate everyone.
Ha! I have a friend who has joked that her autobiography will be titled “I Hate You: An Explanation”. Well, we say she’s joking. Sometimes humans are just so damn aggravating.
In the end, I have to say thanks again to Samia for pushing me to revisit a topic (even if, in this case, it was Boobquake) and look at it afresh. After working my way through my thinking I’m not sure if I’m as far away from her position as I thought I was.
*Thanks to Doc Free-Ride for help with thinking about this part of the post. I think it is a better post than it would have been without her nudging, though I take full responsibility for all remaining sins of commission and omission.