You Can Keep Your Boobquake, Thanks.
According to my facebook feed, today is an important day, for it is the day that several of my women friends are “attending” a very empowerful “event”: Boobquake. In case you haven’t heard about it yet, Boobquake began as a response to a public statement made by an Iranian cleric, who suggested that
Many women who do not dress modestly… lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.
Boobquake is thus a day of coordinated immodesty, which encourages women to wear the most scandalously cleavage-bearing shirts they own, and
… 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.
Oh, and post the pics, of course. To a group of mostly male spectators, whose thousands of comments on the facebook fan page and the Boobquake organizing blog run the gamut from “yeeeaaahhhhhhh, booobs” to “send ur pics to this email address…” Yeah, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t jump at the chance to participate in this little ‘activist’ project. And frankly, the performance-for-the-masculine-gaze-ness of it all isn’t even the most truly objectionable part of it to me (though, let’s just come right out and admit that that’s not, in itself, particularly feminist).
No, the part that really kills me here is the self-righteous, enlightened posturing of it all, the suggestion that even if this mode of protest is a bit wacky, its heart is in the right place: fighting “extremist Muslim misogyny.” Because that sentiment, the one that says “we are so much more enlightened than those backwards Muslims in Iran,” is arrogant bullshit, and it’s the same one that leads us to congratulate ourselves for our supposed liberation of women in Afghanistan (while we murder them and then try to cover up their deaths by hacking the bullets out of their bodies), and pass laws forbidding women from wearing the clothes that respect their religious beliefs and make them comfortable under the guise of saving them from their own cultures.
And the thing is, ‘we’ aren’t more enlightened. ‘We’ regularly circulate our own sorts of magical misogynist thinking, only instead of suggesting that the exposure of women’s bodies leads to earthquakes, we blame that exposure for rape–as though the exposed body itself not only invited rape, but drew powerless men in. We suggest that women’s immodest or wild behavior causes the proliferation of something called “raunch culture,” which is sending everything to hell in a handbasket. And we assume that women’s failure to behave in appropriately feminine ways emasculates and/or castrates men, making them weak and upending the very foundations of society.
But in moments like this–when someone in Iran says or does something transparently misogynist–we get to make a big show of our righteous indignation, exporting all of our rape-culture-y feelings to “the Muslim world,” and in general, congratulate ourselves for being so forward thinking without actually doing any feminist work. And, as a bonus, this particular instantiation of self-congratulation comes with its own built-in mechanism for hearing about how sexxxy you are from internet creepers asking for naked pics.
So yeah, I’m not exactly rushing to hit the “Attending” button on this one.
UPDATE 2: I’ve written an expanded post on the responses to this article (that tries) to clear some things up and set some shit straight in light of the comments below. You can find it here.