So, Boobquake is happening today, according to the news and my facebook feed. I’ve been trying to avoid a post about it, but now it seems impossible.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who has avoided press coverage of it, I suggest you check out the blog that started it all, linked up top. To sum it up, in response to crazy comments about women’s immodest dress causing earthquakes, Jen McCreight declared that today, April 26th, is Boobquake. Boobquake is a day in which everyone should dress slutty so that when there is no earthquake and we can prove that dude wrong! Because crazy people are totally open to logic. Logic that bounces.
As for Jen McCreight herself, I don’t think she had bad intentions. I think she is what she says– a person making a snarky post who was shoved into media spotlight via the internets. She says: “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.”
From reading her blog, she seems like just the kind of awesome person I’d like to be friends with. Still, as a cultural critic, I’d like to comment on the event and its implications. So, I dig her, and I still wanna analyze the event, okay crazy people who think women can’t disagree without hating on each other? Ok.
For the record, I don’t have a problem with cleavage. But here’s the thing–isn’t this event just reifying the very issue that it’s trying to satirize? Or, more clearly, by being frustrated that we are hypersexualized and blamed for natural disasters and responding with an act that re-locates women in the sexual realm aren’t we saying “yeah, you’re right, I am sexy but oggle away, there won’t be earthquakes! TOLD YA!” Isn’t this act of resistance still using the oppressor’s language?
I don’t know for sure, I do know that boobquake is going to be co-opted by the oggling eyes of the media’s male gaze. I also know that 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. So do political displays that affirm that a woman’s claim to power is based on her body. If a woman gets power by being desirable, and what’s desirable is decided by another institution (the media, hetero dudes, etc), women do not have power.
I’m also struck by the double standard of boob acceptability. We can all show off our boobs for this–when it’s sexy–but not if oh, say, you’re breastfeeding. There’s nothing sexy about breastfeeding so please ladies, put those away. THAT is indecent. It’s also rather anti-trans, as it is another example of how one body part comes to represent what is female.
Finally, my real issue as an anti-human trafficking, anti-rape, prochoice, activist is this: boobquake calls on women to use their bodies to speak up about an issue. I can’t remember the last time my boobs had something interesting to say– but everyday I read stories about the millions of women around the planet who are seen as nothing but bodies.
I am not a body–I am a person. I am not a statistic, a number, a pair of tits–I am a person. And ladies who boobquaked today, you have a voice that is just as important as your body. You have a mind, a spirit, and a body that can do amazing things beyond turning people’s heads. I am all about using your body to protest– but I am not into your hypersexualized body BEING the protest. There’s too many ways for it to be co-opted by those who want your silence.
I just want to add that this is a really complicated, complex discussion. Is boobquake interesting? yes. Is it subversive? I don’t think so, as it is occurring in spaces where it is “desired” that you show off your female body for consumption. Is it feminist? Who’s to say–nobody owns feminism. But this is one pair of boobs [attached to a body who cares a lot about women's issues] you won’t be seeing today.
I can’t help but wonder if today had been “cover up your entire body quake”– hide women’s skin and see if there AREN’T natural disasters–if it would have been as popular. I suppose we will never know.
PS one of my favorite anti-trafficking orgs