April 21, 2010

An Immodest Proposal

Or, Why I'm Attending Boobquake

When I read about Boobquake, my first thought was, "Heh. Cute."

Sedighi claims that not dressing modestly causes earthquakes. If so, we should be able to test this claim scientifically. You all remember the homeopathy overdose?

Time for a Boobquake.

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.

I didn't really think much more of it. The original proposition, that dressing immodestly leads to a chain of actions that includes adultery and the wrath of god in the form of earthquakes, was too silly to really get too worked up over. Then the reactions started.

Boobquake to me is a minefield of contradictions; women are choosing to get their breasts out in order to make a statement against sexism. For me, because we live in a society where women are treated like sexual objects, the statement falls a little flat. Sexism manifests itself in the UK through enforcing women to self objectify, tits out, will be assumed to be ‘tits out for the lads’, even if that’s not the case. Women in the UK are also pressured to cover up and told that if you show too much flesh you deserve rape. As I said, it’s a minefield. Maybe a statement of solidarity would be to challenge the ways we are forced into modesty/objectification in our own country whilst perhaps, supporting women’s organisations in Iran, and maybe fighting imperialism. I don’t really know enough to propose an answer to how to end sexism in Iran.

I guess my point can be summarized in the following sentence ‘Boobquake ignores the socio-cultural context of the country in which it is being performed, the relationships between Islam/atheism/imperialism, and as such is potentially an ineffective statement’

No. Just no.

These? These are my breasts. They are mine to dress as I please, when I please. Or not. Beyond that, they are no one's political statement. They are plenty big and heavy enough on their own. They don't need to carry the weight of women in Iran, in the U.K. or next door. They don't need to bear the burden of a successful or unsuccessful atheist or skeptic or feminist event. There is no bra supportive enough for that.

So on Monday, after work (because work pays me for the privilege of dictating how I dress while I'm there), I'll be putting on that bra. Then I'll pull that shirt out of the closet and make sure the front isn't laced too tightly. Then I'll get together a group of friends and go out. We will not be seen and not heard. We will not keep our voices low or our eyes turned down. We will not be deferential in expressing our opinions or our preferences. There may even be some extramarital flirting. We'll see.

And then, when we're done being our most immodest of selves (but still ourselves), we'll laugh. We'll point at the man who was silly enough to connect our modesty to plate tectonics and desperate enough to need the ground to shake to get someone to listen to how he thinks we should dress, and we'll giggle. We'll laugh a little, too, at the people who thought that maybe we should be concerned about what the world would think--while we were telling the world we didn't care what it thought. But that last will be gentle laughter.

Then we'll get back to the serious work of beating our heads on the intractable problems that we care about, seriously, but over which we have very little control. We'll confront sexism and religion-based oppression directly, to the extent that we want to and can. And we'll do it all a little better for having had the release of ignoring everyone's opinion on what we should wear, and a little laughter.


Becca said...

My boobs ARE a political statement. And they cause earthquakes. ;-)
Not that your boobs should have to.

However, it seems to me that if we have: Hypothesis: A leads to B leads to EARTHQUAKES!
(where A= immodesty and B= adultery)... then boobquake is poor science.
I consider boobage an acceptable value for A.
HOWEVER, why not just cut to the chase?
Why not adulteryquake?
This is a more direct scientific test. In addition, it doesn't replay tired feminist no-win contradictions of sexydress in quite the same way (particularly if we only have women to commit adultery). Particularly if you consider deconstructing monogamy as essential to deconstructing the notion of women as property. Not that I do or anything. Just saying, it's a valid perspective.

Ben Zvan said...

‘Boobquake ignores the socio-cultural context of the country in which it is being performed, the relationships between Islam/atheism/imperialism, and as such is potentially an ineffective statement’

Ironically, so does this objection.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Becca, it's not poor science, in part because we're testing someone else's hypothesis, which does not state that only A leads to B. Therefore B is not an acceptable substitute for A.

And I didn't say my boobs weren't a political statement. I said that they were a very limited political statement. "Mine."

CyberLizard said...

You had me at "boobs"...

Stephanie Zvan said...

Heh. Cyberlizard, I had you well before boobs. Nobody follows this blog because of my breasts.

CyberLizard said...

True, brains first; then boobs :-) Actually, I don't think I've ever seen your boobs. Then again, I've never seen your brains, either. So it's all good!

Becca said...

On a more serious note, the religious concept of Haya is highly susceptible to chronic misunderstanding by Westerners. The very short oversimplification of why boobquake is irrelevant is that Western women, by definition, lack modesty. I'm quite sure the Iranian wasn't at all worried about what atheist women in the US wear or don't wear.
I understand it's all silly superstition to you. I'd probably be similarly pontificating if you mixed up gnomes and brownies, too.

Adamo said...

So if on Monday I dress showing more of my well used and aged droopy boobs, and it causes a quake, it should be a really low deep quake, right?