The XX Factor

Bring Back Boobquake!

In my (apparently sexist, unenlightened) view, “boobquake” was a pretty inspired idea. An Iranian cleric said that immodest dress increases earthquakes, so Purdue student Jen McCreight suggested a day on which everyone showed their cleavage to prove him wrong. At first, thousands of people were on board. Then came what these days is the inevitable scolding backlash, most articulately by way of Beth Mann :

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.

Actually, not at all. Repressive Islamic regimes control their women by controlling their bodies. A flash of shoulder is a transgression akin to stealing-more so, for its apparently destructive effects on tectonic stability. In that context, it seems perfectly appropriate to bare skin as an act of protest. Would that the gay community had declared a public make-out day after every one of Jerry Falwell’s moronic prophecies.

In fact, it’s very similar to burning bras (which, according to Gail Collins , never really happened, but anyway..). Germaine Greer and all her sex positive friends were not all righteous anger. They were happy for the headlines and the male attention. And even if free love did not work out all that well for women in the end, it still served its purpose, which is liberating women from an oppressive sexual double standard. Which is just what the women in the Middle East desperately need.

So why the backlash? Because young feminists these days seem spooked by the specter of the Girls Gone Wild era. The only issues that matter to them these days have to do with body image-the tragedy of women apologizing for their boobs being too big or too small or somehow inadequate to the event. The prospect of some leering male commenters is enough to shut the whole protest down.

As Jessica has said, we have entered the era of Generation Scold . It’s punitive and driven by superego. Any spontaneous outbursts of rebellion immediately bring on waves of regret. ( Molly Norris even took back her equally inspired “Everybody Draw Mohammed Idea ” today.) Generation Scold is admirable in its attempts at feminist sobriety, but also too cautious to ever make a move.