Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Ok, so has everyone heard about this pile of drivel? Yep?

Ok, has everyone heard about yesterday's responce to that: the Boobquake?

Good, then I can talk about it and we're all up to speed.

See, when I first heard about this event, I was thinking Johnathan Swift, I was thingking "A Modest Proposal" I was thinking this was hysterical. Yes, why shouldn't we have a pseudo-scientific "test" of this utterly stupid, bigoted attitude and prove how wrong-headed it really is? Even the suggestion - silly though it was - was a satirical point in and of itself. Merely suggesting that we take this theory seriously enough to subject it to scientific rigour was enough to hold it up to ridicule and show that there was no way it would ever stand up to any kind of scrutiny, without needing to actually follow through on the proposal. What a beautiful piece of satire; Bravo.

And then I read the comments on the facebook event, to the tune of immature (male) morons shouting about how awesome it was that they get to see teh boobiez. And I saw a friend of mine - who will remain nameless - posting as his status an exhortation that his girlfriend should take part, despite the fact that she is a teacher - a post that I read as she would like to participate, but was not comfortable dressing unprofessionally in front of a classroom full of people who wouldn't get it, and who would instead take the opportunity to perve on her. And I suddenly started feeling really quite sick and skeezy.

Because that's the problem. This should never have become anything more than a Modest Proposal. Because, let's face it, we in the West have our own issues around the female body. We don't see women's bodies as any the less "slutty", we just have different ways of expressing it. And yet we also have the whole Girls-gone-wild phenomenon whereby our culture constantly tells us we have to show off our bodies. The message we get all day is: Be slutty, but not too slutty, because no-one likes a prude, c'mon girl, lets see some skin, but of course when you cave to the pressure and do show off your assets you are slutty and shouldn't be surprised when you get treated badly, you slut... etc, etc, etc.*

And sadly the whole point of the Boobquake went and got lost in amongst the howling of "get yer kit off". See, this is the bog problem. The idea that women have to perorm sexually in order to get any positive attention whatsoever. In which case, our message is going to get undermined by the methods by which we promote it.

"Everyday women and young girls are forced to “show off cleavage” and more in order simply to be heard, to be seen, or to advance professionally. The web is already filled with images of naked women; the porn industry thrives online and many young girls are already vulnerable to predatory abuse. Violence against women and girls has a direct correlation to the sexualisation of women and girls. The extent of their sexualisation is evident in the hundreds of replies that pour into the “Boobquake” Facebook page where women write, apologetically: "I don’t have boobs, not fair" or "Hey, I only have a C cup… ” and “what about those of us who no longer have a cleavage? they sag too low.”" **

Boobquake became a joke. And that took the sting out of the satire.

Which brings me to a piece that I found in the Grauniad the other day by David Mitchell - who has suddenly gone up in my estimation.
Quite appart from containing the wonderful phrase: "But, as this election campaign is demonstrating, when it comes to sexism, "PC gone mad" is a long way from power – it's still a minority party compared to "chauvinism gone senile"" the article has a very good point or two to make on the subject of "empowerment". Sorry "Empowerment". And how publicity isn't always good publicity, despite what the maxim would have us believe.

So Boobqake? I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to pass on this one. At least until "science" has decided I have a voice, independant from my breasts.

*This whole thing has been gone over, and over, and over more times than I can count. If you want to know more, start with: Ariel Levy's "Female Chauvanist Pigs" then try Natasha Walter's "Living Dolls" or Courtney Martin's "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" - all of which I would encourage you to read anyway because they are awesome. And that's just for starters.

** This from one response to Boobquake - Brainquake


  1. Another gem :)

    Lots of good article links there. I was meant to go to that pole dancing class on Sunday, and I'm considering going on Sunday, but probably won't as its a bit pricey for me.

    I also don't like the fact that it is women's only, and that they are trying to put the "empowerment" spin on it. Dancing on poles isn't wrong in itself, but by trying to defend it, and making it women's only, I think they are basically admitting to the public, and probably in order to get the publicity, that it is controversial etc.
    As for the sexual nature of it, my view was that the Tango is also a sexually provocative dance, as was belly dancing, yet they are offered for men, women all over, and are no longer just for the viewing pleasure of men, but considered fun, decent ways of getting exercise and having fun. Pole dancing can be the same.

    I like the nudist way of thinking. You can be naked, free and natural without being viewed purely as a sexual object.

    As for cleavage in the workplace, it reminds me of this video with the delicious Marion Cotillard: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/5a52180b80/forehead-tittaes-w-marion-cotillard

    Let me know what you think about that as a piece of satire. I havn't got any real views on it except that I totally love Marion Cotillards voice.

  2. I actually love it - and not just because I too love Ms Cotillard. Without wanting to overanalyse, it does emphasise the sad fact that women are stuck in the trap of having to put up with sexual objectification or "sacrifice their femininity". It seems that in this day and age, you can't be considered both female/feminine and deserving of respect. In all honesty, that seems to be at the root of a *lot* of problems in this day and age - and not just for women.

    I really think you would enjoy two of the books I recomended in the OP - the Ariel Levy and the Natasha Walter - especially the Levy. She does talk a lot about the fact that Raunch culture has become ubiquitous. Not just one acceptable way of seeing sexuality - but as the *only* way.

    In an ideal world, pole dancing and the burlesque would just be one of a number of lifestyle choices that people could make, but as it is, that kind of thing has become the dominant cultural narative, to the point where there isn't any real choice involved. (Read "Living Dolls" for a better explanation of why that is.)

    I don't think the nudist comparison quite works in this case though, even in an ideal world. Pole dancing and Burlesque isn't just about body confidence, or exercise - there is a deliberate sexual, titilatory and specifically performative (rather than participatory) element to it, and, in this imperfect world, a whole bundle of unsavoury connotations as well that you can't just ignore.

  3. Yes of course, bad phrasing really, I wasn't trying to use the nudist thing as a comparison to pole dancing, just mentioning it in passing.
    I agree pole dancing, along with the Tango, burlesque, lap dancing, belly dancing etc etc IS sexually provocative, as a performance, by its own creation and nature and there is nothing wrong with women being sexual objects, but there is ofcourse something wrong with them being NOTHING BUT sexual objects, or only looked at AS sexual objects, or having to BE SEXUAL OBJECTS to even get any consideration.
    BUT as I said, women have taken belly dancing and the Tango, both originally sexually provocative forms of dancing, and these aren't seen AS sexual anymore, so this can be done with pole dancing.
    It is all about being as sexual or asexual or anywhere in between as we want to be, when and how we choose, right!

    I shall check the books out, but I warn you, I fail at literature, which is annoying because I love stories and get into books, just find reading anything vaguely complex and abstract really hard. I still don't quite "get" poetry that doesn't rhyme.