Rule 34D and the genius of Boobquake

Greta Christina has posted a feminist defense of Boobquake on Carnal Nation. The gist:

I get that this is a complicated issue. I get that the line between women expressing our sexuality and letting ourselves be exploited is often blurry. I get that using sexuality to draw attention to an issue can be a tricky business, and that the sex can distract from the issue at hand. And I get that, yes, a lot of men acted like idiots around Boobquake, ignoring its political and religious and scientific context, and turning it into another opportunity to scream, “Show us your tits!”

So how should women respond to this? Are we to respond by saying, “Never mind, we’ll never upset anyone by expressing our sexuality ever again”?

Does it perhaps make more sense for women to deal with the objectification of our sexuality with the pro-choice refrain, “Our bodies—our right to decide”?

I would add that part of the fun of Boobquake was that the use of the Internet meant that women could not only decide whether to participate, but how. I, for example, was not comfortable showing up to work in a black lacy bra, but was perfectly happy to post pics on my blog and link to the entry on Facebook. I’m sure there were many other women who made similar distinctions. It meant the contributions to Boobquake could be made especially visible, whereas if it were restricted to physical space the effect would be comparatively dilute. On that note, I think that, rather than the event subjecting women to the attentions of men who are willing to pressure them into participating, the use of the Internet means that all interested parties (and yes that does include horny het guys) know where to find the content all packed together in a handful of convenient places, which means there is actually less pressure in real space for individual women to take part when they’re not comfortable doing so.

Which is not to say that I’m skeptical of reports that some women were pressured by men into showing cleavage when they didn’t want to. I’m sure there were some instances of that happening. Here’s the thing: if there are men in your life who are able to coerce you into dressing immodestly when you don’t want to, those men can coerce you into doing more than that, and they have probably treated you like a piece of meat already and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. If you have those men in your life, then your problems are bigger than Boobquake or any piece of smartassery by Jen McCreight.

However, my real defense of Boobquake is not simply that it was a piece of harmless fun. I think it was a brilliant move, and that Ms. McCreight should not have been so surprised when it went viral, largely because of its cunning use of cheap thrills and brainless ogling. As I said on Pharyngula:

“If it involves boobs, it will become extremely popular on the Internet.”

My fellow poster KOPD dubbed that: Rule 34D.

Because everyone loves boobies, the event was a hot, jiggling success. The effort was, ultimately, to make fun of irrationality and misogyny. When your target is a guy blaming immodestly dressed women for earthquakes, silliness and triviality are entirely appropriate responses. We used the attention-getting power of our bodacious bods—but only on our terms— to draw attention to a) the fact that people actually think that way, b) the fact that they’re full of shit, and c) we’re not afraid to call them on it.

Finally: for any women who would have liked to join in the fun, but thought they couldn’t play because their breasts are too small, I direct you once again to Exhibit A. No one told me to keep my shirt on.