As you probably heard, a sexist bigot Iranian Cleric by the name of Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi claimed that women who don’t dress modestly cause earthquakes:

Many women who do not dress modestly […] lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.

This ridiculous statement caused 22 year old Jennifer McCreight to call on women to Help fight supernatural thinking and the oppression of women, just by dressing immodestly! She instituted “Boobquake,” a global experiment on Monday, April 26th (tomorrow!) to see if so-called immodest dress actually causes earthquakes.

I think this is a fun meme, and I see nothing inherently wrong with it. Nevertheless, the call to immodesty in the name of science offended way more than just Iranian clerics. Many feminists seem to object to the idea that women’s bodies can be a source of pride and joy and empowerment for the women those bodies are attached to, even when those women clearly demonstrate their own agency. The objections, unsurprisingly, seem to imply that in a patriarchal society, women have no agency.

McCreight’s boobquake event sparked concern from these other feminists, causing them to launch a counter-event called brainquake. Brainquake says:

We (Negar Mottahedeh and Golbarg Bashi) are saddened that Jen McCreight, a blogger at Blag Hag, and a so-called feminist and thousands of women have responded by committing to show off “some cleavage for ‘Boobquake’ this Monday”. This campaign has aroused the evidently insatiable enthusiasm of the web community, male supporters in particular who can’t wait to see “regular” girls and women, many their direct friends to “showing off their tits”.

While many people may not understand the full context in which boobquake was originally proposed, is it appropriate for others to view the boobquake event with such tunnel vision? Well, yes and no, actually. Brainquake makes important and necessary arguments:

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.”

Indeed, lack of self-esteem, poor body-image, non-consensual sexualization and many other problems, no tragedies, affect billions of women (and many men, I’d like to add) every day. This oppression absolutely must end. But is calling Jennifer McCreight, a woman who is a double major in genetics and evolution, a “so-called feminist” really part of the solution?

Now, look. The way I understand it, feminist ideals are not about shaming women’s bodies, nor pressuring women to expose them. Feminism is about gender equality for every body, male-assigned, female-assigned, intersex, and everyone else! In a world where women are pressured by men to either cover themselves or expose themselves, do we really need other feminists to be pressuring women in the same manner out of the inertia of ideological imperatives?

In the words of nonviolent women’s rights and social justice activist Arundhati Roy, When we are violent to our enemies, we do violence to ourselves. When we brutalize others, we brutalize ourselves. And eventually we run the risk of becoming our oppressors.

Don’t let ideological feminists shame you into covering yourself up, or pressure you into exposing yourself. Your body is YOURS. It is yours to show off however you like, whether physically, intellectually, or otherwise.

That said, the brainquake event, which asks women to show off their intellect instead of their cleavage by honor[ing] the accomplishments of Iranian women by showing off our abilities, our creativity, our ingenuity, and our smarts on our blogs, on Wikipedia, on Twitter, on Youtube, on Flickr and all over Facebook is a fantastic idea, too!

I think both Boobquake and Brainquake are fantastic ideas. So why the infighting? Why the “you’re not a real feminist” finger-pointing? Why did an Iranian cleric, whose ideology believes that promiscuous women cause earthquakes for fuck’s sake, fracture the unity with which women and men and every freedom-loving person on the planet needs in order to create a world where gender justice becomes a reality?

So I say, yes, let’s absolutely honor the intellectual accomplishments of Iranian women! But let’s also honor the accomplishments of women who do not dress modestly, such as Annie Sprinkle, “prostitute and porn star turned sex educator and artist,” and the numerous other feminists who stand up for the rights of women to be sexy on their own terms.

In response to all this divisiveness I keep seeing in feminist debates over issues of sexuality, I think it’s time for a FEMQUAKE!

Both breasts and brains are good for humanity and deserve our respect. Don’t coerce women into being proud of one over the other, or feeling ashamed of either! YES WE CAN all get along.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “Everyone on Earth is born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Part of what that means is that every woman has the prerogative to do as she pleases, from showing off cleavage on Boobquake to showing off intellect on Brainquake.

The core ideal is not a woman’s body or her mind, but her humanity. Decrying women who are proud of their bodies is as oppressive as forcing the ones who aren’t to cover them up. Hailing intellectualism over physical value is as insensitively demonizing as nonconsensual sexualization.

It’s time for women, men, and everyone else to empower one another to live the lives we want to live, free of coercion and abuse, whether modestly dressed or not.

It’s time for a FEMQUAKE!

Regardless of your gender, please join Femquake on April 26th, by blogging, tweeting, and publicizing the achievements of women, whether physical, intellectual, or (preferably) both! Tag your blog post with “Femquake” and your tweets with #Femquake to participate.

Even though there’s not much time, I’m going to run a post on this blog tomorrow highlighting the achievements of a woman who I know stands up for women’s sexuality, dresses immodestly, and has numerous academic and professional achievements.

Because smart is sexy, and sexy is smart, too.

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