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Girls Gone Theoretically Empowered! [Apr. 22nd, 2008|08:45 am]
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I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.

1. I expected Open Source Boob Project to be something satirical, perhaps involving putting a pair of boobs on random objects to make fun of sexualized culture. It wasn't.

2. Then I read it and discomfort ensued - actually "EW!".

3. In theory, consensual taboo violation within formalized boundaries isn't necessarily sexist, but in practice it's not exactly empowerment, either.

4.1 It was a fan convention which may mean a rarified, safe environment or may mean tougher, pressurized social heirarchy.

4.2 The intitial spontaneous exchanges may have been transgressive, but a stranger tolerating a playfully rude request isn't necessarily a fair exchange of pure adoration and the presence of women may be the only thing which mitigated the creep factor.

5. Turning it into a project which involves forming a group to hand out buttons is different and brings up peer power dynamics.

6. "My breasts," they asked shyly, having heard about the project. "Are they... are they good enough to be touched?" And lo, we showed them how beautiful their bodies were without turning it into something tawdry.

7. If one is going to use "empowerment" one is has to deal with all the theory and politics which it invokes.

8. Something about the whole "Open Source Boobs" thing makes transactional boobage (i.e. stripping) almost seem progressive by comparison. And you don't get to touch most strippers.

9. After a strong response the author amends his essay to claim "most of the men were open-sourced, too. The question of what that means is up to you." Yeah, right.

10. Were I a woman, this would be a point where an "Ow, My Oves" fan icon would be appropriate.

11. Edited to add: This was actually one of the author's responses comments:
And your response seems to come from a personal mindset of, "My body is something so special to me that only people I have firmly vetted and talked to and invested in should be allowed to touch those areas." Which is fine. It's a way of saying, "I only want people I find attractive and/or nice to want me," which is in fact the prevalent societal attitude.

But that also involves an interview process, and the attitude that your body is a vested space that is, by nature, exclusive. That's fine. But that doesn't mean it's the only way to be, or that it's always healthy.
Yes, because not liking being groped by strangers is just THE MAN setting the rules. I will have to assume he doesn't realize arguing "the attitude that your body is a vested space that is, by nature, exclusive" is somehow unhealthy can have pro-life (and perhaps -rape) connotations.

12. If going around pressuring women to wear buttons indicating their willingness to be groped is empowerment then the New Orleans Tit Flashing For Beads Exchange is a revolutionary matriarchal economy.

As usual, Nihilistic Kid has an ungrumpy, spot-on response.

Also while I violently disagree with this essay, it has the backwards benefit of providing a specific context in which to explain nerd blindspots in gender politics, sexism, etc. There's more observations under the cut.

Here's some more observations:

From pleonastic:
i am pretty sure it was a special thing for the people who started this, and it wasn't at all as skeevy as it sounded to me when recounted. a lot of people are touch-starved, and it would be nice if touch didn't carry such strong sexual messages...i don't like that it's called "the open-source boob project". there is a lot of justification from other people after the initial post -- that it wasn't just about boobs and it wasn't just women being touched. ok, but why the hell isn't it called the "open-source touch project" or the "open-source body project" then?


From springheel-jack:
I know from nerds and geeks, and when they get together in groups they have a tendency to try to remake social norms on more "rational" lines and in doing so they march bravely backward into the dark ages. They make the same mistake that a lot of people with a utopian bent ...in the name of improving things, making them more honest, transparent, reasonable, and true...they reproduce all the errors and fall into all the horrors that people with more experience, with more history, already know about.

Too many geek guys never got the message. The game is one of gender politics and they stayed home with their computers - those shadow-boxes of projective fantasizing - rather than go out and have experiences of, well, gender, with people unlike themselves...They never had their fantasies reality-checked. Instead they masturbated and imagined how things could be different - a world without all the preliminaries and subtexts and baggage of the adult world. A world in which, sexually, it would be perfectly okay to go up to any desirable woman and say, "me cowboy, you indian, bang bang you're dead."

There is this awful immaturity in the condition of geekdom. The singleminded obsessions; the valorization of social inexperience and awkwardness; the love of blinking lights. Look, I know what it felt like to grow up like that, smart, shy, and stigmatized, and I can understand wanting to feel good about being a geek...But when it's an excuse to refuse to be an adult and to deal with adult complexity...


Also, also:Also, even earlier Springheel Jack makes the even more cogent point:
The ferrett wonders why a man’s asking, out of the blue, if he can feel up a woman’s boobs shouldn’t be understood as “a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.” But this is simply to ask why he shouldn’t be able to continue to treat women as they have always been treated...we can't keep patriarchy out of it; the mere attempt is a means not so much of re-inscribing patriarchy but of shoving people in front of it to be run down, as if by a rampaging elephant. Women have not generally been able to define for themselves their own sexual identities and the parameters of their own sexual lives. Their sexuality has been policed by men - now restricted, now afforded, never at the woman's will but at the man's. That fact makes it more than childish to propose this as a psychosexual utopia - it's something much worse, much more culpable, then a mere boy's callow musing.
I encourage everyone to read the full post.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mcpreacher
2008-04-22 01:55 pm (UTC)

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i don't know if it's weird or not how much the whole idea got to me

i can only imagine how fucked the whole thing is to someone who knows what words like "hetero-normative" mean
[User Picture]From: fengi
2008-04-22 02:01 pm (UTC)

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[User Picture]From: bghsmith
2008-04-22 02:07 pm (UTC)

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Couldn't the same thing be done by a group of males telling random women on the street that they are beautiful? Why must there be touching?
[User Picture]From: shipbuilding
2008-04-22 02:09 pm (UTC)

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But...but then you couldn't touch beautiful boobsbreasts!
[User Picture]From: shipbuilding
2008-04-22 02:08 pm (UTC)

How 'bout an ironic icon?

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I was glad to see some of my favorite people fighting the good fight in that entry.

#6 was the point where I was like, "OK, I don't have to try and be open-minded anymore, this is clearly just some intellectualized tit-grabbing, and as much as they want to dress it up, the fact that even one person would characterize the "project" as such underlines the fact that this is still about sexualizing and judging women's bodies."

Off to read the response, now.
[User Picture]From: fengi
2008-04-22 06:10 pm (UTC)

Re: How 'bout an ironic icon?

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I will give him credit for highlighting a major blindspot in gender politics and giving a specific example which people can then use to explain what's wrong. It wasn't intentional but the net effect is educational.
[User Picture]From: kadath
2008-04-22 02:25 pm (UTC)

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All I know is that I will NEVER BE CLEAN AGAIN.

I want to put together a set of reasons why only undersocialized troglodytes would think this is a BRILLIANT REVOLUTIONARY idea, but every time I try, the gears in my brain just lock and I end up sitting there going "buh...buh...buh..."
[User Picture]From: fengi
2008-04-22 02:29 pm (UTC)

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Well, clearly you've bought into that rigid social concept "that your body is a vested space that is, by nature, exclusive". It was there where any slight benefit of the doubt evaporated, as he clearly doesn't grasp how he's just repeated the pro-life argument.
[User Picture]From: foxfirefey
2008-04-22 02:28 pm (UTC)

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Hearts.
[User Picture]From: library_chair
2008-04-22 02:33 pm (UTC)

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Personal space = the shackles of tradition?

This bothers me on a lot of levels. That allowing strangers to touch your breasts is "empowerment" says a lot about the level of ownership women feel over their own bodies.
[User Picture]From: mcpreacher
2008-04-22 02:46 pm (UTC)

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i think it was claudelemonde who pointed out that the project had more or less admitted to removing the already flimsy barriers between a woman's body and lascivious groping but jerkoffs don't like it when you hoist them by their own petards

i'm gonna spend a month or so getting back into shape and then it's time for the open source swirlie project
[User Picture]From: krinndnz
2008-04-22 02:37 pm (UTC)

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I've been sitting here with a nonverbal snarliness about that stuff - thank you for puttin' the wordy framework on it.

Normally when I see something like this, I'd be rooting for Amanda or Twisty to eviscerate it, too, but - fish, barrel, just a little.
[User Picture]From: foxfirefey
2008-04-22 03:07 pm (UTC)

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Except unlike the agreeability of fish in a barrel, some things deserve to be shot.
[User Picture]From: claudelemonde
2008-04-22 08:05 pm (UTC)

salutations fellow spinster aunt

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oh trust i already fwded it to both of them
[User Picture]From: fengi
2008-04-23 09:43 pm (UTC)

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Meanwhile Jezebel.com weighs in with the usual hipster "Oh, people are upset about this? Duh, it was totally not - because if it's not happening on our blog, then it's just internet losers getting worked up about it."
[User Picture]From: sabotabby
2008-04-22 03:28 pm (UTC)

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This just brought up memories of all the boys and men who've thought that they had a right to my boobs (including one who's causing me problems now).

What leads to being empowered is control over one's sexuality (which is why some of the women probably did feel "empowered" during this). Maybe that means being a big slut. Maybe that means being a no-touch zone. Regardless, it's intimately linked to social relations, which is why one can't become individually empowered in any meaningful sense of the word.
[User Picture]From: pretzelcoatl
2008-04-22 03:51 pm (UTC)

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I think this sums up my reaction.

"We had buns!" Yeah, because male butts = female breasts.
[User Picture]From: seriesfinale
2008-04-22 04:43 pm (UTC)

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Looks like all the good jokes have been taken here so now I'm just left with my bug-eyed expression and a wee bit of bile in my throat.

Cripes...
[User Picture]From: seriesfinale
2008-04-22 04:44 pm (UTC)

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I mean, be a perv or a dirtbag, whatever, I don't care, it's the attempt to intellectualize and institutionalize it that's disgusting.
[User Picture]From: shaenon
2008-04-22 07:04 pm (UTC)

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So this is basically the nerd version of Girls Gone Wild, where "empowerment" means being pressured to let strangers grope you so you can feel hawt. I have no interest in letting random people touch me, and random people at sci-fi conventions? BAD TOUCH.

I know from nerds and geeks, and when they get together in groups they have a tendency to try to remake social norms on more "rational" lines and in doing so they march bravely backward into the dark ages.

No kidding. Save me from people who think they're all rational like Mr. Spock; invariably, they get invested in the idea that any emotion, instinct, or irrational thought they have must be totally logical, and it's the rest of us who are being unreasonable by, say, complaining if they walk up and grab our boobs.
[User Picture]From: kadath
2008-04-22 09:02 pm (UTC)

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OMFG that sleazeball mofo just "accidentally" deleted all the comments.
[User Picture]From: lawgeekgurl
2008-04-23 01:40 am (UTC)

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well, I would have punched him in the face. The whole thing is offensive.
[User Picture]From: pir_anha
2008-04-23 07:15 am (UTC)

Re: Girls Gone Theoretically Empowered!

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heya -- i subscribed to your journal because your very first comment to the boob project post was made of pure win, and while i was still sputtering over my own response, it helped pull me back from pouring white-hot rage over theferrett's magical rainbow elf and fairy (with boobs) show. then i looked in here and liked what i saw.

i like geeks. i'm a geek. my partners are geeks. we might not always be the most socially adept people, and yeah, we like the blinkenlights, and theorizing about a better world -- but nobody in my circles is this magically clueless about gender politics. i've always felt much safer in geek circles than in the mainstream. that's why this project is such a slap in the face. well, maybe it was time for a wake-up call.

a couple things i didn't post about in my first impression because i was still sputtering, but they coalesced since:

theferrett said:
I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.

nothing says objectification like saying "i don't know you, and i am much too respectful to objectify you, but you are beautiful and PLEASE LET ME TOUCH YOUR BREASTS". he really does not get it, does he.

6. "My breasts," they asked shyly, having heard about the project. "Are they... are they good enough to be touched?" And lo, we showed them how beautiful their bodies were without turning it into something tawdry.

this was so sad. so very sad. it made me swallow hard. and it didn't make him stop and think for a second, no. he wrote about it like it was an especially wondrous victory for his magical project.

i wish this was the kind of world where this sort of statement from a woman would make the groper think, long and hard.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: slammerkinbabe
2008-04-23 05:56 pm (UTC)

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Y'know what, fengi, I didn't read your entry on this initially because I was ENTIRELY fed up with the entire discussion -- I got to yours after the point where I'd thrown up my hands and gone "oh, fuck it." But this is an excellent response.

Just wanted to say that.