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Archive for the ‘politics + current events’ Category

Boobquake: A Recap and Response

Monday, April 26th, 2010

It seems I am incapable of resisting writing something about this #boobquake meme that’s grabbed hold of the internet in the last week, so here goes:

To recap the Boobquake meme:

Last week, a senior Iranian cleric blamed women who behave ‘promiscuously’ and wear immodest clothing for earthquakes:

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

Women in the Islamic Republic are required by law to cover from head to toe, but many, especially the young, ignore some of the more strict codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair.

“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon Friday. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”

Read the full article.

Jen McCreight, skeptic, athiest and Blag Hag, responded to his claims with an, ahem, ‘immodest’ proposal:

“On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. Yes, the one usually reserved for a night on the town. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake.”

Read her full blog post.

She created a Boobquake Facebook event which in one week went massively viral, resulting in over 200,000 people as ‘confirmed’ guests of Boobquake. She also coined the Twitter hashtag #boobquake which has been trending in Canada on and off for the last week, and has amassed some 17,000+ tweets in the last seven days. ETA: as of 11am on Tuesday, we’re at 21,000 tweets.

Mainstream news outlets (like cnews, The Vancouver Sun, CNN, and The Examiner) got ahold of the meme, and then we were really off to the races.

The Boobquake Response:

Having never anticipated her little blog post would spur such a massive explosion, Jen McCreight posted a quick followup, addressing some of the concerns being expressed about the event, both in terms of the sexualization inherent, the specific call out to breasts as the method of immodesty, and the science involved.

“I just want to apologize if this comes off as demeaning toward women. To be honest, it started as silly joke that I hurriedly fired off since I was about to miss the beginning of House. I never thought it would get the attention it did. If I would have known, I would have spent more time being careful about my wording.

That being said, I don’t think the event is completely contrary to feminist ideals. I’m asking women to wear their most “immodest” outfit that they already would wear, but to coordinate it all on the same day for the sake of the experiment. Heck, just showing an ankle would be considered immodest by some people. I don’t want to force people out of their comfort zones, because I believe women have the right to choose how they want to dress. Please don’t pressure women to participate if they don’t want to. If men ogle, that’s the fault of the men, not me for dressing how I like. If I want to a show a little cleavage or joke about my boobs, that’s my prerogative.”

Read the rest of her follow up at Blag Hag.

The response to Boobquake has been varied and somewhat contentious. A rival Facebook event called Brainquake sprouted up protesting the sexualization of the Boobquake event, the (predictable) male enthusiasm of Boobquake, and the perception that women with smaller busts lacking cleavage are left out of participating. (Oh hey, didn’t I just post about social sexualization of large breasts vs. small breasts the other day? Breast-size shame goes both ways, though it’s a different brand of shame for my small-busted friends.)

There are feminist and cultural concerns, as well as concerns about the validity and practicality of the science being proposed here, especially in light of the fact that a surprising number of earthquakes happen every day.

Heidi Anderson of The Fat One in the Middle had some thoughts on Boobquake today that resonate for me:

“EVERY DAY should be a day when you feel comfortable expressing your sexuality and seeking sexual attention. Why has this event taken off like it did? Could it be that there is STILL shame in women expressing their sexuality? Of course there is!

But you don’t need a fake protest, catcalls from supportive men, alcohol, or the approval of your friends to be sexual. If you dress in a sexual manner, some people will think you are slutty. If you dress in a modest manner, some people will not give you the time of day. But the way we use Halloween, Girl’s Night Out, and now Boobquake as holidays in which “good girls” are given permission to be sexual pisses me off. You don’t NEED permission. You just need courage, and the willingness to take responsibility for your decisions. Part of that responsibility means being willing to give up the labels of good girls and bad girls, and just be.”

Read the full post.

Her words reach to the core of my own Boobquake uneasiness: I think a lot of females are participating, not because of any desire to show solidarity or debunk a religious man’s claims, but because it’s an opportunity to justify being and feeling good about being sexual in public spaces. Because women in our society still need an excuse or a reason to embrace and display their sexuality, largely for fear of the slut shaming that often accompanies women appearing in public as sexual creatures. And even when women do get that ‘free pass’ to be sexual — at Halloween, a girls night dancing, or an event like Boobquake — we’re still subjected to slurs and name-calling, often-times from other women. The number of times I’ve seen the words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ used in anti-boobquake comments on Twitter today is disappointing yet unsurprising.

I’m also leary about the expectations we generate around those ‘free pass’ sexual days, which push women from one extreme expectation — modesty, sexual restraint, etc. — to the other. Halloween costume-hunting last year was particularly troublesome for me: finding a costume that wasn’t sexy (insert job/role here) was nearly impossible, and going out to the clubs on Halloween without showing off thighs and cleavage is apt to get you as much ridicule as if you went out any other night with clothing of similar style. Jen McCreight doesn’t want anyone to feel pressured to participate, but the reality is women will be: men and women will mock those who choose not to participate or weren’t aware of the event, and likely many women may be coerced by peer pressure into participating. The expectation is that, since this is now a ‘free pass’ day, any women who chooses not to take the free pass is prudish, prissy, bitchy, uptight, etc., especially from men who — for obvious reasons — delight in those days when women’s bodies are on sexual display.

So, while I’m still mostly up in the air about my feelings on Boobquake, I would ask the following of all people, whether you participate or not:

  1. Be aware of your slut-shaming language. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with the premise of Boobquake, but don’t use words like ‘slut’, ‘whore’, ‘hooker’, ‘tart’, ‘tramp’, etc. in your argument. There are legitimate feminist concerns and expressing them is important, but please don’t police women for choosing to be sexual. Women are entitled to be sexual creatures when and where and if they want to be, and do not deserve to be called whores because of it.
  2. Don’t tease, mock, or pressure women not participating to unbutton that extra button or hike up their skirts. If you’d like to explain the event to those in the dark, go for it: some women upon hearing about it will join in of their own accord, and others will balk at the idea. Do not expect either, and please don’t coerce or cajole the ladies around you into doing something they’re uncomfortable with.

And so endeth my epically long post on Boobquake.

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TEDxEdmonton Recap

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Stage at TEDxEdmontonI spent all day yesterday hanging out with fellow TEDsters at the first TEDxEdmonton organized by the great folks at artScene Edmonton. It was a really superb event (even including a little technical difficulty and the tech table collapsing on the audience — oops!) with a great set of speakers, and I met a whole host of fascinating people based right here in Edmonton.

One of the highlights for me was the chance to listen to a talk from Cathy’s Book creator Sean Stewart about the new era of storytelling which he’s coined as the Transmedia Era. The whole idea of storytelling that spans across different medias and moves into the idea of storytelling-as-alternate-reality is really exciting to me. It was also really great to hear him talk about the idea of transmedia as being a social and participatory media, where storyteller and consumer blur together; he showed a slide of the book category of fanfiction.net and pointed to the half a million pieces of Harry Potter fanfiction stored there (including some of my own, which — not gonna lie — made me smile), remarking “most of the words written about Harry Potter have not been written by J.K. Rowling”. It’s great to hear professional authors encourage and delight in remix culture, and tell the room “art at this point is not about dictating to another person, it’s a dance… hold out your hand, and ask, do you want to play?”

I also really enjoyed Grant Skinner’s ambling talk about his own personal path to success and the juxtaposition of putting his talk back-to-back with Cameron Herold’s very different talk about entrepreneurship. Two different paths and stories and value sets, both as interesting as the other. I also chatted with Cameron Herold a bit at the after party about the TEDx event he went to in Vancouver and the gender mix of both events.

The thing that blew me away most of all was Andrew Hessel’s talk about open source biology and the parallels he drew between the way computers and tech evolved in geek’s basements and garages and how biology is doing the same now. I’m especially interested in watching his Pink Army Cooperative and how much success they have creating custom, personalized drugs to fight individual people’s cancer. The idea of a co-op drug company that doesn’t actually sell the drugs it produces, just hands them over to the individual they were custom built for, is a very cool idea with potentially huge implications.

You know what was the coolest part about TEDxEdmonton, though? That all the speakers were Edmonton-based or Edmonton-born. I love that the organizers found local talent to speak and carry the day, and I hope that policy continues into future Edmonton TED events.

All the Edmonton talks will be edited and put up on the internet, hopefully in the next week or so. Links will follow when they’re available!

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Citizen and Immigration Minister Pulls Gay Rights Mention from Citizenship Guide

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Jason Kenney, notorious for his anti-gay-marriage opinions, is apparently responsible for pulling sections of the Canadian citizenship guide about the rights of homosexuals in Canada. This includes references to homosexuality being decriminalized in 1969, that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that same-sex marriage was legalized nationally in 2005. The reason he gives for pulling the mention? Brevity. Apparently those mentions bogged down the 63-page guide.


This is not my Canada, either, Mr. Kenney. I’d like for new people looking to make Canada home to A) know that, if they identify with the LGBT community, our country supports them and recognizes them with full rights by law; and B) if they don’t identify with that group and have problems with it, the Canadian legal system doesn’t condone discrimination or hate. I’m not saying I need an 8 page treatise, but the 50 words Kenney axed seems pretty petty.

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Reporter from Texas Likens Canadians to Nazis

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I wish I was making this up, but I am absolutely not.

Apparently our country has so appauled Texan journalist Gil Lebreton that he felt likening the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games to the games held in Berlin at the height of the Nazi’s control over Germany was the best possible comparison.

“Canada wanted to hold a party, and the Canadians did. The gold medals only seemed to fuel them.

Team Canada hockey jerseys became the uniform of the streets. Maple leafs were either hanging or on clothing everywhere.

One thing I never saw: a simple flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings. Not anywhere. After 15 Olympics, that was a first.

I didn’t attend the ’36 Olympics, but I’ve seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.”

After which he dutifully followed with a ‘no political reference is meant” note. Just in case someone gets confused by him comparing Canada to Nazi Germany, and — golly — why would they?

His major complaints are our overt patriotism, including having the gall to wear Canadian hockey team jerseys and other Canadian clothing in public, on TV, and in the stands. He freely admits he has no idea the awful coverage NBC gave to the Olympics in general, but curses Canadian newspapers featuring Canadian athletes rather than those under-appreciated American and European ones. Yes, Gil. How dare Canadian media spotlight Canadian athletes at the Canadian-hosted Winter Olympics! The sheer nerve!

Well. Forgive us for daring to put winning Canadian athletes on the front covers of our newspapers and at the front of the daily highlights of our sportscasts. I’m certain the Americans were busy featuring all the non-American winning athletes on the covers of their news media and in the first thirty seconds of their news broadcasts, so clearly something dreadful was overlooked. Terribly sorry not to have fangirled Americans while you were here, we should have realized you wanted to know what they were up to and would only bother looking at the front page.

Jeff Lee of the Vancouver Sun offers his response to Gil Lebreton, and thank GOD for it:

What bugs me most about this whole affair is that Lebreton came here and shat on Canadian hospitality as if only Americans have a right to feel patriotic. If we are normally the polite society, the people who say “sorry” and “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome” then does he think we won’t speak out and object when he makes such inane statements as suggesting we suffer from a “classic Canadian inferiority complex.” (And just what does that mean anyway? Classic? As in maple syrup or Canadian bacon?) Likening us to Nazis? What was that you put in your drink? A double dose of Sour-me-mash?

Listen, Gil. I get it. You were probably hard up for a column on deadline. You thought you’d be clever. You figured you could smack the nice little Canadians around and nobody would object. After all, what are we gonna do? March down to Washington. D.C. and burn down the White House again? What, you think people up here don’t read? Have a gander at my chain’s newspapers and you’ll see that we had better than 30 people involved delivering comprehensive news of all of the Olympic events, especially those not won by Canadians. If in these Games we also celebrated our Canadian successes, should we be ashamed of that

Bolded emphasis mine.

And good ol’ Gil? He wants us to know that offending Canada wasn’t intentional. Because gosh darn, who’d a thunk folk these days could get so twisted up over being compared to Nazis? Pshaw! We Canadians sure are sensitive about this kind of thing, aren’t we?

You know what? I’m going to be unCanadian right now and not apolgoize anymore. I’m not going to apologize for winning 14 gold medals, the most in the Olympic Winter Games history, and I’m not going to apolgize for celebrating it as loudly as I can either. I refuse to apologize for the awesome TV and online streaming CTV coverage of the Olympics that featured Canadian games when it had to choose because it’s our network and when 90% of your viewing audience is Canadian that’s what you show. I will not apologize for our newspapers and newscasters singing our athletes praises the days they won medals, which happened to be every day of the Olympics but one, because again that’s what 90% of those media outlet’s audience wants to hear. I categorically decline to apologize that for two weeks Canadian content outstaged, outshone, and outgunned American content in Canada and around the world, and that for once it was Canadian flags that was top of mind globally instead of American ones. I will not apologize for the amazing 14 medals won by Canadian women or the 11 won by Canadian men, or the gold won by ice dance pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. I absolutely refuse to apologize for Canada’s heartfelt embrace of Joannie Rochette, for the women who celebrated hockey gold in true Canadian form with beer and cigars, for Jon Montgomery’s cry of joyeous triumph from the podium, or for a nation that celebrated men’s hockey gold on the streets.

I refuse to apologize, world. At least about this, at least right now. Because my country is just as awesome as any of yours, because my national pride deserves to be showcased and highlighted, too, and because for once in my 27 years every time I turned on the TV or listened to the radio my ears and eyes were greeted by the voices and faces of fellow Canadians across our country united by our love of this nation, our love of sport, and our encouragement of our athletes.

My name is Rachelle, and I am Canadian. I won’t apologise for that, either.

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Transphobia on Facebook

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Last week Facebook banned Calgary transman Dominic Scaia from Facebook for posting a post-op photo of his bare chest. The photo did not break any of Facebook’s Terms of Service that I can tell. It was neither excessively gory nor sexual in any way.

It’s unclear what bothered Facebook about Dominic’s photos. Section 3.7 of its Terms of Service regulates that content not be “hateful, threatening, pornographic” or contain “nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” It’s clear a male chest falls into none of these categories. Scaia says, “They were from two-and-a-half weeks post-op and included my face. I was holding the camera from above, my chest was bare and I was wearing jeans. None of the photos were in the least bit gory.”

Facebook does not moderate photographs individually. They rely on users to report offensive content. The only people who could view Scaia’s pictures were friends that he’d added to his account. He’d had the photos up for a week without a problem. The evening before he was banned, Dominic accepted a friend request from a young, flirtatious girl. He thinks she looked through his photos and discovered that the cute boy she’d added was not born physically male, choosing then to report his account.

It’s there where things become confusing. It’s Facebook’s policy to remove photos that are deemed offensive and to send a warning. It is not the company’s policy to disable accounts over photos. This does not mean that Facebook has a rule of banning transgender people, it means that one staff moderator made the grossly misinformed choice to ban his account.

Over 6,000 people have joined a Facebook group in an attempt to raise awareness about this. Today, Scaia finally received a reply back from Facebook, saying his photos were in violation of the Terms of Service. His account has been reinstated, but all his post-surgery photos have been removed, and he has been sternly told not to upload photos of “that sort” again, saying: “photos containing nudity or other graphic or sexually suggestive content are not allowed”. Local radio show Gaywire has published an open letter to Facebook. Xtra.ca has an article with one of the photos in question here.

Any signal boosting would be appreciated. Facebook is a major social networking site and a major photo-sharing site that many trans people — including Scaia — use for advocacy and sharing personal stories and experiences with other transmen and women, and sharing post-op photos is part of that sharing. This was a transphobic knee-jerk reaction by a company after one transphobic user reported the image. There was no warning; the account was immediately frozen. It took Facebook over a week to respond to questions and un-freeze the account. This is not cool on many levels.

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