Friday, May 02, 2008

The Goddess and The Boob

After a slight dressing-down yesterday regarding my ignorance over the Lincoln-Douglas (not Douglass) debates discussed on Fox News, I am licking my wounds and dipping my toes into the comfortable waters of comic books.

Whenever I need to get my energy levels up and really get the blood moving I can rely on Karen Healey. 

I just read her post from April 24 regarding the Open Source Boob Project at Penguicon. That is where girls wearing a button stating willingness had men approach them asking to touch their breasts.

"Livejournal's the Ferrett, an early adopter of this... oh, let's say 'astonishing' endeavour, wrote a rapturous post about how great it was that he "touched at least fifteen sets of boobs at Penguicon" in the spirit of totally non-tawdry empowerment of women.
For some bizarre reason, not everyone responding embraced the notion that empowering women to mystically heal the wounds of men with their breasts heralded an exciting movement towards a feminist utopia."

The link to The Ferrett's page now comes up with an updated post apologetically stating that "what works in a microcosm does not work in a macrocosm". 

His arguments stink of misogyny however and even more so when I scrolled down and read the original post. Here's just a delicious taster:

"This should be a better world," a friend of mine said. "A more honest one, where sex isn't shameful or degrading. 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."

Ahem - I had trouble typing there because my fingers started shaking in anger. I don't even know if I can comment on this because it seems so damn obvious. But let's just consider briefly the fact that if you meet someone you find attractive perhaps it would be less reductive to try to get to know their mind, rather than focusing on touching their tits. 

And why does it have to be touching? Can't it just be "Wow, you have nice tits" - some men already don't mind saying these sorts of things. But then there is that old power move of conquering - touching as having/owning, putting their mark on you. A compliment, however brilliant and eloquent, is just too cerebral. It asks for a response. Whereas if you're touching someone's boobs all they have to do is stand there.

While Ferrett argues that this 'project' was meant to make women feel safer, marking out the physically open from those not interested in letting men paw them, it seems, especially given his 'friend's' comments, that it is meant to make men feel safer.

I am also curious as to what Ferrett really thought was happening when women pushed their chests towards him. Did they all really think he was 'worthy' of touching them? This is part of that whole Goddess myth - that men truly worship women and feel privileged when allowed near or in their bodies. 

Let's disabuse anyone of that notion: 
"By the end of the evening, women were coming up to us. '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."

As Healey puts it, the demarcation (where some women could opt-in with a button, while others did not participate thus opting-out), was simply a "reification of the cultural gender binary where women's bodies are always rendered as either 'available' or 'unavailable', and never as a body actually belonging to the woman in question."

I guess it also comes down to the fact that, even if women participated in the project, how many women who want sexual liberation (vaguely defined, at best) are thinking "Gee, I wish men felt more comfortable asking to feel my boobs"? Let's think back to the sexual revolution and all of those Free Love groups where many women felt pressured to have sex with multiple partners.

While Ferrett admits that the expression of male power makes such an experiment potentially dangerous one feels, if he was a socially minded as he seems to think, he should have thought of all this before. But of course, when a man gets a handful of generously proffered boob he must have more and finding a way to do that with minimal conversation (aha! buttons) becomes a passion if not a grand quest.