17 Jalal 167 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: Dusty Springfield, “Son of a Preacher Man”
Earlier this week I read a quote attributed to a hard-line Iranian Muslim cleric that said “Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes” I don’t think this quote was a stellar moment for Islam.
A woman from Indiana responded with a “modest” proposal that seems to be touching off a worldwide firestorm. Jen McCreight, a student who writes a blog called “Blag Hag” wrote that if what the Iranian cleric says is true, they “should be able to test this claim scientifically…Time for a Boobquake.”
McCreight continued, “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. If not, I’m sure Sedighi [the Iranian cleric] can come up with a rational explanation for why the ground didn’t rumble. And if we really get through to him, maybe it’ll be one involving plate tectonics.”
I saw one comment on the page which pointed out that Islam as a religion itself should not be judged by that quote, that the cleric is an extremist and not within the mainstream of Islam. I agree–as a Baha’i I believe both in the legitimacy of Islam and the equality of men and women.
While modesty has its virtues, it shouldn’t be rammed down the throats of unwilling people, nor should it be enforced by fear-mongering. (Iran has been subject to many deadly earthquakes, and Teheran, like L.A., is waiting for the “big one.”) Many people have argued–legitimately, I believe–that the original intent of Muhammad was to actually minimize the objectification of women, and many believe that Islam, in its purest form, actually empowers women. While I know that many Muslim women wear the veil out of a sincere desire to do so, it is also true that many women are forced to veil when they would rather not. There are many Muslims who believe that the veil is actually not sanctioned by Islam, but instead is a rather extreme response to a Quran passage. Ultimately, the very real oppression of Islamic women is probably a reflection of the practitioners of Islam in certain parts of the world, not a reflection of Islam itself.
While the Iranian cleric’s statement is extreme, it is, in many ways no different than people in this country who claim that women who are raped are responsible for what happened to them because of the way they dressed. Not only does this oppress women and let the rapist off the hook, it is also demeaning to men, as it depicts us as sex-starved animals unable to control ourselves.
Now, as a writer, I need to somehow make a smooth transition from discussing the finer points of Islam, to what McCreight refers to as “a boob joke.” There seems to be no easy way to do this. 😉
As I write this, there are now 145,000 people on Facebook who have said that they will participate in this event. McCreight has been interviewed by the largest newspaper in Canada, and an Irish radio station also requested an interview. Then CNN picked it up on its “This Just In” blog. And in Washington D.C., BBC Persia will cover a noontime “Boobquake” gathering at Dupont Circle, which means that coverage of this event will spread all over the world, including in Iran. As McCreight wrote in a subsequent post, “Seriously, Internet, you scare and amaze me sometimes.”
I say all power to them.