Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Boobs!

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  • Mrs Skin,

    Dear Emma

    You rock and we love you.

    More specifically, I'm grateful and glad that you are around to be a vocal and articulate role model for me and my family.

    I want my family to grow up and live as adults with role models who both speak and listen with respect, who analyse and debate, and who like who they are. You are one of those people.

    Stand strong, Emma. There's a few of us standing beside you.

    Love,
    Mrs Skin

    the warmest room in the h… • Since Feb 2009 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    What Mrs Skin said.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I certainly wouldn't want for it to be any kind of stand-off between the two sites. They're good people over there

    Gosh yes. Julie linked to the piece in good faith, and while the subsequent discussion hasn't exactly been constructive I'm not objecting to it existing and I wouldn't want them to cop any crap for it. I have a very firm determination not to comment at the Hand Mirror which dates back to the 'real women don't really like group sex' debacle, but I have deep respect for Julie. It just puts me in a slightly awkward bind when they talk about me...

    if you're going to call her a bad feminist you should at least have the ovarian fortitude to come at her straight on.

    I'm not really fussed about being called a bad feminist, because I don't strongly self-identify as a feminist. But they called Megan a bad feminist. Megan.

    And thank you, thank you all. Your support is appreciated, and fucking humbling.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • kmont,

    Yep me too.

    I was merino-clad from head to toe on the day but was very much with you all in spirit. I talked to all of the women in my office about it and had a great conversation about the fact that is was not ”all about boobs" but about dressing immodestly within the range that you were comfortable for yourself to poke fun and to enjoy your right to dress how the hell you please.

    Boobs are nice. Feminism is a Good Thing. Emma is appreciated exactly as she is.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Clayton,

    I'd like to add a word to Kowhai's remarks above about one of the ways my thinking has shifted in light of boobquake. Immediately after I wrote my initial comments up-thread about the importance of not attacking other women for their choices about what they wear, I started thinking about how I do in fact, in a number of circumstances, do this. I gripe to colleagues about undergraduate fashion and have made remarks to officemates about the costume of specific students, often under the snide disguise of concern (as in, she looks cold with that low-cut top).

    So my small boobquake diatribe reminded me that I am in fact a hypocrite in this regard, and that I would like to consider more thoughtfully as a result what I really think and say about what other women wear. I'm curious too that it's something I direct almost exclusively at young Pakeha women -- the sort of girl I would have been at 18 or 19. Maori, Pasifika, Muslim, Asian and mature students get a free pass from my judgemental mind to dress as they please. That however is a better topic for a blog post than a thread comment.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 51 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    No Megan, it's on topic and worth hearing. Thanks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I gripe to colleagues about undergraduate fashion and have made remarks to officemates about the costume of specific students, often under the snide disguise of concern (as in, she looks cold with that low-cut top).

    Oh, if we couldn't be amused by other people's choices in this regard, it'd be a grim world. I'd defy you not to giggle at the scene down at The Viaduct on a Friday night. But as I noted above, with respect to Boobs on Bikes, Emma reminded me about language and respect.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I have a thought percolating, along the lines of how a society defines and enforces its mores. As a society we have a continuing background discussion going on about what is acceptable within this society and what isn't. Its a balancing act between the reactionary elements and the liberal tendancies. Its not always old vs young, but the DNA of our mores is generally passed down from our elders and enforeced by our peers. We then, sometimes conciously and more often not, decide on how to translate and adapt and adopt those mores to our own lives; and society reacts to all this to develop a more-or-less coherent, unwritten policy on how we behave.
    Megan has spotted herself working on balancing what she thinks about young pakeha womens' clothes, with the inherited DNA. The nice thing is that here in this forum at least, we're stopping to think about it. Megan is thinking about what she thinks about what the students wear. Russell is rethinking what he thinks about what the boobs on bikes chickies wear. We're all in our own ways working out what society will allow and what it will frown on. Megan spotted one of the popular ways of enforcing a more - frowning upon the infringing behaviour. However, unlike Megan, most frowners don't stop to think about whether what they are frowning at should be frowned at.


    I think there was a thought in there somewhere...

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    the sort of girl I would have been at 18 or 19

    hardest on ourselves

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I think there was a thought in there somewhere...

    "Our own prejudices are the hardest to spot"?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I'm sorry - I've been MIA on this one (work, stress, home renovations, insomnia, black chihuahua nipping around).

    FWIW at this stage, I thought that Boobquake was a great response to the chap who thought that immoral women => adultery => earthquakes. There is something to be said about the pressures of raunch culture, especially with respect to young and very young women (I'm thinking barely post-pubescent teenagers here), but I didn't perceive boobquake as being part of raunch culture. It's mocking the pronouncements from on high about how women ought to behave. I see it as being very similar in spirit to the Foreign Office paper about proposed activities for the pope while he is in Britain.

    And there's something to be said about the extent to which if we all "choose" the same thing, then there is very little space for anyone to "choose" anything else. So if we all "choose" raunch, then it can be very difficult for women and men who prefer (for want of a better word) modesty. But that choice constraint goes the other way too.

    My preferred definition of feminism is the one that recognises women as autonomous adults, capable of making their own choices, and standing or falling by them. Boobquake looks to me to be entirely within that definition.

    I'm cross posting this at The Hand Mirror.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    if we all "choose" the same thing, then there is very little space for anyone to "choose" anything else. So if we all "choose" raunch, then it can be very difficult for women and men who prefer (for want of a better word) modesty. But that choice constraint goes the other way too.

    Oh, I agree - and a small number doing a one-off and blatantly un-serious protest hardly seems much threat to centuries of sanctioned pressure to be good girls and boys, does it?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • kmont,

    Yes really what Sacha said. Because this is not a case of:

    if we all "choose" the same thing, then there is very little space for anyone to "choose" anything else.

    Boobquake doesn't strike me as an unthinking part of that which makes woman think that they must be one way or another.
    Rather it seems like something that might push us to think about what constitutes 'immodest' for ourselves and other people, even if it is in a lighthearted way. It is a context thing, and for me the context is lighthearted and mocking.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    @Sacha and @Kowhai

    Yes. Just so. As I said, I don't see boobquake as being part of raunch culture. It's a one off piece of mockery: live-action-satire, if you will.

    More than that, it forces us to think about the myriad ways in which women's choices are constrained. It's the old virgin/whore dichotomy, which really is rather boring. Couldn't we be autonomous people? Persons in our own right, in a multifarious diversity, instead of pushed into this box or the other one.

    (Yes, yes, wottabout teh menz?, men's choices are constrained too, sure. But boobquake is about the constraints on women, and it is entirely possible to focus on women's issue without implying that men don't count. It just happens that this time, we're talking about women.)

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Couldn't we be autonomous people? Persons in our own right, in a multifarious diversity, instead of pushed into this box or the other one.

    I've just realised that this sounds rather facile - a bit like the people who bleat, "People's rights, people's rights, not women's rights."

    I'm trying to get at the sentiment that lies behind Catharine MacKinnon's famous question: "Are women human?" And a sense of autonomy - that I am an adult who is capable of, and ought to be taken as capable of making decisions for myself, and being accountable for them.

    That is all.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    As I said, I don't see boobquake as being part of raunch culture. It's a one off piece of mockery: live-action-satire, if you will.

    Ditto; it's clearly satire, and Boobquake would have "happened" even if no women had dressed up. It's (as someone somewhere else said) agitprop. A satirical thought experiment. An immodest proposal, if you will.

    I see the Hand Mirror discussion and others like it as the equivalent of "Gnnaaarr, but they already think we eat babies, so aren't we just playing into their hands if we pretend to??" Which is a perfectly reasonable query along the road to a more interesting discussion about how women's dress choices are always already co-opted and judged, not only by Teh Patriarchy but also by women and their own mutually judgemental (or appreciative) gazes.

    while the subsequent discussion hasn't exactly been constructive

    Hmm, here I'd beg to differ. It doesn't have to be constructive for all to be constructive for some, surely? Or are we using different definitions of constructive?

    Looking at the Hand Mirror thread, I'm hard-pressed to diagnose passive-aggression. (I'm just one person reading it, without my antennae up, but yo, am living in the world capital thereof - it's an art hereabouts). What I do see is a great deal of caution and prevarication and qualification and anxiety about causing offence -- and it's pretty ironic that that winds up causing offence.

    So, uh, it's not the talking, it's how we're talking? If we were less afraid of hurting feelings, would we maybe communicate better? I dunno. I relish the verbal stroppiness of yore but have become accustomed to being afraid to use it. Which is why it was so exhilarating to read Helen Razer's piece on Louis Nowra those few weeks ago. And it's always a joy to read Emma's writing, which comes from the heart as well as the brain.

    (NB "the way we're talking" = not in any way condoning the nasty emails Emma has been getting, which seem to be in a different realm altogether, and completely unsisterly. I've only ever gotten PA-related hate mail from blokes, which is unsettling in its own way, and can't imagine how upsetting it would be to get similar from women. Sorry that you're getting that, Emma).

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Following on from the "how we're talking" thought, and Emma's off-site post on where she's coming from, I'm interested in how discussions -- and the people having them -- fluctuate between "warm" and "cool" depending on how close (or how far) the discussions are from specific experiences and hard-won wisdom. Sometimes I can agree to disagree very easily, with no sense of particular loss. Other times, I can become incandescently sad and furious and lost for words very quickly. And there's not necessarily any logic to it.

    So for me, for example, Boobquake feels like a relatively "cool" topic whichever way I come at it (when your boobs have been preceding you into the room since the age of 16, you kind of have to abandon all hope of any rational correlation between how you dress and how you're perceived, and just run with it. Or not run with it, ow, ow). I can see both sides of this discussion with equanimity, and am relatively comfortable perched in the stands watching the rhetorical tennis match, albeit wincing in concern when a shot goes awry and hurts someone.

    Whereas - not to raise old spectres - the Iceland thing unexpectedly revealed itself as a "warm" topic for me because it summoned back into life every lecture I'd ever been given along the lines of "oh yes and I suppose if women ruled the world there'd be no war, hardy-har-har, and no sex either, fnarr." It also pushed a few buttons I'd forgotten I had, about sovereignty, and the difficulties of translating feminisms, and the complexities of any kind of transnational feminism, praxis, and the problematic exercise of political power by women, and my own ability to hold my own in an academic discussion. At the same time, it was a well-established warm topic for others (which I should have been aware of), for equally, if not even more, valid and powerful reasons. So, yeah, fair amount of geothermal activity there.

    I suppose it goes without saying, too, that temperament on any given day is not necessarily predictable, and subject to all sorts of other influences; sometimes we arrive to a discussion already warmed up or cooled off. Or somewhere in between, which seems to be where the PAS thermostat usually winds up, which makes it such a nice place to be.

    Having typed all this I'm not even sure it's helpful. But I dunno, it feels like a useful extra nuance when reading the definitional and positional debates of the moment.

    (Also, am fully aware that my attempt at old-fashioned transactional analysis in a hot-button thread might seem weirdly cool and Vulcan-like... sorry... just, uh, trying to open a window for fresh air, since I can't shake the feeling, or the hope, that we are all in the hot-tub together, as it were. Mixing metaphors as well as temperatures, me. OK, I'll stop now).

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    So, uh, it's not the talking, it's how we're talking? If we were less afraid of hurting feelings, would we maybe communicate better?

    Heh. You know, in that discussion, it didn't really occur to me to be offended, until Emma pointed out, by email, what was going on. I was trying to explain why I didn't think it was exploitative, why it was just a bit of fun, why I applauded the "this is my body and I will clothe it how I like". I was trying to discuss the content.

    But...yeah.

    I don't see exactly how Boobquake has veered away from its original intentions, or why it can't be regarded as a pointed political joke when everything says that's exactly what it is.

    I know. I haven't seen anything about it other than the places I've been talking about it, and Facebook. I believe there was a throwaway line about it on 3 News. God, even Jezebel has barely touched it, and you'd think they'd be all over it. (Speaking of which - Jezebel, another great word we've been missing)

    Like I said over on THM, if it made other women feel bad about themselves, or had somehow become exploitative, well, that's awful but it's hardly my fault. Or Emma's. Or Jen's. Or any woman who feels comfortable showing off her cleavage.

    My preferred definition of feminism is the one that recognises women as autonomous adults, capable of making their own choices, and standing or falling by them. Boobquake looks to me to be entirely within that definition.

    You mean...I'm a grown up? I can make my own decisions? I can dress how I like? I can behave how I like?

    I'm not really fussed about being called a bad feminist, because I don't strongly self-identify as a feminist. But they called Megan a bad feminist. Megan.

    And thank you, thank you all. Your support is appreciated, and fucking humbling.

    Yeah. That. I have had some lovely emails, and tweets telling me I rock. Which is the only reason I actually carried on as long as I did, because I felt like I was sticking up for something.

    But, now it is probably time to go and focus on something that's not frivolous and fun.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Although, you know, I think I deserve some credit for not touching this:

    since I can't shake the feeling, or the hope, that we are all in the hot-tub together, as it were.

    Jolisa, you just can't give me (or Emma, I suspect), an opportunity like that and not expect me to take it. How am I supposed to protect Sacha's modesty?

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    You know, in that discussion, it didn't really occur to me to be offended, until Emma pointed out, by email, what was going on.

    Is it maybe about the difference between "Yes, but" and "Yes, and"? To me, it seemed as though the other commenters felt that they were yes-anding you, in good faith, but -- partly because of the overwhelming consensus in the room -- it seriously wound up feeling like a yes-but? (Or a yeah but no but yeah but).

    It's a fine line and so easily turned into a wall. I used to ask my writing students to do an exercise where everyone in turn would find something to say about the material at hand, which they had to introduce with a "Yes, and..." - as a way of testing the theory that you can construct a stronger and more interesting (and ultimately persuasive and encouraging) argument by steadily folding in a bunch of apparently disparate or even opposite positions.

    Someone would always, always crack and say BUT! Which always turned into a lovely teachable moment about the limits of consensus.

    (Heh. I said but, and crack.)

    Although, you know, I think I deserve some credit for not touching this

    Resistance is futile.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Resistance is futile.

    (Er, not recommending the Borg as a role model for anything other than bantering purposes. Although the Borg Queen was an interesting creature).

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Oh, and I have to take back something. Apparently, Jen says, Boobquake, has made a lot more media than I've seen.

    Including the Colbert Report.

    Heh. "You Go Girl. This is America. Where everyone has the right to life, liberty, and letting their milkshake bring all the boys to the yard."

    Is it maybe about the difference between "Yes, but" and "Yes, and"? To me, it seemed as though the other commenters felt that they were yes-anding you, in good faith, but -- partly because of the overwhelming consensus in the room -- it seriously wound up feeling like a yes-but? (Or a yeah but no but yeah but).

    Yes. And...you know what, I am letting it go....for now.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    (Heh. I said but, and crack.)

    Although, you know, I think I deserve some credit for not touching this

    Resistance is futile.

    OH COME ON!! :)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    How am I supposed to protect Sacha's modesty?

    I have relinquished it, realising that resistance is futile

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    Deborah, Jolisa, Megan and Kowhai (and Shacha) thank you for a page of 'warmth' and erudition.

    Well, right up until the Mc Hammer reference.

    But, further to Jolisa's comment;

    But, now it is probably time to go and focus on something that's not frivolous and fun.

    the other post on The Hand Mirror ACC's new approach to sensitive claims not working qualifies. There was a discussion on bFM's The Wire yesterday which I hope will be posted soon. 90 percent of ACC claims by victims of Sexual Violence seeking help are rejected. The criteria for acceptance are so ridiculous I find it hard to think humans were involved, let alone intelligent ones.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

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