I used to have a college professor—of women’s studies, of course—who would occasionally start class when we were particularly chatty and inattentive by saying, loudly, “SEX!” Our heads would whip around to stare at her and the room would be silent.
The professor would chuckle and then start the lesson, which almost never had anything to do with sex—or at least not sex in an interesting way. Her way of talking about sex was dry and academic, having to do with words like “hegemony” or “heteronormative.”
I thought about that professor a few weeks ago when I read about “International Topless Jihad Day,” sponsored by FEMEN in support of Amina Tyler, who had sparked a global controversy by posting a topless pictures of herself on Facebook with “my body belongs to me and is not the source of anyone’s honor,” scrawled on her naked chest in Arabic. Tyler’s life—and the lives of her family—were threatened after the pictures were posted; she has since left Tunisia, where she lived.
The topless jihadists claimed that their actions showed solidarity with Amina and sent a message to the world that women’s bodies belong to no one but themselves. And yet it seems a bit like my professor yelling SEX! FEMEN is yelling BOOBS–and the topless jihad did, it’s true, get a lot of press coverage. The coverage drew attention to Amina’s plight but also gave respected media outlets a chance to run pictures of boobs and more boobs: Huffington Post ran a whole slideshow of revolutionary boobs. (more…)