Boobquake and Brainquake: Why Not Both?

Last week, Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi–Tehran’s Friday Prayer leader–shook the patience of women worldwide by claiming that promiscuous and immodest women were responsible for earthquakes. Yes, you read that right.

I wish I could say that his absurd statement surprised me as much as it did countless others, but as an Iranian American woman who is all too familiar with the words and ways of misguided mullahs, I can’t say that I have an ounce of surprise left in me for Sedighi’s dim-witted declaration. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by two creative responses to his comments. One from an imaginative Indiana-based blogger Jen McCreight (left), who also calls herself Blag Hag, and another by an ingenious pair of professors–Golbarg Bashi (right), an Iranian studies professor at Rutgers University, and Negar Mottahedeh, a film, literature and women’s studies professor at Duke University.

In a “modest proposal” posted on her blog and a corresponding Facebook page, McCreight states her intentions to “test [Sedighi’s] claim scientifically” by encouraging women to dress as immodestly as they feel comfortable on Monday, April 26, so that she can conduct a statistical analysis to see if all that immodesty did indeed lead to a rise in tectonic activity. McCreight explains her motivation thus:

I’m a firm believer that when someone says something so stupid and hateful, serious discourse isn’t going to accomplish anything–sometimes light-hearted mockery is worthwhile.

I wholeheartedly agree and I’m not alone. McCreight’s proposal yielded an overwhelming response. Her virtual protest, which she dubbed Boobquake, drew over 150,000 attendees on Facebook, but it also garnered considerable controversy. After learning about Boobquake, Professors Bashi and Mottahedeh confessed to being “saddened” by it, and quickly came up with a proposal of their own, also in the form of a virtual protest held on Facebook on Monday. They called it Brainquake. Bashi and Mottahedeh’s call:

Let’s create a ‘Brainquake’ and show off our resumes, CVs, honors, prizes, accomplishments (photo evidence), because the Hojatoleslam and the Islamic Republic of Iran are afraid of women’s abilities to push for change, to thrive despite gender apartheid. (Did you know that over 64 percent of students studying at universities in Iran are women?). Let’s honor the accomplishments of Iranian women by showing off our abilities, our creativity, our ingenuity, and our smarts on our blogs, on Wikipedia, on Twitter, on Youtube, on Flickr and all over Facebook.

Admittedly, I prefer Brainquake to Boobquake, but I don’t see any conflict between the two. There are as many ways to protest as there are protesters. Even if we find ourselves disagreeing on means, I think we agree on a common goal: to further shake the already-shaken credibility of the leaders of the so-called Islamic Republic of Iran.

So why not work together? As an unapologetically brainy, busty and well-accomplished Iranian American Muslim feminist writer, speaker, blogger, author, attorney and activist, I have no qualms admitting that I am happily attending both protests and eagerly awaiting the aftershocks.

ABOVE: Left: Image of Jen McCreight from; right, Golbarg Bashi.


  1. Patricia says:

    Boobquake is ethnocentric, and it misses the point. It marginalizes unreconstructed women with breast cancer. Sexualization of every last damn thing in US society is not good for women, IMO.

  2. I agree with you, Melody, and am proudly participating in both events. In response to the comment from Patricia, I see no reason why women who have had one or both breasts removed could not do the same. There are no rules that bar participation.

  3. Josh Shahryar says:


    You’ll be surprised of how warm of a reception it has received. My lovely girlfriend has decided to take part in the Boobquake and I fully support her. But what surprised me more than her decision was when she read me a comment from the Facebook page for Boobquake of a woman who’s lost a breast to cancer. She proudly informed everyone that she would be taking part.

    I fully support anything that will demoralize religious extremism. Wish I had a pair and I’d partake in a heartbeat!

  4. I agree, I think the spirit of Boobquake transcends the actuality of breasts. Even literally, as a “surfboard” of a girl, I can say there are still ways to dress “indecent” even if you don’t have substantial cleavage! 😉

    Great article!

  5. I think these are both great ways to respond to the ridiculous claim!

  6. “I see no reason why women who have had one or both breasts removed could not do the same.”

    If you cannot see why women with no breasts cannot display them, your participation in Brainquake is dubious.

    “I fully support anything that will demoralize religious extremism.” So do I, but this won’t do anything of the kind.

  7. Great piece. These campaigns raise a lot of important (contentious) issues about boobs, brains, and both. I’m pretty excited about Brainquake and Femquake and I’m glad Boobquake is out there for anyone who wants to both participate and speak up about it.

  8. Couldn’t agree more Melody, I don’t see the conflict between the two. I don’t think it should really matter what method anyone uses to protest this completely ridiculous statement just as long as people say something because in the end, like you said, there is one common goal.

  9. What if you have brain cancer or if you’re mentally retarded. I have bipolar disorder (feel free to check out my column in bp magazine and my next book)–does having a mental illness make me ineligible for brainquake? Clearly not! And having breast cancer doesn’t make anyone else any less eligible for boobquake, as McCreight’s focus is the perceived threat of “immodesty” not boobs.

    So, I say show off your legs or your PhD or your nail polish or your hair or your SAT score or your toes or your resume or your nose or whatever else you feel comfortable showing off that promises to scare the hell out of the illegitimate leaders of the self-proclaimed Islamic Republic of Iran.

    All I’m saying is that we need not turn potential allies into enemies over petty disputes over method. So, rock your most revealing sandals and boast about your GED if that’s where you’re at. Not having a formal education or a long list of accomplishments doesn’t make you any less worthy of equal rights or equal treatment any more than having a full mastectomy or a mental illness does. We are demanding basic human rights here people –rights we deserve by virture of being born–PERIOD. We need not be Marie Curie or Pam Anderson to earn these rights. They are basic and in my mind, God-given. I hope that helps y’all understand my position. Peace & keep the comments coming :).

  10. Thanks Melody!

  11. Well, there was an earthquake in Taiwan yesterday but I doubt that the promos for Boobquake caused it. 😉

  12. I agree with Melody. Eleanor Smeal has said before that we spend too much time quibbling with one another over “MY feminism is more righteous than YOUR feminism!” and such. Give me a break!”

    If you look at McCreight’s blog, you’ll see that her point is quite feminist and the whole idea was started in response to an idiot who blames women for all the world’s ills.

    Just because some of the media has decided to (GASP!) further their agenda and objectify women’s breasts in their interpretation of this event doesn’t mean that we should lose sight of her point in saying the cleric is absurd in saying that scantily clad women cause earthquakes.

    GO JEN, GO!

    Remember…if Jen hadn’t started this, NEITHER event would be happening, and attention to this entire issue wouldn’t have the publicity it now has.

    We have Jen McCreight to thank for it. Pay attention to what’s important – and don’t squabble with friends that you mistakenly label as enemies.

  13. If you read McCeight’s blog, she is not only busty, but extremely brainy (a student at Purdue, founder of a club, and a double major). And in her follow-up clarification post, she expresses that it isn’t about baring as much cleavage as you can, but exposing what YOU’RE comfortable with rather than covering up your legs or hair or ankles or whatever you feel you normally have to cover up to be modest.

    This DOES make a point to the prayer leader’s accusations. He may never see what is being done, but its a reminder to those who are listening that women will not take your ridiculous BS seriously and we will show off what we are proud of, whether its our legs or our resumes or both.

  14. I did not participate.
    I’ve been telling other people, particularly women, about the quote and I’ve even been telling people about the ‘Boobquake’ protest in case they wanted to participate. It just wasn’t for me.

    I feel my role in the defense of women’s rights is best fulfilled by studying, writing and taking my words to the streets. I’m not really sure when protests became so fixated on the female body, but from PETA’s I’d rather go naked to Ukraine’s Femen, breasts are apparently the only dialogue from women that the public is willing to listen to. Even at Reclaim the Night I was asked if I would get topless for the cause.

    I’m 20 years old. I get just plenty of interest in my breasts but I wish I could get some more interest in my rights as a human being. I don’t think pole dancing class or being in a Girl’s Gone Wild video will say to the world I’m an empowered woman. I don’t think revealing more of my breasts on the street will make me an empowered woman. Actually, I don’t think my breasts should say anything at all about me.

  15. Kurt Milk says:

    I am a man and I agree that boobs can cause quakes, maybe not earthquakes but certainly a different kind of quake. But the cleric’s statement shows just how afraid those 5th century idiots are of women. They don’t want women to be seen or heard because they, the men, are so weak and uncontrollable that couldn’t function with boobs showing. Ever been in a mid-east city? Every woman who has ever walked in public has experienced groping by men, and the men do so with impunity. It is not cultural, it is ignorance and arrogance.

  16. Julia,

    I completely agree with you. I wish the world would see me beyond my body and give human rights… as humans! But, you know, since they love their sex too much, I suppose it’s too much to ask! Always have to keep a group of people down because they are different.

    There was a quote from a show I’ve watched and it was something the along the lines of saying they have 10 fingers, if they have a person with 9 fingers lets go and beat them. Sadly, this is also the case in debating this issue. I’ve had a terrible backlash yesterday and I still don’t regret what I’ve done because a lot of these women have it backwards!

    Be proud you’re a woman… yes! But, no, don’t use sexism to try to abolish sexism. That doesn’t work. The principle and root cause of the issue is beyond their bodies and their breasts… it’s because of just their gender. Boobs not required. But, boobs were required in this “debate”…. yesterday a strip club used it as justification to post pictures… and it made me sick! Just sick!

    Missing the point? I was told I was… but I think the whole showing off your tits for attention is. I think a strip club using it as justification to show pictures on Twitter is.

    But hey, I must be a self hating woman. I can’t possibly be happy with myself. That’s what I was being told. These people are so wrong they have no idea. I can’t believe because that I was told that I wouldn’t be showing off my tits that I would be told that I must hate myself?

    I like to think we’re beyond our bodies and human rights should be just that… human rights! But hey, I must be crazy!

    I’m so beyond my body.. I’m beyond my little tits… but since I didn’t have any to show… I didn’t have cleavage… but it made me feel like I’ve since felt since jr. high… I’m discriminated against for NOT having. Ever been teased for that? How about in college, too? Or not being able to buy a bra because you’re outside of that mold? Or me not going to Australia because I may be mistaken for under 18 and be considered kiddie porn if I make a choice as a woman… and my boyfriend feels like a pedo?

    Guess that must be okay! Augh…

    There’s more issues here than meets the eye. It’s beyond bodies and breasts and all that…. but everyone attacking me doesn’t see it…

    Please someone agree with me here. It would make up for the 30 + people disagreeing with me the entire day yesterday with their actual personal attacking.

  17. I wanted to add to my last post….

    I want to say that we are our personality and character. Just like everyone else. We happen to have a different shape in our bodies and therefore brought up differently due to socialization. Our view of gender in the US is skewed and very sexualized. It’s unfortunate.

    I just want to say that these women that are participating are also above their breasts as they are trying to make a statement. However, I don’t agree with using sexism to abolish sexism.

    I wonder what the suffrage did to gain the vote? I wonder if they flashed their tits, too? Just wondering… they might have, but I’m not too sure about that.

  18. Boobquake was rightly making a mockery of a comment made by a moronic cleric in the Islamic Republic. Brainquake’s – HEY EVERYBODY WE HAVE BRAINS! – project is further unpalatable because of its pandering to a challenge that women should not even be engaged in; we should not have to sell ourselves and our accomplishments, we should not have to sell our boobs or our brains; if after more than a century of struggle for our inalienable rights we are still shouting these banal and insipid statements as women – perhaps it is us and our movement that needs a shaking at the core, and not mother earth. You see, I am not interested in being invited to join the Islamic Republic at its table; I want to cut its legs off.

  19. Boobquake… Great values are thought to our kids through this!!!
    When teenagers are undressing thinking it is ok…..
    At least brainquake is smart… boobquake as certainly been
    organised by a boob person, not a brain person. Hope
    people will realise and go on with brainquake…

  20. Feminism is really about choice, isn’t it? That’s what we were marching and fighting for back in the seventies and continue to fight for today. And, like all things, it will have to be fought for again if we think it’s a done deal. So let’s keep the discourse alive with campaigns such as this.

  21. World Press Distracted by Boobquake while Iran Maneuvers Into Women’s Rights Commission

  22. Great article!! Innovative ideas to start to combat such ridiculous claims.

  23. @ Talsa,
    My F-cups do not negate my all-but-dissertation doctoral study (in science!). I think that the body and one’s love for it do not dictate a woman’s identity and worth is a core feminist principle. I enjoyed seeing so many women rise up in “WTF?!” against the cleric’s blatant falsehoods in all of the forms it took.

  24. As a scientist, I have to question the validity of Boobquake. Perhaps it takes extended periods of immodest dress to create sufficient techtonic pressures to cause a quake.
    I suggest that the study be extended indefinitely. Women, particularly attractive young ones, should dress immodestly at every opportunity.
    Strictly in the interests of science, of course.

  25. Whats truly amazing is that of the billions of people on this planet, the smart ones choose to publicize the rantings of the very very ignorant few, like a few of the clerics in Iran and the Westboro church. And it is sad that the publicity we so willingly give them secondarily can insult so many good Christians and Muslims. Thats the sad part. An idiot shits in the street. A wise man wouldnt step in it and carry the stench all over town.


  1. Re: boobquake…

    it’s companion protest, "’brainquake", got significantly less attention: h……

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BoraZ, Negar Mottahedeh, Negar Mottahedeh, Matthew Lenard, Matthew Lenard and others. Matthew Lenard said: Melody Moezzi on Boobquakes and Brainquakes (Ms. Magazine): […]

  3. […] Boobquake and Brainquake: Why Not Both? Another way of celebrating women and protesting ignorance. […]

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