boobs

Video: My lecture on Boobquake, Skepticism, and Feminism

My lecture last night in Chicago went wonderfully. Thanks to Elyse, Dr. Jen, Bruce, Matt, and anyone else I’m missing from Women Thinking Free for doing a great job organizing the event. It was a lot of fun talking to everyone afterward too!

Bruce videotaped the talk, and you can watch it here:

Jen McCreight – Boobquake Presentation from Bruce Critelli on Vimeo.

I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. It was a honor to be the inaugural speaker for WTF, and I hope this organization thrives! We need more active female voices in skepticism, and this is one great way to promote that.

Why Boobquake failed: God’s relationship with mankind is passive aggressive and abusive

Kazem Sedighi apparently got wind that people around the world were laughing at his ridiculous claims that immodestly dressed women cause Earthquakes. Apparently we misunderstood what he really meant, so during this Friday’s prayer sermon, he offered further explanation:

“Some ask why (more) earthquakes and storms don’t occur in the Western world, which suffers from the slime of homosexuality, the slime of promiscuity and has plunged up to the neck” in immorality, he said.

“Who says they don’t occur? Storms take place in the U.S. and other parts of the world. We don’t say committing sin is the entire reason but it’s one of the reasons,” he said.

But, he said, “sometimes, God tests a nation. … (God says) if believers sin, We slap them because We love them and give them calamity in order to stop their bad deeds.”

“And those who have provoked God’s wrath, He allows them (to commit sins) so that they go to the bottom of hell,” Sedighi said.

Oh, well, in that case, that makes perfect sense! I totally understand now. God’s relationship with humans is really like a relationship with an irrational, passive aggressive, emotional abusive person.

Me: *puts on tank top*
God:
Me: What’s wrong?
God: Nothing.
Me: Are you sure? Do you not like this shirt?
God: It’s nothing.
Me: Okay *prepares to go out*
God: Ahem.
Me: What?
God: You should know what.
Me: I’m expected to read your mind? You know only you can do that.
God: Didn’t you read that book I gave you?
Me: Yeah, but it didn’t say anything about tank tops…
God: Whatever.
Me: Okay, well, I’m going out now.

And then three months later God slashes your tires, kills your cat, breaks your entire CD collection, and sends you to the bottom of hell.

Seriously God, if you created humans, you should really know how they learn. Punishing people months after they perform the naughty deed does not produce negative reinforcement. Our behavior isn’t going to improve if you conveniently make earthquakes and tornadoes and floods appear to be caused by natural means, irrespective of the morals of that area. Do you really want us to behave, or do you just take sadistic glee in watching the US sink into the ocean?

Why boobquake isn’t destroying feminism

Greta Christina, a wonderful feminist writer who I respect immensely, has written a piece called A Feminist Defense of Boobquake. Greta perfectly summarizes how I feel in regards to all the women who seem to think I’m single-handedly destroying feminism. Just to give you an idea what it’s about, here’s a bit of the piece:

The main feminist objection to Boobquake seemed to be that the women who participated were letting ourselves be exploited. They argued that many men reacted to the event with sexist, “Show us your tits!” idiocy—a reaction McCreight should have foreseen, and was therefore responsible for. Even if the intention behind the event was good (a point on which anti-Boobquake feminists differ)—even though the event was initiated by a woman and voluntarily participated in by women—the result was simply another round of female bodies being objectified by men.

Ah. I see.

Women ought not to display our sexuality—because men can’t be trusted. In the presence of a display of desirable female flesh, men will lose control of themselves. Women ought to dress modestly, and ought not to encourage other women to dress immodestly… and if we persist in our immodesty, and men respond by behaving badly, it’s women’s fault.

It all makes sense now. I just need one question cleared up:

How, exactly, is this “feminist” response to Boobquake anything but a more moderate version of the statement by the Muslim prayer leader? (Minus the supernatural idiocy about earthquakes, of course.)

How is this “feminist” response anything but an attempt to squash female expressions of our sexuality, for fear of whipping men into an uncontrollable frenzy?

How is it anything other than blaming women for the fact that many men behave badly?

Hear hear.

I’m not going to spent much more time defending my feminism, mainly because I have better things to do with my time. If you want to assert that I’m not a real feminist, go ahead. I don’t care if you want to turn your allies into enemies. If you want to assert that I’m falling into the trap of “cute” feminism because I dare to joke about my body, go ahead. I may laugh a bit, since I’m one of the least stereotypically “feminine” people I know, but judge away. If you want to slut shame and think embracing my sexuality is giving women a bad image, go ahead. I know that doing so doesn’t mean I’m ditzy or brainless – I know I’m a smart cookie, regardless of what you think.

But when you’re doing all of these things, just remember: Feminism is about choice. I never forced you to wear a low cut shirt. I won’t judge you if you abstain from sex. I won’t sneer when you say you’re a stay at home mom. And likewise, you shouldn’t have disdain for my choices. Feminists always wonder where all the “young” feminists are. We’re here, but we just hate calling ourselves feminists – because when we do, you have to come squash our actions and say we’re doing it wrong.

I’m not upset. I know that whatever you say, someone, somewhere will be offended. If the cleric had said eating pork caused earthquakes, and I suggested Baconquake, I’d probably be getting nasty emails from vegans or PETA. If the cleric had said drinking alcohol caused earthquakes, and I suggested Beerquake, I’d probably be getting nasty emails from teetotalers. But if I lived my whole life in constant fear of pissing someone off, I would stay silent and accomplish nothing. And what good is that?

My article on the science of Boobquake at The Guardian

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have an article up at The Guardian on the skeptical goal of Boobquake. I present my “scientific” results from the “experiment” there, but I also touch on my motivation and response to critics. And I’m super excited to be a part of such a huge, respectable newspaper – so go check it out!

My article on the growth of boobquake at the Daily Beast

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that I wrote a piece for the Daily Beast on the incredible response to boobquake. I focus on the emails and traffic I’ve been getting, the media coverage, the power of social media, and the silly things people have created in honor of boobquake. Go check it out!

For the people who love number crunching (or are too lazy to read the article), here are some fun facts. Since the 19th I have received:
– About 2,600 new Twitter followers (follow me!)
– About 1,000 new blog subscribers through Google Reader, doubling my total. Yes, in a week I received as many subscribers as I did in a year.
743 friend requests on Facebook. Not sure what proportion of those are male…
Roughly 700 Facebook messages
– From April 19th to the present, 854,521 unique visitors to Blag Hag, with over 2 million pageviews. To put that in perspective, I used to get about 1,000 visitors a day.

Oh, and one more fun fact a friend brought to my attention:My name was the 72nd most popular search on Google yesterday morning? …That’s just flipping insane. Wow. …Wait, “Hotness: Mild”? Did I just get burned by search engine statistics generator? Hehe.

Boobquake on the Colbert Report

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Boobquake Day Causes Earthquake
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Fox News

When I heard “Iran,” I sat up on the couch. When I heard “cleric,” I sat on the edge of my seat. When I heard “boobquake” I jumped up and down high fiving my friend. When he said my name* and showed my photograph, I started screaming and flailing and even crying a little. Yes, boobquake got covered by CNN, BBC, CBC, ABC, FOX… But I’m a 22 year old geeky liberal – being on the Colbert Report is pretty much The Best Thing Ever. My friends and professors joked about it happening, but I never thought it really would.

Following my friend’s suggestion, whenever I’m feeling down or defeated or overwhelmed, I am going to listen to Stephen Colbert saying “You go girl!” to me. Possibly on repeat. Wow.

Though Stephen did get the science a bit wrong, saying the Taiwan earthquake was proof, even though I later explained why it was not. Maybe he needs a certain young female scientist to explain it to him a little bit more on the show *wink wink nudge nudge* …Okay, maybe I shouldn’t push my luck, haha.

*My name is spelled McCreight, but pronounced McCrite. Yes, I know it doesn’t make any dense. Blame the Irish (who, ironically, also mispronounced my name in interviews).

And the Boobquake results are in!

Boobquake is finally over across the world. It’s time to crunch some numbers – did women dressing immodestly really increase earthquakes? Can we find any data that supports Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi’s hypothesis?

(click here for larger image)

Photo by David Collins. Yes, that’s the biological hazard symbol. Yes, I found that funny. In case you didn’t notice, I’m a geek.

Many people seemed to misinterpret the planned analysis of this event. We’re not just trying to see if any earthquakes occurred, since dozens happen every day. What we want to see if we actually increased earthquakes in either number or severity. Let’s first look at the number of earthquakes that occurred on Monday, the 26th, and compare it to earthquakes in the past couple months. All data was taken from the USGS Earthquake website.

(click here for larger image)
Each data point represents the total number of earthquakes per day going back to February 5th (the extent of the online database). Days are measured in Coordinated Universal Time. That red square is boobquake. As you can see qualitatively, our provocative dress didn’t really seem to affect the frequency of earthquakes. There were 47 earthquakes on the 26th, which falls well within the 95% confidence interval for number of earthquakes (about 0 to 148).

So did our cleavage/thighs/ankles/hair increase the number of earthquakes? No.

“But Jen!” the internet cried, “what about the 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan? Surely that shows our bosoms have supernatural powers!”

Sorry to be a buzzkill – hey, I’d like magical control over plate tectonics too – but that single earthquake wasn’t significant. Earthquakes between 6.0 and 6.9 magnitude happen, on average, 134 times a year. That means we had about a 37% probability of an earthquake of that magnitude happening on boobquake just due to chance alone – hardly an improbable event that needs to be attributed to an angry deity.

But just to be safe, let’s look at the overall distribution of the magnitudes of earthquakes on boobquake. Did they differ from the types of earthquakes we’ve seen since February? These samples span from the entirety of the event – midnight at the earliest time zone to midnight at the last time zone – so the data encompasses more than 24 hours.

(click here for larger image)
The box indicates the first and third quartiles (within which 50% of the data points fall). Not only did all of the earthquakes on boobquake fall within the normal range of magnitudes, but the mean magnitude actually decreased slightly!

Now, this change isn’t statistically significant, but it certainly doesn’t support the cleric’s claim. In fact, I think it develops an even more interesting alternative hypothesis: Maybe immodest women actually decrease the amount of earthquakes! Man, that would certainly be a fun way to provide disaster relief. Of course, before we can make any claims about that, we’d have to greatly increase our sample size. You know, I have this gut feeling that a lot of people would like to do our boobquake experiment again…

Obviously this study had its flaws. We didn’t have a large sample size, and we didn’t have a control planet where women were only wearing burkas. We didn’t have a good way to quantify how much we increased immodesty (what’s the unit of immodesty anyway? Intensity of red on blushing nuns?). Maybe women did dress immodestly, but we didn’t lead men astray enough. Maybe God really was pissed, but he couldn’t increase earthquakes for us because that would provide proof for his existence (or maybe it’s his existence that’s the problem).

Or of course, maybe God is just biding his time. If you hear a news report in the next couple weeks saying a bizarre Indiana earthquake killed a science blogger, well, then maybe we’ll have to rethink our conclusions a bit.

But you know what? Boobquake was originally intended to be a humorous exercise in scientific and skeptical thinking – that we should test claims people make, especially when they’re ridiculous. And what could be a better way to do that than to question the methods of boobquake itself? That’s why science is such a wonderful tool for investigation – research must not only go through rigorous peer review, but it also must be able to be overturned in light of new data. I think it’s awesome reading all the scientific flaws people keep noticing – feel free to keep pointing them out!

I’m pretty sure our results aren’t going to change Sedighi’s mind. People tend to find any way possible to justify their superstitious beliefs, no matter how illogical. I’m sure the next time a big quake hits we’ll get a “See? Told you so!” even if the event wasn’t statistically significant – he didn’t care about science before, and he probably won’t now. Even if he says that, I think boobquake succeeded. We exposed these beliefs for their ridiculous nature, encouraged people to think skeptically, and of course, had some fun. What else could someone ask for? (Less creepy misogynistic guys who miss the point? Yeeeaah, agreed.)

So, sorry Sedighi. To quote something that was floating around twitter – women can move mountains, but they don’t cause earthquakes.

Don’t forget that boobquake shirts are on sale here. All profits will be donated to the Red Cross and James Randi Educational Foundation.

EDIT: If you want a more scientific explanation of earthquakes and boobquake, there’s an excellent article here by Dr. Lawrence Braile, professor and earthquake expert at my own Purdue University.

And the boobquake experiment has begun…

I won’t be able to make a blog post until boobquake is over, but I will be tweeting and posting photos throughout the day. Feel free to talk about your boobquake adventures in this post*!

Check back here after boobquake is over around the world (6am EST) for the results!

*No, that does not mean I need an update of every single earthquake that has happened so far. No, the Taiwan earthquake is not statistically significant – yet. If we get many of a similar magnitude in the next 24 hours, then we might start worshipping the power of immodesty.My official boobquake outfit. So horribly scandalous, I know.

Watch me on BBC, Canada AM, WGN, and CNN!

Boobquake is almost upon us, which means the media is super interested in covering the end of the world. I just thought I’d let you know what shows I’ll be appearing on in the next twenty four hours, since they’re… uh, kind of huge. And if you need more motivation to watch, yes, I’ll be showing cleavage – at least as much as is appropriate for TV.

4/25:
11:10 pm WGN Radio Chicago – The Nick Digilio ShowAudio here!

4/26:
In the morning in your part of the world – BBC World Service – The World Today

7:00 am Canada AMVideo here!

9:00 am WGN Morning News

5 – 7 pm CNN – The Situation Room (I swear to FSM I’m not making these things up)

I’m also being interviewed by The Young Turks tomorrow night at 9 pm, but I’m not sure when it’ll be online.

For those at the epicenter of boobquake (West Lafayette, IN), we’re going to have a meeting on campus mainly so news outlets have something to videotape (information here). I know that Fox59 Indianapolis, WRTV6 Indianapolis, CBC TV, and WLFI Channel 18 will be there, and who knows who else. I also know that BBC Persia will be covering boobquake, with footage of the gathering in Washington DC and interviews with me, but I don’t know when it’ll be on. Keep an eye out for all of these things!

Boobquake t-shirts to benefit charities

Multiple people have been calling for boobquake t-shirts, so I decided to make some really simple ones. 100% of the profit goes to charity, half to the Red Cross (because of their earthquake relief) and half to JREF (for supporting critical thinking and fighting supernatural claims). Go check them out:

Who says science has to be boring?
Did the Earth move for you?
Modestly dressed women seldom make earthquakes
I survived boobquake
Hm, that last one may be a bit premature. We still may all perish in tank-top induced apocalypse.

Head of Iran’s Guardian Council supports Sedighi’s earthquake hypothesis

When I first conceived my boobquake experiment, I thought I was testing the claims of a single man who had failed to think scientifically. But now someone higher up in the Iranian government is supporting Sedighi’s hypothesis – Ahmad Jannati, “longtime head of the ultra-conservative Guardian Council, which vets all laws and political candidates for office.” The LA Times reports:

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati might have thought he was clarifying remarks by his colleague, the cleric Kazem Sedighi, who suggested in a Friday prayer sermon a week ago that women who dress immodestly cause earthquakes by angering God.

Instead Jannati, who delivered the nation’s keynote sermon in the Iranian capital this Friday, reiterated the claim that human behavior causes — and can also prevent — earthquakes.

He told worshipers on Friday that while science cannot yet predict earthquakes, they can be spiritually prevented by repentance and prayer.

“We can avoid earthquakes if the faithful and devoted people pray to God,” Jannati said during the Friday sermon.

Ah, good thing I wasn’t grossly misinterpreting anything! Though for the sake of science, I hope people who believe this keep their repentance and prayers at normal levels on Monday. I don’t want any confounding variables ruining my study. And they shouldn’t either – wouldn’t they like to know if they’re right about women’s immodesty causing earthquakes?

On a more serious note, I love how since earthquakes are unpredictable, we must therefore conclude that they’re controlled by God. We understand how they occur, but it’s difficult to predict a location. Why? Because so many variables are constantly interacting with each other, and that sheer amount of complexity is incredibly difficult to model. Maybe one day we’ll have even more scientific knowledge and computing power to do so. But just because something is complex doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and yell “God did it!”

Of course, maybe God is making the earth rumble because he hates immodestly dressed women. That’s what makes Sedighi’s claim so wonderful – it actually is scientifically verifiable. And when someone makes ludicrous claims that can be tested, we should do so. Monday night I’ll do some statistics, and then we will have a better idea. Though it seems even Jannati has his doubts:

While Jannati called for prayer as a way of preventing earthquakes, he didn’t rule out using less celestial methods. “Officials precautionary moves to make homes quake-proof are appreciated,” he said.

Does he doubt the power of modesty to prevent earthquakes? Or does he doubt that women can easily be forced against their will to dress modestly?

Obligatory disclaimer: I in no way think that all Muslims or Iranians or theists agree with these two men. For all the rational thinkers out there who happen to fall into those groups, my mockery is not directed toward you.

Live interview in an hour!

This is incredibly late notice, but I will be talking live with Barry Lynn from Americans United for Separation of Church and State at 4pm EST at his radio show Culture Shocks. I’ll be on for about 20 minutes making a fool out of myself discussing boobquake and anti-women fundamentalists. Tune in!

EDIT: Sorry about that bit of miscommunication. My interview with Barry Lynn will air on Friday the 23rd at 4:30 PM! You can still catch it by going here then.