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Brains and Boobs: Viral Activism (BarCamp Chiang Mai 2010)


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A brief look at two 'viral' protests. Links: Video snippet and more:

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Brains and Boobs: Viral Activism (BarCamp Chiang Mai 2010)

  1. 1. Brains and Boobs: ‘Viral Media’ Or How I survived ‘BoobQuake’ and what I learned  Barcamp Chiang Mai 2010
  2. 2. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” -Mahatma Gandhi Photo: Maritia Cosma / Creative Commons
  3. 3. In June 2009 Twitter profiles were ‘going green’ to call the media’s attention to Iran’s recent election worries.
  4. 4. The Obama administration (while maintaining neutrality) asked Twitter to hold off on scheduled maintenance. People took Twitter a lot more seriously after this. I’m here to talk about something less serious…
  5. 5. Iranian prayer leader Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi stated in April 2010: "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes"
  6. 6. When translated this led to much amusement. A (Canadian) science student in the USA decided to test this, and created a Facebook Group. 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.
  7. 7. ‘BoobQuake’ got 14,000 members in 24 hours, and continued to grow.
  8. 8. #BrainQuake
  9. 9. • Two Iranian Professors, Negar Mottahedeh and Golbarg Bashi, suggested ‘BrainQuake’ for the same day, to take advantage of the growing media enthusiasm. • “Everyday women and young girls are forced to “show off cleavage” and more in order simply to be heard, to be seen, or to advance professionally.”… “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” • They were ‘saddened’ at Boobquake and critical of the movement and founder.
  10. 10. • Ms. McCreight issued a clarification after #BoobQuake’s launch: • “Seriously, internet, you scare and amaze me sometimes.” • “Really, it's not supposed to be serious activism that is going to revolutionize women's rights, but just a bit of fun juvenile humor. 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.”
  11. 11. Women dressing immodestly in Iran (and other countries) can face arrest and harassment. I am not an expert on Iran. But I live in Cambodia where there was recently a ‘short skirt’ protest.
  12. 12. After a friend joined #BoobQuake, I clicked through the various sites, and wrote a short blog post. #BoobQuake & #BrainQuake would take place two days later (April 26th ).
  13. 13. Via tags and Twitter I ended up corresponding with Negar Mottahedeh aka @negaratduke who introduced me to others discussing the issue, including @ideasurge @ealshafei@faizahm @shrutisinha @maymaym @lksriv @lissnup
  14. 14. Ms. McCreight aka @JenniFurrett was being bombarded by media attention, and coordinated physical ‘BoobQuake’ meetups. In addition to ‘BrainQuake’ many others started groups such as ‘FemQuake’, ‘MenQuake’, ‘AssQuake’, and some even further off topic. (A fake Facebook identity for her was even started.)
  15. 15. While this looked like a classic example of ‘2nd Wave’ feminism contrasted with ‘3rd Wave’ feminism, the founders had a cordial discussion on Twitter. I think a LOT of people would have enjoyed an argument. But these activists were too polite and smart. There were strong arguments about the two approaches in blog posts.
  16. 16. I thought BrainQuake sounded like a good ‘follow-on’ from #boobquake. But I’m a guy. The spotlight was reserved for women. As April 26th approached, I decided to: STFU (avoid ‘male answer syndrome’) RT (retweet positive tweets)
  17. 17. April 26th : #BoobQuake was covered on TV, radio, newspapers, web media, and even Persian media, which had some trouble describing the event.Its main channel was Twitter, where it was a trending topic. #BrainQuake was frequently mentioned in contrast. The reaction was humorous and overwhelmingly positive.
  18. 18. Coverage appeared via NPR, CNN, the BBC, ABC, Fox, The Guardian, Newsweek, and many varied print and web news services. @Jenfurrett sold t-shirts & donated profits to the Red Cross and James Randi Foundation. (Her own school printed t-shirts without her approval until she asked them to stop.) Below: ‘Girls with Slingshots’ webcomic.
  19. 19. Also on the 26th , #Brainquake first posted profiles worth celebrating on their FaceBook Group, then on a Tumblr blog. (@JenniFurrett was included in the list.)
  20. 20. There was a small earthquake in Taiwan. But an analysis by @JenniFurrett showed that statistically it was not significant. The Iranian prayer leader never responded directly. Jen McCreight has an excellent wrap-up on her blog, (statistics, observations, video.)
  21. 21. Follow-up discussion about #Brainquake led to a live Twitter chat on the Herald de Paris show. A ‘BrainQuake’ podcast is also in development.
  22. 22. For one day, #BoobQuake rocked the airwaves, but now things are pretty quiet. Some personal observations from the craziness:
  23. 23. 1. Viral activism and campaigns are not 100% controllable. (Humor is a big help.)
  24. 24. 2. Viral campaigns can quickly overwhelm founders due to scalability issues. (And watch out for hackers and trolls!)
  25. 25. 3. It’s important to show respect in efforts that reach across language and gender. - @JenniFurrett thoughtfully reviewed feedback from the Persian blogosphere. - (Guys, sometimes we need to STFU.)
  26. 26. 4. The more specific, targeted (and locally run) a campaign is, the more effective it can be.
  27. 27. I’m going to close with an example from another feminist campaign to demonstrate some of these points. In 2009, Hindu fundamentalists (Sri Ram Sena) began a video harassment campaign (including physical violence) against women who drank alcohol in public. (Mangalore) India has a high degree of social media literacy.
  28. 28. The Consortium of Pub- going, Loose and Forward Women quickly appeared on Facebook and Blogger. They provided contact information for political representatives, and downloadable media materials.
  29. 29. The ‘Pink Chaddi Campaign’ spearheaded a push to send pink underwear via mail to Sri Ram Sena headquarters on Valentines Day, 2009.
  30. 30. Results: -140 members of the group held in custody on Valentines Day. -Due to widespread media attention, the leader has requested to resolve matters via dialogue, not violence. WIN! -
  31. 31. But - The Facebook group / blog has been shut down by ‘trolls’, and the blog is not updated any more. So it’s difficult to locate ‘follow-on’ activities.
  32. 32. In conclusion, viral activism can have a huge impact, but usually over no more than one target day. And just as abruptly as the subject I’m profiling, it’s time for me to evaporate and welcome discussion.
  33. 33. Links?