Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was hit with a tsunami of ridicule when he suggested that earthquakes are caused by "women who do not dress modestly" — but he also inspired an empirical challenge from Indiana blogger Jennifer McCreight. To debunk Sedighi's "supernatural thinking," McCreight proposed that women around the world should dress immodestly on April 26 to see if the "power of their breasts" would cause a "Boobquake." The media ran with the idea, and by Monday 200,000 Facebook users had lined up behind the "Boobquake" initiative. (Watch the Young Turks debate the virtues of a "Boobquake.") Here, a brief guide to McCreight's "Boobquake 2010":
Who's Sedighi, and what was he thinking?
Sedighi is a senior cleric and Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader. Responding to a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Tehran will be struck by a devastating earthquake, he said: "Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes... What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."
Where does "Boobquake" come in?
McCreight, a senior at Purdue University, was so annoyed at Sedighi's "stupid and hateful" statement that she figured a Boobquake would both disprove the cleric and offer some "light-hearted mockery" of his claim. She set up a Facebook page, offered up her "D cup" cleavage "in the name of science," and urged other women to wear plunging necklines.
Has there been any blowback?
Yes, but not so much from Iran. Some feminists say the well-intentioned protest is merely titillating men and adding to the body image issues of small-breasted women. "All we've got is 'Girls Gone Wild' with a cause slapped on it," says Beth Mann in Salon. And Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing notes that "Boobquake isn't accurately testing Sedighi's theory" because it's not cleavage alone that he says causes temblors, but "the adultery that spreads through society because of immodest dress."
What happens if there's a massive earthquake?
Ominously, a 6.9-magnitude quake hit Taiwan early Monday morning. "If we get many of a similar magnitude in the next 24 hours, we might start worshipping the power of immodesty," McCraight conceded.