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Ponnada: Rise of the boobs

BY SRI PONNADA | FEBRUARY 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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For a while now, “I heart boobies” bracelets and pink ribbons have been storming the nation — I sport them myself to show support for breast-cancer research. But now, boobies themselves are tweeting over America. And I’m a little afraid.

The “Boobment,” as many are calling it, started in 2012, when a student at the University of Kansas took a picture of her cleavage in a KU T-shirt and posted it to Twitter at “#KUboobs.” College women across the United States, including University of Iowa students, are now showing their cleavages to create excitement on game days. The only place I can see excitement being generated, though, is below the belt.

@IowaBoobs, the Twitter handle for the local movement, characterizes itself as a group promoting the Hawkeye athletics “by tweeting ourselves in Iowa shirts and apparel.” Don’t worry, they are in fact clothed, but just enough to see two prominent points protruding (indicating it was quite cold at the time the picture was taken) on either side of the Tigerhawk logo.

“It seems pretty idiotic to me,” said Professor Meenakshi Gigi Durham, who specializes in Women and Sexuality Studies at UI. “And it also speaks to the way women are buying into a culture of sexual objectification, where their main value to society is defined in terms of sexuality and, moreover, as disconnected body parts.”

That is seemingly one of the profound results contemporary media — further turning women into sex symbols that we can all enjoy on our laptop, television, iPhone, and iPad screens. The boobolution is simply adding to the already abundant objectification of women. We don’t need any more of that, @IowaBoobs.

“I don’t see the link between women’s bodies and sports teams,” said Meara Habashi, a UI psychology lecturer.

Why would any woman want to market her melons on the Internet? The only reasons Habashi could think of were self-empowerment or perhaps an ego boost — but neither outweighs the perpetuation of a further sexualized culture.

Tiffany Kent, the leader who started the “Boobment,” told Kansas City, Mo., news station KCTV she hopes to raise funds for breast cancer research through use of her hashtag, #kuboobs. Men, try to learn a little something from Kent. Maybe start posting pictures of your “packages” to fight prostate cancer.

Other than the highly questionable possible awareness raised for breast cancer, #kuboobs is causing a lot more damage than development in collegiate America.

“I can’t really see a great deal that’s positive about this,” Durham said.

“Obviously, enjoying one’s sexuality is fine, but this level of self-objectification doesn’t contribute much in terms of empowering or advancing women’s status in the [American] culture.”

This cleavage circus is also creating unrealistic standards for what women should look like. If you haven’t by now, go take a peek at the pecks on the Twitter page — it’s bursting with pictures of large-breasted women. The bigger, the better – right?

“I think until we stop idolizing people with unrealistic body types, females are going to have lower self-esteem about their bodies,” Habashi said. “And this will lead to more eating disorders. That’s not very empowering — if you think you look different than everyone else.”

Habashi noted that female attractiveness is one of the biggest predictors of self-esteem during adolescence and in college.

How good can it feel to think you look like an alien?

I might be an alien myself because I certainly don’t feel empowered — and well, I don’t have double-D-size breasts. Maybe it’s time to buy some magic bras at Victoria’s Secret.

Durham said the “boobment” is right in line with prevalent, sexist concepts of women’s role in society, and she believes most women probably don’t think twice about it.

“I think it’s really easy to buy into the dominant ideologies of gender that surround us and very difficult to question and challenge them,” she said.

However, these are college women who are adults and who make their own decisions.

Woman to woman, though, ladies, please put the girls away.


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