Not Everything Is Flat in Kansas

by Genevieve Bleidner

There is a #boobment going on, ladies and gents, and it’s taking the college sports world by storm via the good old Internets. Shots of headless, cleavage baring chests repping beloved college teams are submitted via email and twitter to become the boobs of the day in an effort to spread team spirit and good luck. The ladies behind the movement claim that it is “totally feminist.” Except it’s not.

The good luck ritual of fans posting photos of boobs in team apparel began when a University of Kansas fan tweeted a photo of her Jayhawks shirt and hash tagged the post #kuboobs, hoping to “give a little boost” to her favorite team. And then the Jayhawks won, because of boobs! As the website’s history states: “She channeled the power inherent in all true Jayhawk fans to resurrect the Jayhawks from a 19-point deficit to a stunning one-point victory! That power was KU Boobs.”

The idea that titties managed to pull the team through to win the losing game and propelled them to eventually go on to the final four in New Orleans is admittedly funny, but to claim that the now national cause is a feminist one is a pretty big stretch of the imagination. (and all of its affiliated spawn) is on par with the type of body rating well known through bro-trolling sites like Barstool Sports, where you can play “smokesmash,” ranking women by hotness, or guess which ass belongs to which female celebrity.

KU Boobs’ site includes a section titled “a feminist’s perspective” in which Rachel Smalter Hall, a Lawrence, Kansas–based librarian and KU Boob affiliate, offers her reasoning for the feminist labeling, which was posted onto the site. Drawing her argument from a Paglian point of view, her reasoning reads as sound, but I think that it fails to translate in reality.

“The most exciting thing about #kuboobs, for me, is the inversion of the classic feminist critique that women’s bodies are constantly at risk of being transformed into objects of desire to be consumed by the male gaze. And although the #kuboobs ladies are curiously disembodied and decapitated, with no gaze of their own to turn towards the camera lens, the difference here is that ladies are transgressing this social boundary not out of coercion, but because they want to. We’re doing it because we can, and because no one can tell us not to. It’s because now we understand that women can be sexual and still be powerful. Witness the roller-derby girls and hip-hop divas, pageant queens and sexy librarians. It’s the new feminism. And I think I like it.”

Yes, the “risk” of being transformed into objects to be consumed by the male gaze has been inversed, because the shots of headless torso’s are packaged by the women themselves to be consumed by, you guessed it, a male audience. Other than the fact that these female fans are taking and putting up the boob shots themselves I fail to see how the women are becoming empowered/ taking control of male sports. For one, the movement has little to do with sports, as we don’t even see fans in these photos; all we have are disembodied racks to look at. Pointing out that these are headless, gazeless representations of female fans yet saying that the objectification is nullified because the participants are willing misses a key point that makes other sexy female figures powerful, and these racks not. There is nothing powerful about disembodied chests, and there isn’t even much that is sports-related in each of the near identical submissions. The twitter hashtag use of #kuboobs makes it clear enough, that this is about the boobs, not the women or even the fans.

Referencing roller-derby girls, hip-hop divas, pageant queens and sexy librarians only furthers the confusion, because all of those types of sexy females actually are doing something empowering, be it kicking ass on the rink, on stage, or at their job while showing their bodies how they want, sexy or not. Saying “here’s my chest, go team!” isn’t taking a stand for anything. It is a choice to show as little or as much skin as you want, and a right to not be shamed for doing so, but what do in-your-face boobs have to do with standing up for female empowerment? Are Playboy Playmates a feminist inspiration just because they have hot bods and decide to show them off?

So why don’t we call the #boobment what it is—objectification, albeit self-objectification. Good for these girls for exercising their right to post whatever the fuck they want on the Internet, because it is attention getting and the general masses love boobs. However, choosing to post photos of hiked-up, puffed out, barely clothed chests for the consumption of male sports fans is by definition turning these women into objects to ogle at, nothing more and nothing less. There’s nothing wrong with posting whatever you damn well please, but is this particular cause feminist? Not in my book. 

Photos via KUBoobs

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