Keep Your Open Source Away from My Tits, Or I'll Open Source You, Buddy!

10 years ago

Picture it: You are attending PenguiCon, a sci fi and open source conference. As you stand in the hallway, waiting for a session to end, a group of men approach you. "May I touch your breasts?" one of the men asks apropros of nothing. How do you react?

Personally, I'm not sure what I would do. I honestly think I would be frozen, shocked and horrified that some stranger would randomly approach me and ask to paw me. I'm sure I'd be embarrassed, creeped out, and feel like crying and/or puking. Yet this is what many women who attended PenguiCon were faced with during this year's conference, which took place from April 18-20. It seems that a group of men decided to create "The Open-Source Boob Project" to undo the social stigma that surrounds women's breasts.

Here I will admit upfront that I would be uneasy and weirded out if a group of men approached me and asked if they may touch my pinky finger. Perhaps I am an uptight prude, but the very idea of a stranger (and worse, groups of strangers) randomly asking to touch any part of my body is disturbing. Would a guy feel the same way? I took a completely biased and non-randomized sample of one.

"If a group of people walked up to you and asked if they could touch, I don't know, your ear," I asked my husband, "would it freak you out?"

"If it was a group, yeah. Groups have coercive properties," he noted. "If it was just one woman, it would be unsettling. What's your motivation? Why do you want to violate my personal space?'

The general feeling amongst female (and many male) bloggers runs along these lines, too. Kate Nepveu stated it simply (and with a dose of hilarity, given the unreality of the situation):

You will put me in fear.

Because you could be someone who will go away quietly if I say no (which I will). You could be the exiled gay prince of Farlandia, cursed to wander this Earth looking for the key to his return that can only be revealed by touching the breast of a willing stranger, and who isn't enjoying this at all. You could, in short, not be a danger to me.

But how am I supposed to know that?

How am I supposed to distinguish you from the person who says he's really just whatever, but is actually going to put emotional pressure on me, or make a scene, or stalk me, or rape me?

I can't. Because that would require a level of discernment and of trust that is not possible, by definition, in my dealings with a stranger.

And therefore, if you ask to touch my breasts, you will frighten me.

Eloquently said. Musings of a Beer Goddess gets her point across through not-so-gentle satire:

One of the objections to the OSBP is that touching boobs has an essential gendering to it; while either males or females can be the touchers, the touchees are pretty much going to be women (I have no idea if any man-tits were involved in the project). So I've come up with a less sexist version: The Open-Source Knuckle Sandwich Project.

The idea behind the OSKSP is to break down the societal barriers against punching strangers in the face. It's something many of us want to do - it's an empowering and liberating act. I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to punch you in the face,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of bruises and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your face inspires passion.

Can you imagine a situation, where you could be hanging out with a bunch of friends at a con, and you could see someone who's face was just begging to be punched, and you could say,
"Excuse me. You're very beautiful. I'd like to punch you in the face. Would you mind if I did?"

You'd hold your breath, not wanting to offend. This could go wrong, collapsing and turning you into cruel sadists who'd make the person you'd approach feel uncomfortable and shamed of who he was....

But imagine how liberating, how freeing, how healing, when the answer comes back yes. Yes! YESSSSSSSS!

Can you really go too far with lampooning something that suggests that randomly asking women if you can fondle them is going to liberate humanity? I'm not sure. misia thus proposes the "Open Source Swift Kick to the Balls Project (OSSKBP):"

As we all know, many women long to give a swift kick in the balls to some male person or other. Yet all too often women are prohibited from doing so.

Sometimes this is due to our culture's repressive attitudes toward female violence or because of societal pressure for women to behave in "ladylike" and feminine ways. At times women must censor themselves from administering a good solid boot to the greater masculine crotch due to historically justified fear of reprisal. At yet other times it is nothing more or less than men's self-serving, self-glorifying attitudes toward their precious little patriarchal testicles that lead them to cravenly avoid supporting women's emotional and political expression.

All in all, we live in a culture that routinely prohibits women this useful and healthy outlet for the outrage that almost every women eventually feels as a result of living in a sexist patriarchal society. Indeed, we live in a culture which punishes women for even thinking or talking about expressing their rage in this way.

This must change, and men, who after all have an obligation to help redress thousands of years of unearned patriarchal privilege, also have a moral obligation to help solve this problem.

To this end, we propose a community-based Open Source Swift Kick to the Balls Project.

Now, perhaps answering molestation with violence is not going to solve society's problems, but quality mockery does help. Tuonen Hauki finds another Open Source project (the Open Source African Hair Project) to facilitate understanding amongst humans:

By the end of the evening, black people were coming up to us. "My hair," they asked shyly, having heard about the project. "Is it... is it good enough to be touched?" And lo, we showed them how beautiful their hair was without turning it into something tawdry.

Touch the magic, my friends. Touch the magic.

Hopefully, the lesson learned here is not, "Don't sexually harass women who attend sci fi and open source conferences - we blog back," although that would be a very good lesson to learn, too. More important, even though the man who developed the Open Source Boob project seemed to mean no harm, I hope that he learned that women deserve respect. It is not appropriate for anyone (male or female) to randomly ask a person if you 1) may fondle them; 2) in a public place; and 3) with a crowd to exert an extra level of pressure.

Suzanne also blogs about life at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants, about yogurt & pudding at Live Active Cultures, and solving social issues at Just Cause.

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