New York Recap Part3: Best burlesque show ever

If I haven’t given you enough evidence of how awesome my sister-in-law Erin is, she took me to Coney Island for a burlesque show. Not just any burlesque show… but Colonel Cornstar’s Cuntry Fair. Complete with a heavy petting zoo.Yes, a farm themed burlesque show. You know it had to be awesome.

But the cherry on top was the celebrity sighting we had there. We were standing in line waiting to get in when someone walked by who looked oddly familiar. I thought maybe I was seeing things, since 1) he was way more stubbly looking than usual and 2) we had just talked about seeing celebrities not an hour before, so maybe I just had celebrities on the brain. I peered at him as he was buying a drink two feet away, and eventually poked Erin, and she confirmed.

It was Ted Allen of Chopped, Food Detectives, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy! I’m a Food Network fan and he’s my favorite persona (well, tied with Alton Brown), not to mention my favorite one from the Fab Five. He was there with his boyfriend and a couple of friends. I definitely flailed with glee. By pure luck I ended up sitting about two seats away from him.

The show itself was hilarious and awesome. I loved the pig who was covered in balloons, popped them with her tail, and then jumped in a bucket of “mud.” Ted Allen appeared to really get a kick out of the I Want Candy bit:

As the night went on, the skits became more bizarre and less farm themed. They included:

  • A conservative homophobic uber Christian coming out looking like Hester Prynne, stripping down as she has a crisis of faith, and then pulling fifteen feet of rainbow rope out of her vagina. If you think I’m making this up, there’s a NSFW video here.
  • A “white trash” girl screwed herself with one of those long skinny spiral lollipops. Yes, literally. I have no idea why or what that had to do with the rest of the show, but it definitely got a reaction out of the audience.
  • The inspiration for all of my future nightmares. She came out wearing a terrifying clown mask and 6 inch heels, and threw squirt guns into the audience while holding a sign that said “Shoot the Freak.”

Here she is:And here’s Ted Allen shooting the freak:Unfortunately he was always busy with his friends or getting a picture taken with the naked Pig Girl, so I didn’t get a chance to butt in and awkwardly ask for a photo. I didn’t realize until later that he was also a Purdue alumni – I could have had a good intro! Ah well. The experience alone was worth it. I mean, how many people get to say they watched a burlesque show with Ted Allen?

Delightfully bizarre.

(Videos via Year in Dance, the blog of the dancer with the magical rainbow rope hiding vagina)

Interview about the aftershock from boobquake

I was recently interviewed by my local newspaper about the way boobquake is still affecting my life. It actually came out on Sunday, but I was so busy with TAM stuff that I missed it. Here’s the Q&A session from the article:

Photo by John Terhune, Journal and Courier

Question: What are you writing for the HarperCollins book?

Answer:
It is a tongue-in-cheek piece about atheist Christmas toys. I had a piece on my blog where I photoshopped an atheist Barbie because a female Episcopalian minister made a minister Barbie doll. I thought, “I want an atheist Barbie doll,” and I made it with all of these atheist stereotypes, like with a baby in a paper bag. So (the editor) saw this and asked me to write a new piece for the book. It is really cool and will be out this fall.

Q: Is this a launching point for you to do this humorous take on skepticism?

A: Definitely. That is how my personality is anyway. People see me as a more aggressive atheist, because I am outspoken, but I like to do it with a hint of humor. I do plan to keep blogging and talking about this and writing more in the future.

Q: Tell me about The Amaz!ng Meeting.

A: It’s the annual meeting of the James Randi Educational Foundation. They educate people to debunk paranormal, supernatural things. I am going to be talking about boobquake there. I am personally excited because there are a lot of celebrities talking there, like Richard Dawkins, Penn and Teller, and Adam Savage from MythBusters.

Q: Do you go to this every year?

A: No, this is my first time and my blog readers raised the money for me to go. … I put up a request for donations to cover the trip because some of my readers said they would donate if I did. I got $1,600 in 10 hours. I am donating the extra money …

Q: Is there a time when science should not question people’s beliefs based in culture or religion?

A: I don’t think science can answer why or ethical questions. When science finds something to be factually true, it should be religion that changes to accept it, not the other way around. There are people who believe they can ignore science because it does not fit into their religious belief. I don’t think that is how the world should work.

Q: Knowing what you are capable of, would you ever use your platform for another issue to rally people?

A: The boobquake Facebook page has over 100,000 people as fans. So I have occasionally sent out links on articles I think are interesting or pieces about women’s rights in Iran. When I started my blog, I thought no one would ever read it. It was just for my friends. But now I know people read it, and I have some influence.

Q: What have you learned about people from this?

A: People are sort of starting to get fed up with ridiculous claims when they are not supported and especially when they are hurtful. When you use humor to go after these claims it is a very effective way to go after them.

Q: Have there been any drawbacks from boobquake?

A: It is a little humorous that I do have other academic accomplishments, and this is what I am internationally known for. But I figure I am still young and have a lot of time to make accomplishments in my research.

Q: Are people at University of Washington aware of you?

A: Yeah, I’ve actually been getting e-mails from people who are students and professors or Seattle atheists saying, “If you need a friend, we are totally here.” And that is totally cool since I don’t know anyone there, I already have people offering friendship.

I think this also serves as a perfect example as to why I blog instead of post videos to YouTube. Do I seriously talk like that, or is some of that transcript error? Sheesh ;)

I do like one of the comments on the article though:

Sorry, but I am a Christian. I will not be reading your chapter in a book and I will not be rooting for you. You sound like a thinking sort of gal, though, so I will be praying for you.

Yeah, go central Indiana! And to think I chose my words very carefully for this piece. Just imagine if that person went to my blog.

Video: My lecture on Boobquake, Skepticism, and Feminism

My lecture last night in Chicago went wonderfully. Thanks to Elyse, Dr. Jen, Bruce, Matt, and anyone else I’m missing from Women Thinking Free for doing a great job organizing the event. It was a lot of fun talking to everyone afterward too!

Bruce videotaped the talk, and you can watch it here:

Jen McCreight – Boobquake Presentation from Bruce Critelli on Vimeo.

I hope everyone enjoyed themselves. It was a honor to be the inaugural speaker for WTF, and I hope this organization thrives! We need more active female voices in skepticism, and this is one great way to promote that.

Why Boobquake failed: God’s relationship with mankind is passive aggressive and abusive

Kazem Sedighi apparently got wind that people around the world were laughing at his ridiculous claims that immodestly dressed women cause Earthquakes. Apparently we misunderstood what he really meant, so during this Friday’s prayer sermon, he offered further explanation:

“Some ask why (more) earthquakes and storms don’t occur in the Western world, which suffers from the slime of homosexuality, the slime of promiscuity and has plunged up to the neck” in immorality, he said.

“Who says they don’t occur? Storms take place in the U.S. and other parts of the world. We don’t say committing sin is the entire reason but it’s one of the reasons,” he said.

But, he said, “sometimes, God tests a nation. … (God says) if believers sin, We slap them because We love them and give them calamity in order to stop their bad deeds.”

“And those who have provoked God’s wrath, He allows them (to commit sins) so that they go to the bottom of hell,” Sedighi said.

Oh, well, in that case, that makes perfect sense! I totally understand now. God’s relationship with humans is really like a relationship with an irrational, passive aggressive, emotional abusive person.

Me: *puts on tank top*
God:
Me: What’s wrong?
God: Nothing.
Me: Are you sure? Do you not like this shirt?
God: It’s nothing.
Me: Okay *prepares to go out*
God: Ahem.
Me: What?
God: You should know what.
Me: I’m expected to read your mind? You know only you can do that.
God: Didn’t you read that book I gave you?
Me: Yeah, but it didn’t say anything about tank tops…
God: Whatever.
Me: Okay, well, I’m going out now.

And then three months later God slashes your tires, kills your cat, breaks your entire CD collection, and sends you to the bottom of hell.

Seriously God, if you created humans, you should really know how they learn. Punishing people months after they perform the naughty deed does not produce negative reinforcement. Our behavior isn’t going to improve if you conveniently make earthquakes and tornadoes and floods appear to be caused by natural means, irrespective of the morals of that area. Do you really want us to behave, or do you just take sadistic glee in watching the US sink into the ocean?

Why boobquake isn’t destroying feminism

Greta Christina, a wonderful feminist writer who I respect immensely, has written a piece called A Feminist Defense of Boobquake. Greta perfectly summarizes how I feel in regards to all the women who seem to think I’m single-handedly destroying feminism. Just to give you an idea what it’s about, here’s a bit of the piece:

The main feminist objection to Boobquake seemed to be that the women who participated were letting ourselves be exploited. They argued that many men reacted to the event with sexist, “Show us your tits!” idiocy—a reaction McCreight should have foreseen, and was therefore responsible for. Even if the intention behind the event was good (a point on which anti-Boobquake feminists differ)—even though the event was initiated by a woman and voluntarily participated in by women—the result was simply another round of female bodies being objectified by men.

Ah. I see.

Women ought not to display our sexuality—because men can’t be trusted. In the presence of a display of desirable female flesh, men will lose control of themselves. Women ought to dress modestly, and ought not to encourage other women to dress immodestly… and if we persist in our immodesty, and men respond by behaving badly, it’s women’s fault.

It all makes sense now. I just need one question cleared up:

How, exactly, is this “feminist” response to Boobquake anything but a more moderate version of the statement by the Muslim prayer leader? (Minus the supernatural idiocy about earthquakes, of course.)

How is this “feminist” response anything but an attempt to squash female expressions of our sexuality, for fear of whipping men into an uncontrollable frenzy?

How is it anything other than blaming women for the fact that many men behave badly?

Hear hear.

I’m not going to spent much more time defending my feminism, mainly because I have better things to do with my time. If you want to assert that I’m not a real feminist, go ahead. I don’t care if you want to turn your allies into enemies. If you want to assert that I’m falling into the trap of “cute” feminism because I dare to joke about my body, go ahead. I may laugh a bit, since I’m one of the least stereotypically “feminine” people I know, but judge away. If you want to slut shame and think embracing my sexuality is giving women a bad image, go ahead. I know that doing so doesn’t mean I’m ditzy or brainless – I know I’m a smart cookie, regardless of what you think.

But when you’re doing all of these things, just remember: Feminism is about choice. I never forced you to wear a low cut shirt. I won’t judge you if you abstain from sex. I won’t sneer when you say you’re a stay at home mom. And likewise, you shouldn’t have disdain for my choices. Feminists always wonder where all the “young” feminists are. We’re here, but we just hate calling ourselves feminists – because when we do, you have to come squash our actions and say we’re doing it wrong.

I’m not upset. I know that whatever you say, someone, somewhere will be offended. If the cleric had said eating pork caused earthquakes, and I suggested Baconquake, I’d probably be getting nasty emails from vegans or PETA. If the cleric had said drinking alcohol caused earthquakes, and I suggested Beerquake, I’d probably be getting nasty emails from teetotalers. But if I lived my whole life in constant fear of pissing someone off, I would stay silent and accomplish nothing. And what good is that?

Why boobquake isn't destroying feminism

Greta Christina, a wonderful feminist writer who I respect immensely, has written a piece called A Feminist Defense of Boobquake. Greta perfectly summarizes how I feel in regards to all the women who seem to think I’m single-handedly destroying feminism. Just to give you an idea what it’s about, here’s a bit of the piece:

The main feminist objection to Boobquake seemed to be that the women who participated were letting ourselves be exploited. They argued that many men reacted to the event with sexist, “Show us your tits!” idiocy—a reaction McCreight should have foreseen, and was therefore responsible for. Even if the intention behind the event was good (a point on which anti-Boobquake feminists differ)—even though the event was initiated by a woman and voluntarily participated in by women—the result was simply another round of female bodies being objectified by men.

Ah. I see.

Women ought not to display our sexuality—because men can’t be trusted. In the presence of a display of desirable female flesh, men will lose control of themselves. Women ought to dress modestly, and ought not to encourage other women to dress immodestly… and if we persist in our immodesty, and men respond by behaving badly, it’s women’s fault.

It all makes sense now. I just need one question cleared up:

How, exactly, is this “feminist” response to Boobquake anything but a more moderate version of the statement by the Muslim prayer leader? (Minus the supernatural idiocy about earthquakes, of course.)

How is this “feminist” response anything but an attempt to squash female expressions of our sexuality, for fear of whipping men into an uncontrollable frenzy?

How is it anything other than blaming women for the fact that many men behave badly?

Hear hear.

I’m not going to spent much more time defending my feminism, mainly because I have better things to do with my time. If you want to assert that I’m not a real feminist, go ahead. I don’t care if you want to turn your allies into enemies. If you want to assert that I’m falling into the trap of “cute” feminism because I dare to joke about my body, go ahead. I may laugh a bit, since I’m one of the least stereotypically “feminine” people I know, but judge away. If you want to slut shame and think embracing my sexuality is giving women a bad image, go ahead. I know that doing so doesn’t mean I’m ditzy or brainless – I know I’m a smart cookie, regardless of what you think.

But when you’re doing all of these things, just remember: Feminism is about choice. I never forced you to wear a low cut shirt. I won’t judge you if you abstain from sex. I won’t sneer when you say you’re a stay at home mom. And likewise, you shouldn’t have disdain for my choices. Feminists always wonder where all the “young” feminists are. We’re here, but we just hate calling ourselves feminists – because when we do, you have to come squash our actions and say we’re doing it wrong.

I’m not upset. I know that whatever you say, someone, somewhere will be offended. If the cleric had said eating pork caused earthquakes, and I suggested Baconquake, I’d probably be getting nasty emails from vegans or PETA. If the cleric had said drinking alcohol caused earthquakes, and I suggested Beerquake, I’d probably be getting nasty emails from teetotalers. But if I lived my whole life in constant fear of pissing someone off, I would stay silent and accomplish nothing. And what good is that?

My article on the growth of boobquake at the Daily Beast

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that I wrote a piece for the Daily Beast on the incredible response to boobquake. I focus on the emails and traffic I’ve been getting, the media coverage, the power of social media, and the silly things people have created in honor of boobquake. Go check it out!

For the people who love number crunching (or are too lazy to read the article), here are some fun facts. Since the 19th I have received:
- About 2,600 new Twitter followers (follow me!)
- About 1,000 new blog subscribers through Google Reader, doubling my total. Yes, in a week I received as many subscribers as I did in a year.
- 743 friend requests on Facebook. Not sure what proportion of those are male…
- Roughly 700 Facebook messages
- From April 19th to the present, 854,521 unique visitors to Blag Hag, with over 2 million pageviews. To put that in perspective, I used to get about 1,000 visitors a day.

Oh, and one more fun fact a friend brought to my attention:My name was the 72nd most popular search on Google yesterday morning? …That’s just flipping insane. Wow. …Wait, “Hotness: Mild”? Did I just get burned by search engine statistics generator? Hehe.

Boobquake on the Colbert Report

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'Boobquake Day Causes Earthquake
The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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When I heard “Iran,” I sat up on the couch. When I heard “cleric,” I sat on the edge of my seat. When I heard “boobquake” I jumped up and down high fiving my friend. When he said my name* and showed my photograph, I started screaming and flailing and even crying a little. Yes, boobquake got covered by CNN, BBC, CBC, ABC, FOX… But I’m a 22 year old geeky liberal – being on the Colbert Report is pretty much The Best Thing Ever. My friends and professors joked about it happening, but I never thought it really would.

Following my friend’s suggestion, whenever I’m feeling down or defeated or overwhelmed, I am going to listen to Stephen Colbert saying “You go girl!” to me. Possibly on repeat. Wow.

Though Stephen did get the science a bit wrong, saying the Taiwan earthquake was proof, even though I later explained why it was not. Maybe he needs a certain young female scientist to explain it to him a little bit more on the show *wink wink nudge nudge* …Okay, maybe I shouldn’t push my luck, haha.

*My name is spelled McCreight, but pronounced McCrite. Yes, I know it doesn’t make any dense. Blame the Irish (who, ironically, also mispronounced my name in interviews).

And the Boobquake results are in!

Boobquake is finally over across the world. It’s time to crunch some numbers – did women dressing immodestly really increase earthquakes? Can we find any data that supports Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi’s hypothesis?

(click here for larger image)
Photo by David Collins. Yes, that’s the biological hazard symbol. Yes, I found that funny. In case you didn’t notice, I’m a geek.

Many people seemed to misinterpret the planned analysis of this event. We’re not just trying to see if any earthquakes occurred, since dozens happen every day. What we want to see if we actually increased earthquakes in either number or severity. Let’s first look at the number of earthquakes that occurred on Monday, the 26th, and compare it to earthquakes in the past couple months. All data was taken from the USGS Earthquake website.

(click here for larger image)
Each data point represents the total number of earthquakes per day going back to February 5th (the extent of the online database). Days are measured in Coordinated Universal Time. That red square is boobquake. As you can see qualitatively, our provocative dress didn’t really seem to affect the frequency of earthquakes. There were 47 earthquakes on the 26th, which falls well within the 95% confidence interval for number of earthquakes (about 0 to 148).

So did our cleavage/thighs/ankles/hair increase the number of earthquakes? No.

“But Jen!” the internet cried, “what about the 6.5 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan? Surely that shows our bosoms have supernatural powers!”

Sorry to be a buzzkill – hey, I’d like magical control over plate tectonics too – but that single earthquake wasn’t significant. Earthquakes between 6.0 and 6.9 magnitude happen, on average, 134 times a year. That means we had about a 37% probability of an earthquake of that magnitude happening on boobquake just due to chance alone – hardly an improbable event that needs to be attributed to an angry deity.

But just to be safe, let’s look at the overall distribution of the magnitudes of earthquakes on boobquake. Did they differ from the types of earthquakes we’ve seen since February? These samples span from the entirety of the event – midnight at the earliest time zone to midnight at the last time zone – so the data encompasses more than 24 hours.

(click here for larger image)
The box indicates the first and third quartiles (within which 50% of the data points fall). Not only did all of the earthquakes on boobquake fall within the normal range of magnitudes, but the mean magnitude actually decreased slightly!

Now, this change isn’t statistically significant, but it certainly doesn’t support the cleric’s claim. In fact, I think it develops an even more interesting alternative hypothesis: Maybe immodest women actually decrease the amount of earthquakes! Man, that would certainly be a fun way to provide disaster relief. Of course, before we can make any claims about that, we’d have to greatly increase our sample size. You know, I have this gut feeling that a lot of people would like to do our boobquake experiment again…

Obviously this study had its flaws. We didn’t have a large sample size, and we didn’t have a control planet where women were only wearing burkas. We didn’t have a good way to quantify how much we increased immodesty (what’s the unit of immodesty anyway? Intensity of red on blushing nuns?). Maybe women did dress immodestly, but we didn’t lead men astray enough. Maybe God really was pissed, but he couldn’t increase earthquakes for us because that would provide proof for his existence (or maybe it’s his existence that’s the problem).

Or of course, maybe God is just biding his time. If you hear a news report in the next couple weeks saying a bizarre Indiana earthquake killed a science blogger, well, then maybe we’ll have to rethink our conclusions a bit.

But you know what? Boobquake was originally intended to be a humorous exercise in scientific and skeptical thinking – that we should test claims people make, especially when they’re ridiculous. And what could be a better way to do that than to question the methods of boobquake itself? That’s why science is such a wonderful tool for investigation – research must not only go through rigorous peer review, but it also must be able to be overturned in light of new data. I think it’s awesome reading all the scientific flaws people keep noticing – feel free to keep pointing them out!

I’m pretty sure our results aren’t going to change Sedighi’s mind. People tend to find any way possible to justify their superstitious beliefs, no matter how illogical. I’m sure the next time a big quake hits we’ll get a “See? Told you so!” even if the event wasn’t statistically significant – he didn’t care about science before, and he probably won’t now. Even if he says that, I think boobquake succeeded. We exposed these beliefs for their ridiculous nature, encouraged people to think skeptically, and of course, had some fun. What else could someone ask for? (Less creepy misogynistic guys who miss the point? Yeeeaah, agreed.)

So, sorry Sedighi. To quote something that was floating around twitter – women can move mountains, but they don’t cause earthquakes.

Don’t forget that boobquake shirts are on sale here. All profits will be donated to the Red Cross and James Randi Educational Foundation.

EDIT: If you want a more scientific explanation of earthquakes and boobquake, there’s an excellent article here by Dr. Lawrence Braile, professor and earthquake expert at my own Purdue University.