Title: Fandom, Boobs, and the Internet: Big sister is watching you

Status: confirmed

Proposed by: Sarah Xu


"This should be a better world," a friend of mine said. "A more honest one, where sex isn't shameful or degrading. I wish this was the kind of world where say, 'Wow, I'd like to touch your breasts,' and people would understand that it's not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful."

We were standing in the hallway of ConFusion, about nine of us, and we all nodded. Then another friend spoke up.

"You can touch my boobs," she said to all of us in the hallway. "It's no big deal."

In 2008, at Penguicon, an annual SF and software convention in Michigan USA, a group of friends carried out an ‘experiment’ they later labelled The Open Source Boob Project (OSBP). Women attending the convention were invited to wear little coloured badges—green representing ‘yes you may ask to touch my breasts’ and red to signify a preference to opt out of the boob touching festivities. After the con one of the projects participants, who uses the Internet pseudonym The Ferret, blogged his experience of the project on his live journal and enthusiastically described the event as “a raging success”.

The most interesting part about the OSBP is not so much that a bunch of fans got together and thought ‘hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could all touch women’s boobs freely without being made to feel like perverts” but rather the way that, through the relatively new medium of web 2.0, the event gained international attention and further OSBP experiments were ceased due to by widespread feminist outrage.

In this paper I will discuss the Ferret’s original post, the reaction it provoked, and look at some of the outcomes generated by the blogosphere. In particular I will discuss the artworks I created as commentary on the OSBP as part of my PhD work into cyberfeminism and web 2.0.

Room Notes:

Tags: Academic Panel, Women, Equipment: AV

Recording: (rights of use)

Confirmed panellists: Sarah Xu

No additional panellists have been suggested.

Room: Montana B

Time: Monday 10:00 AM

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