photo: Ingrid Laas
Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts every Tuesday and Thursday.
Although I enjoy scraping vomit and self-tanner from my shoes as much as the next person, I’d never been to the Galway Arms, an Irish bar in Lincoln Park. But on Saturday, Women Thinking Free, a non-profit dedicated to bringing science, skepticism and critical thinking to women in the Midwest used the unlikely space to host Boobquake originator, Jen McCreight.
For those living on a houseboat with no internet access, a crash course in Boobquake’s brief, meteoric history: It all started with an Iranian cleric (as so many things do). Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi proclaimed “Many women who do not dress modestly…lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.” Upon hearing the cleric’s statement, McCreight, a feminist/scientist/atheist/blogger decided to test his hypothesis.
“On Monday, April 26th,” she pledged, “I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake.”
Game on. Within days, a lark became a phenomenon. Between April 19 and May 3, McCreight’s website experienced 1,011,220 unique hits, her Facebook event page currently boasts 106,248 fans, and McCreight still hasn’t finished wading through the flurry of e-mails and friend requests.
But back to Lincoln Park. Elbowing through a pack of Guinness-snorking bros, I followed the first pair of Chuck Taylors I spotted upstairs to a room full of what to my untrained eye looked like every philosophy major I ever got into a snarling fight with as an undergraduate. But skeptics aren’t so much philosophers as they are scientists and critical thinkers. According to Women Thinking Free’s Vice President, Jennifer Newport, women are underrepresented in the Skeptical movement, a state of affairs she told me she hopes to alter. Though I feigned familiarity, at first all I could glean about the movement was a distaste for homeopathy and psychic readings, both of which I learned at my mother’s knee. Further research took me to www.skeptic.com, where I read that “modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method…gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena.” Basically, skeptics encourage individuals to question rather than blithely believe, hence McCreight’s experiment.
You’d think after all the big words and Gen Con-looking attendees, my expectations would have been tweaked, but by the time McCreight unleashed her PowerPoint presentation, I was still expecting Diablo Cody. McCreight is more like a kid from “Glee,” awkward but endearing and brimming with confidence, perhaps the perfect recipe for a Facebook-era VIP. Turned out her lecture was designed as a series of teaching points to help Skeptics attract followers. Or as she put it, “Come for the boobs, stay for the smarts.”
While I’m certain I’d side with McCreight in most debates, listening, I felt a bit like a newly indoctrinated Hare Krishna being handed her robes. Though the group champions reasonable causes such as vaccination and the evolutionary theory, overall, there was something Kool-Aid and Nike about the vibe. But then that’s true of any subculture gathered to celebrate one of their luminaries. Even the popped-collar dudes downstairs.