The Open Source Boob Project has been a massive failure. It succeeded spectacularly, however, at exposing how far we have yet to go, even in supposedly egalitarian spaces.
The discussions that have come out of this are extremely important. In a way, I'm glad this happened. I have this vain hope that in six months, fandom will be a safer space for it. That too many women-fen are too outspoken, so that even casual misogyny in fandom won't occur uncontested.
The remarkable thing about this situation is that it's shown me that men who I've long considered feminist, or at least egalitarian, still have lots to learn about their male privilege. The first person I include in this is Ferrett himself. Because he, not his wife or the other women originators, was the one who wrote about the project. Because he tried to use creative language for something that should have been explained as basically, and in as simple terms as possible. Because he chose moments of the evening that were completely untranslatable, however he wanted them to be read. Because it has yet to be made totally clear whether the breasts in question were clothed or nude. Because though he used the word "we," and though he said it was what he was trying to avoid, Ferrett did speak for thirty nine other people.
I believe, I sincerely believe, that in the space and time it occurred, the OSBP was a wonderful experience. However, as many people have noted, it is highly unlikely to succeed in repeated attempts.
There was an extraordinary lack of foresight demonstrated. It shouldn't have been talked about in an unlocked LJ post. It shouldn't have been shoehorned into a formal activity. It shouldn't have been most vocally defended by the small number of people who did so, and especially not Ferrett himself.
I give Ferrett props for amending the post and apologizing. I can't even imagine what the Steinmetz house has been like the last few days. His language may not have been what everyone wanted it to be, but we're shifting paradigms here. Baby steps.
Again, this is what bothers me the most, but is also what's making me the most hopeful. There are a lot of men who aren't getting it. They're understanding why the OSBP can't be replicated, but not why women are uncomfortable with it. These are men who have begun to grok the radical notion that women are people. Unfortunately, this has given them a new blinder: Just because they respect the women they find sexually attractive, they take for granted that all men do as well. I think I can hear an entire planet of women saying, "Yeah, not so much."
Ok, great. These men are well on their way, but they're not there yet. And this whole kerfluffle has rooted out scads of these men. Women all over the blogosphere are recoiling in horror as they're realizing that men who they've trusted as allies don't understand simple concepts like "Womens' bodies are still considered public space, and that's wrong."
So now we have a choice. We can all get really, really angry and afraid that this is going to happen at every con ever from now on, like those Free Hugs people. OR.
We can start talking. We can talk about our positive group touching experiences (ranging from innocent hugs to parties that turn into orgies). We can start talking about people who've made us uncomfortable, and calling them out on their behavior. We start talking.
We start, as I imagine the Open Source Boob Project intended, empowering women to use their voices and agency in large group situations. And all situations.
We start talking.
And if people have learned anything from this whole debacle, they'll start listening, too.