Feminist Fridays: Queens, Boobs, and Feminist Taylor Swift

Was Queen Elizabeth I a man? And does it matter? 

I read this fascinating article in The Daily Mail about a conspiracy theory that is the basis for a new novel. It reveals research and anecdotal evidence that Elizabeth I died at the age of 10, and was replaced by a boy who pretended to be the princess who would one day be queen.

Deceit, drag, one of the most powerful monarchs in English history…sounds like a great premise for a novel, but are the legends and rumors true?

Queen Elizabeth has always been an example of strong woman in history. It’s fun when studying history and you finally get to talk about a lady! So does it change the way I—or you—or the “royal we—think about the queen?

I don’t have the answers to that one, but I’m all for bringing up the bodies to find out.


In Lawrence (and many cities) we have this thing called Nerd Nite where local nerds gather to drink while fellow nerds give 20 minute presentations on interesting topics. This month, Rachel, a librarian (and former co-worker), presented on a very titillating topic: #kuboobs. When KU was in the NCAA basketball tournament last year, a lady tweeted a picture of her chest clad in a Jayhawk t-shirt with the hashtag #kuboobs and it became a phenomenon meant as a good luck charm for the KU basketball team, and even inspired similar hashtags and accounts across the country. Though it started out as a joke, the popularity prompted people to organize it as a campaign to raise money for breast cancer research and the local domestic violence shelter (KU has since ordered them to cease and desist for copyright infringement).

Rachel wrote a pseudo-satirical post on a local scenester blog last year when this was all happening that was picked up by the Huffington Post, Bust, and Feministing (and even some confused Italian journalists) and sparked a bit of controversy, which led to this month’s nerd nite presentation on #kuboobs through feminists many lenses.

If we examine the disembodied cleavage bearing the words “property of KU basketball” through the lens the male gaze, it fails—but then we have to worry about slut shaming, which is totally lame. Then there’s the real downer of a topic rape culture, but also women who want to reappropriate their sexiness. And then there’s choice feminism, which gives everyone a free pass to do what they want, and then things start to get circular.

Rachel’s presentation was very interesting, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for her, but I still don’t think #kuboobs is in line with my personal feminism. The phenomenon doesn’t look any different from girls gone wild. There are no grandmas or breast-feeding mothers or other “unsexy” boobs, just traditional co-eds, and the only message  is “go team!” It seems to reinforce the typical role of women in sports as “cheerleaders” and I can’t see anything subversive about it.

As reluctant as I am to judge another woman for her actions, especially with regards to her expression, I just don’t think it’s classy or feminist, and I can’t see it on par with Roller Derby in terms of empowerment. But that’s why there’s so many different brands of feminism, and we all continue to negotiate our own.

Thank you for indulging me in this rather off topic section of the post.

This morning a friend tweeted me about the new Feminist Taylor Swift Twitter (@feministtswift) account, which combines Taylor Swift song lyrics with (ironic?) feminist commentary. After 2 days and 25 tweets, the account has almost 27,000 followers.

I don’t think it’s half as clever as  the Kierkegaard + Kim Kardashian mash up account (@KimKierkegaardashian) that was profiled in The New Yorker, but I’m interested in fan reaction (I don’t like any country music, and Taylor Swift annoys me in particular, mostly due to the fact that my sister loves to earworm me with that never, ever song). Still, even though I don’t particularly like Swift, I am equally annoyed by her detractors who basically put her down for being a “silly girl” who “dates celebrities” and “is blond.” I’ve seen one rant on Twitter about how insulting it is, but I think there might be some sort of message to tease out about not consuming popular culture without a critical lens and critically engaging with content you enjoy.

And me thinking about how I don’t really think #kuboobs is feminist and how I also don’t think Taylor Swift is very feminist but I also don’t think mocking and judging other women is very feminist and this is just one of those days when being a feminist is hard.

Luckily, it’s also National Bourbon Day. And just after 5 o’clock.


What’s on your feminist radar this week?

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