Dust kicked up across the net this week when a Iranian cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, claimed that women dressing provocatively and "spreading adultery" were responsible for earthquakes. Kind of makes you wonder if some woman's solo pleasure caused the eruption of the Icelandic volcano (since apparently [she says arching a disbelieving eyebrow] masturbation is the last sexual taboo remaining).
The responses across the globe were predictably a mix of amused and angered: amused that someone in the 21st century could so ignore so much accumulated scientific fact, angered that it's still possible for so many people to blame women for a wide variety of evils.
But he's hardly alone in that opinion; most American women still recall Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blaming 9-11 on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way" and all those "secularizing" influences. We want to believe that sensible people guffaw at this madness, but at the moment it seems to be a lot more challenging to find sensible people.
It's endlessly frustrating to see women make major strides in all kinds of fields – science, politics, economics, literature – only to see coverage focus on how they looked while they accomplished these deeds or whether they were able to be good mommies while they pursued a career, "too" (and always implying one or the other must suffer. It's just another annoying dig to be dragged back to square one by being blamed for earthquakes.
But one of my fellow writers on Facebook had a very different response. Byron Ballard, who blogs as The Village Witch for the Asheville Citizen-Times, commented on my link to cleric the story, "Actually, this is true. Women cause earthquakes. We are so in touch with the powers of the universe that we wield them at will. We cannot be controlled. Leave us the hell alone."
When I got done laughing, I was struck by the magnitude of what she said; women do have such immense power. Just think about how much women's sexual energy has terrified the wielders of authority for millennia. All those taboos about menstruation and the potential of the womb; denigrating women's bodies in every way possible to deny that power.
The many mysteries of women's desire continues to elude scientists today. A lot of men quail at the mere task of locating their lover's g-spot. As women take over the expression of their fantasies in both visible and increasingly lucrative ways, maybe we need to claim our earthquake power.
Think of it: "Don't make me cause an earthquake!" on t-shirts and coffee mugs; iPhone apps that can start a rumbling sound at the touch of a button, just for verisimilitude. Girls Gone Wild will cease to be a series of videos to control and commodify women's bodies and will instead be an object lesson in the intimidating nature of our awesome power unleashed. As Tori Amos sings:
We danced in graveyards / With vampires till dawn / We laughed in the faces of kings / Never afraid to burn
Here's to laughing in the faces of kings and never ever accepting that scarlet A even if they want to burn us as heretics. We are the daughters of Pele's volcano, we are the mothers of earthquakes. Rock on.