If I say to you, “Open Bobs,” what exactly does that mean?
Does it mean that I’m a stand-up comedian and writer-actor in Los Angeles who hasn’t quite “made it” yet, so I still work part time as a waitress at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Burbank, CA, and that in order to be available for midday and afternoon auditions I work the glorious morning shift and hence must get up at the butt-crack-of-dawn so I can put on my little uniform, unlock the doors, turn on the disgusting fryers, and start serving up pancakes to ugly people who have no business being up at such a ridiculous hour, let alone asking me for complicated orders with worse breath than I thought imaginable, and therefore I cannot hang out with you all night at Barney’s Beanery because in just a few, agonizingly short, hours, I must get up at the aforementioned butt-crack-of-dawn and Open Bob’s?
Or, on the other hand, might it mean…
That I’m a young man, possibly from Turkey, who’s checking out the new Interactive Streaming Mobile Video App Periscope and upon perceiving the almost inconceivable beauty of the woman currently Periscoping I discover in myself the uncontrollable urge to gaze upon her naked breasts, and so I frantically type something like “show me your boobs” into Google Translate, which offers the slightly askew “Open” for “Show” and then when I proceed to try to type on my tiny keyboard I don’t have the patience to type the whole 4 words “Show Me Your Boobs” or the absurdly long 7 words of “Would you please show me your breasts?” and so, in my haste, cut to the chase of “Open Boobs” but my poor typing skills cause me to leave out an “o” and so what you wind up reading is “Open Bobs”?
If you’ve spent any time on Periscope you’ll know that unlikely as it sounds, the 2nd scenario is probably correct. It happens thousands of times every day. To be precise, “Open Boobs” is the more common form. You only occasionally see the compound typo “Open Bobs.” Still, it’s the entirety of a human being reduced to the barking of a 2-word command, “Open Boobs.”
Is this the ultimate, degrading, dismissive insult? Or simple honesty?
You can’t deny that human culture, and it’s mirror, The Internet, are so much about gender and sex. For centuries white men made paintings of naked women. The Guerrilla Girls noted that most of the artists in the Metropolitan Museum were male, yet most of the nude subjects were female, in their famous billboard, Do Women Have to be Naked to get into The Met. Museum?
“Open Boobs” is probably not the best expression of deep respect for other human beings, but is it a more honest form of the otherwise elaborate cultural ritualizations that circuitously dance around the idea that women are objects and commodities to be owned and consumed?
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
— Lewis Carroll, 1872
What’s in a word anyway?
Does a term like “Open Boobs” forever have to be a term of disrespect?
When it comes to Identity, it seems that any time someone puts a label on you, it’s an act of oppression. Any time you take a label for yourself, it’s an act of empowerment.
History is filled with words of oppression that the oppressed might have run from and chanted, “no we’re not, no we’re not”, but that they have instead embraced and rehabilitated. Words that have, over time, come to hold the opposite meaning of their initial oppressive use.
I’m half Latina and half Jewish. My mother, Magdalena Guerrero Blaylock, has always hated the term “Chicano.” Before the Chicano Movement it was a term of oppression, my mother believes its origin is in the term chicanery. Sadly, mom never got the memo that the term had been rehabilitated and had become a term of identity and empowerment.
This process doesn’t just apply to ethnic slurs like Chicano. Back when Henri Matisse and his posse were starting to color outside the lines they really pissed off a lot of people who believed that color should be tamed and ordered and well behaved and always inside the lines. So they said to Matisse and his Crew that the weren’t really artists, that their work wasn’t even painting, that they were just Wild Beasts. Only they were in France, so they called them Fauvists. The Crew could have run from that slur, but they didn’t, instead they embraced it and said, Yes! We are the wild beasts of color! Don’t you wish you had the strength and courage to run with us!
Terms like Chicano, Fauvist, and many others have completely rehabilitated and inverted their initial, insulting meaning. But there are other “half rehabilitated” words.
If a straight person calls a gay person a “faggot” today, it’s still offensive.
Yet I know gay guys who call each other “faggot.” Used in that special context I don’t think it’s insulting at all, but a term of understanding, of community, of common experience, a term of endearment.
If a man calls a woman a “bitch” today, it’s still offensive.
Yet I have girlfriends who call me “bitch”. In that context, again, it’s not offensive, but a term of understanding and sisterhood, a term of endearment.
A Modest Proposal
I propose to rehabilitate the term Open Boobs.
Terms like Chicano, Fauvist, Faggot, and Bitch are all spelled the same way in both their oppressive and empowering usages. But for Open Boobs I’d like to prefer the bad typist’s variant, Open Bobs. Partly just because it’s funnier. Partly because in a fast-paced mobile app world it’ll be hard to know the difference otherwise. And partly because in addition to inverting this term of Periscope power, I’d also like to include that Bob’s Big Boy Waitress. Aren’t we all, women and men both, just waiting tables in some cosmic diner of life? Can’t we all treat each other a little better, and take ourselves a little less seriously?
What does “Open Bobs” mean?
I defer to the philosopher Forrest Gump:
Stupid is as stupid does.
At it’s heart, Open Bobs is an eye-rolling I-know-we’re-surrounded-by-jerks-but-the-show-must-go-on-so-let’s-just-keep-dancing.
As an American expat here in The Netherlands I was pretty embarrassed by the reelection of George W. Bush. I didn’t know how to defend or explain my country’s choices and found, in the end, the only thing I could really say was,
It is what it is
Yes that’s a sort of surrender. But it’s also an acceptance that there are plenty of things in this life that don’t go your way or make sense to you. Things that would be different if you were Queen-for-a-day. But you aren’t. And not likely to be. So just accept that it is what it is and move on. Open Bobs is part of that too.
Lastly I’ll turn again to Forrest Gump:
I’m not a smart man… but I know what love is.
Who are these young “Open Boobs” guys anyway? Are they human beings as evil, awful, wretched, and shallow as their Periscope mantra suggests? If they even are from Turkey, does anything about their cultural upbrining, their isolation, their gender norms, explain this strange behavior? They certainly are from The Internet, and that does explain something about their detachment, and compartmentalization of love and sexuality into the anatomic and dissected Open Boobs. Are they evil? Or ignorant? Should they be Blocked? Or educated?
Which is a bigger problem for humankind? Evil? Or ignorance?
I’m not sure I really know what evil is. But I do believe that ignorance, and the intolerance it promotes, is an enormous problem everywhere. IDK quite how to better inform the Open Boobs-er, but it’d be great to find a way to lead them to a form of engagement that’s not only less insulting for a female Periscoper, but also more rich and rewarding for the now former troll.
When you block a troll, you make a better and friendlier discussion space for yourself. But the troll doesn’t go away, they just move on to degrade someone else’s experience. I’ve seen a lot of diverse things on Periscope, but I’ve never actually seen any female Periscoper show her breasts to anyone. How many Open Boobsers are there out there?? And how long can they keep typing their command sans results? Can offering them a little unearned human compassion help integrate them into a healthier community sooner? Instead of a woman taking her shirt off, maybe it can mean a guy opening his brain to wider possibilities.
For me, “Open Bobs” is:
- 65% Stupid is as stupid does
- 30% it is what it is
- 5% I’m not a smart person, but I know what love is.
You can use Open Bobs not only in response to Periscope comments like “Open Boobs,” but also anytime a discussion turns idiotic. Instead of raising your own blood pressure and taking the time to be frustrated and annoyed, you can just say “Open Bobs,” have a laugh with your friends, and move on.
- What does Open Bobs mean to you?
- Where can you use Open Bobs, bitch!?