Show Us Your Boobs!

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"Show us your boobs," a familiar cry on Bourbon Street. In the aftermath of Katrina, women are still showing their wares ~ but this time, it's not the beads they are after: it's donations for hurricane relief!

Upon stumbling into, I was fascinated with the idea. Taking the tradition of New Orleans & Burbon Street, and applying it to fundraising on the internet, now there's a great idea!

So I contacted Justin, the man behind the site.

So, who are you, Justin?

My name's Justin Ross, I'm twenty-three, and I'm from Sacramento, CA (but I'm currently in the UK, Hull specifically, studying Politics and International Relations).

Why did you start the site? When did you think "Hey, we have to do this!"

The idea for the site actually came from a woman named Salli that I know from an online message board that I frequent. She made a post about it that was kind of joking, and I thought "Hey... That's a great idea, and I could definitely make that happen). I did a little bit of research on some software to use, enlisted the help of a few friends, and got the ball rolling. We actually "opened our doors" on Sept 9th.

Tell us some basic info on the site.

Like I said, the site opened on Sept 9th. Since then, we've raised over $29,000, and have collected 214 photos, 48 from men, and 166 from women. All of the money raised by the site goes directly to the charities. We don't handle any of the funds directly. One of our biggest concerns was that people would worry that we were skimming off the top, or keeping all of the money for ourselves, which is why we took the route that we did (people donate to the charity directly, then send us their confirmation email). We didn't want people to have to second-guess their donation at any time.

Recently, we set up a Boobs4BourbonSt clothing store, where people can buy T-shirts, Hoodies, etc. We're waiting on a design change before we start pushing that, but once people start buying from the shop, the proceeds from sales will go towards paying for "freebie" shirts, such as contest prizes, etc, as well as helping to cover some of the out-of-pocket costs that we're covering (which have actually been very minimal, thanks to our biggest sponsor, Valianthost, who's graciously donated all of the hosting for the site).

Do you have any women as partners in this project? What are their thoughts?

As I said originally, the entire idea came from a woman named Salli. Her and her husband have been helping with account confirmations, as well as uploading new photo submissions. I actually gave her a call to let her know when we broke our first $10,000 raised, and she was tickled pink. Additionally, there are a couple of other women that help out in a similar fashion. All of them are remarkably open-minded, and have been very pleased with the success of the site, and proud to be a part of something that's going to help so many people.

Any stats on members ~ enough to know your percentages of male to female supporters?

Unfortunately, we don't keep track of the ratio between male and female members. If I had to make an educated guess, I would say that probably 1/3 or more of our members are female, just judging by the account verification emails that I've processed. Again, though, that's just a rough estimate.

What's the reaction been? Any charities get their knickers in a knot? Any problems from women or men who find this in 'bad taste?' And if so, how have you replied or dealt with it?

So far, the reaction has been extremely positive. We've had more supportive emails than I can count, from people that felt helpless, and saw this as their chance to lend a hand, to people directly affected by the hurricane. All of it has been very moving. When we started this, we assumed it would do well, but it's really snuck up on us.

We've yet to have any official contact with any charity, so no complaints from them to date. We have, however, heard from a couple of (read: two) visitors to the site who felt that our energies would have better been spent towards something that didn't involve women's breasts.

The latest of these emails was sent just yesterday, and tried to accuse us of sexism, misogyny, and "perpetuating a focus on women as body parts". Because our site is publically-driven, we take any "hate-mail" seriously, and will normally reply, explaining that our site is intended to empower women, not degrade them.

Our site's biggest goal, above even raising money, is protecting the women (and men) that have donated their pictures to us. Nowhere on the site will you find us being degrading, sexist or "misogynistic". If anything, our site is a display of the power that women wield over men. With nothing more than some pieces of skin, our site has helped to raise almost $30,000 to help with the rebuilding on the gulf coast. I don't understand how someone could see that as anything but a testament to women's power in today's society.

Neither do I, Justin. Especially since this is in keeping with the legacy of Burbon Street.

What other projects do you have, Justin?

This is all I've got on my plate at the moment, but we're kicking around a couple of ideas for the future. Nothing that's ready to go public just yet, though.

In other words, plan on hearing more about Justin. We've not heard the last from him. *wink*



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