Facebook memes typically feature a witty expression or phrase written in two parts, typed over a photograph or image that supports the impact of the punchline. The first meme I ever saw was this popular spin-off from the Lion King, in which Mufasa explains to Simba what lies beyond the light, at the ‘shadowy place’.
Memes have become so widespread that you can create your own meme on a number of meme-generator sites. So instead of the above meme reading ‘The South’, you could insert anything you like, from ‘MacDonalds’, to ‘Malia’.
At best, a meme is a witty quip about some aspect of modern life. But most of the time, people use memes as a way to quickly justify and validate bad decisions or cheap shots at other individuals and groups. For example, the ‘People of Wal Mart’ page has over 25,000 likes on Facebook and is full of memes, but when you think about it, the page is a seriously creepy collection of photos taken of people unawares in order to make fun of their appearance.
There’s something about memes that have social media users hypnotised. Whether it’s the typeface or the supporting image or a combination of the two, memes seem to make hurtful statements acceptable and imbue flimsy observations of daily life with substance. In many cases, if you heard a stranger utter the same words out loud in a restaurant, you’d feel inclined to move tables.
When it comes to gender, sexuality, dating and modern relationships, memes tend to promulgate the gender binary, lock women into double standards, portray all men as chauvinists and relationships as some kind of unhealthy fated fairytale.
There are a select number of popular memes that I keep seeing again and again over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that really grind my gears because they romanticise harmful and polarising messages about gender. Without further ado, here are 5 popular Facebook memes that have crept all over the Internet and done exactly that:
I also like the idea,
That someone, somewhere, had just broken up with their partner and made this meme to justify their dating status.
I’m sure many people all over the world ‘like’ the idea of soulmates but this meme promulgates the fantasy that modern relationships are like Disney films. In reality, there may well be one person you can spend your life with, but it takes hard work, co-operation, sacrifice, patience, acceptance, humility, negotiation and maturity to make a life-long relationship work with anyone. This meme typifies everything that is wrong with expectations of modern dating, thanks to happy-go-lucky sitcoms and chick-flicks.
If a guy sleeps with ten women, he’s a stud. If a woman does the same, she’s a slut. This is one of the most tired double standards in the history of sexism that’s yawning so hard its jaw hurts. But this meme expresses the prejudice through a viral image, which re-inflamed the toothache like never before. A woman is not a territorial conquest. She is a human being.
I’ve seen so many women and girls re-post this meme on social media sites. I’m not sure if it’s suggesting that women are so complex that it’s easier to just love them, or that women are simply not worthy of human understanding, but either way, it traps women in a binary. The fact that the quote originates from Oscar Wilde does nothing for me. Literary prowess aside, Wilde lived in a time when women’s status was entrenched within economic, political and social barriers that do not exist now, so the fact that the quote has been re-generated via memes in a modern context is completely anachronistic.
I like to think of myself as a kind of straightforward, reasonable person who means what I say, but the Internet has other ideas. Apparently, because I am a woman, my vocabulary is imbued with double-meanings that send warning signals to men everywhere. I am so truly complex and manipulative, that men have created memes to help other men figure out what I might mean. Huh, who knew?
I saw this meme on Instagram and felt how much of the nation felt while watching Nick Griffin on Question Time- there are so many aspects of it that incense me that I don’t know where to begin. The concept of ‘gentleman’ and ‘lady’ teeter upon archaic, chivalric expectations of behaviour based purely upon gender. I would much rather that somebody held the door open for me because it is polite, not because I’m a woman. If society, meme-users or a man believes that it is his entitlement to ‘smack my ass’ when I have walked through that door because I am ‘his’, then they’ll be met swiftly with a door to the face. Some gent.