Donna Hayward says hello,
the viewers say “please go”.
The following day, I attended a workshop about preventing gender violence, facilitated by Katz. There, he posed a question to all of the men in the room: “Men, what things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?”
Not one man, including myself, could quickly answer the question. Finally, one man raised his hand and said, “Nothing.” Then Katz asked the women, “What things do you do to protect yourself from being raped or sexually assaulted?” Nearly all of the women in the room raised their hand. One by one, each woman testified:
“I don’t make eye contact with men when I walk down the street,” said one.
“I don’t put my drink down at parties,” said another.
“I use the buddy system when I go to parties.”
“I cross the street when I see a group of guys walking in my direction.”
“I use my keys as a potential weapon.”
The women went on for several minutes, until their side of the blackboard was completely filled with responses. The men’s side of the blackboard was blank. I was stunned. I had never heard a group of women say these things before. I thought about all of the women in my life — including my mother, sister and girlfriend — and realized that I had a lot to learn about gender.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us, Lolcats, Rage Comics, Demotivational Posters, Women Belong in the Kitchen- wait, what? All of those are memes, pictures or videos on the internet that spread through social networking sites, online forums, and email. Memes, says onietam in her blog post-Feminist/Gender Analysis- Internet Memes, “are used to spread the popular idea across the Internet, usually to draw attention or make a particular statement.” The idea of women belonging in the kitchen has been popular recently in memes, and these memes have been spreading like wildfire. These misogynist memes challenge all the gains women have gained in the last century and paint an unflattering view of the third wave, or “new”, feminists. In the end, these memes could be one of the factors that threaten our rights as women.
In her essay The Three Waves of Feminism, Charlotte Krolokke defines the new wave of feminism is a group of many more groups. In general, third wave feminists further push for equality for all while seeking to reclaim femininity and derogatory terms. The internet has become a source for these feminists to spread their message. However, since the rise of the trolls and flamers, usually anonymous posters who flood websites with hateful, racist, and misogynist comments, it has been hard for feminist blogs continue to get their point across. Many of the posters on any article written by a woman can bring out hateful comments that threaten rape. Most memes on the internet are usually not as violent as these comments but they still pack a powerful punch, simple due to the vast amount of people it can reach.
The path of a meme can be easily traced. Most begin on 4chan.net, a forum of sketchy links and even sketchier users. If the meme becomes popular enough, it moves on to Reddit.com, another forum based website. From there it goes to Memebase.com (a site where memes are collected), Facebook, and Tumblr.com, and even can end up on clothes. In the end, one meme has the potential to reach almost 175 million North Americans when it lands on Facebook. Remember, memes are often used to spread popular ideas. So, the idea that a women’s place is in the kitchen, and that this role is desirable, is now reaching 175 million people.
Now that we know the numbers that one particular meme can face, let us look at the actual memes. These memes often come in many formats. There are Demotivational posters, which are similar to many motivational posters seen in offices, but with a negative message at the bottom. There is also rage comics (or F7U12 comics), which feature crudely drawn stick figures in a classic comic style. There are also just captioned images. I will be looking at a variety of these types.
This image is obviously misogynistic. It blatantly tells the viewer that your girlfriend/fiancée/wife should know how to use these tools or she needs to relearn her place in society. It also suggests that women are only good for doing chores for men. This harkens back to before the second wave of feminism, when women were just barely able to vote. These kinds of memes suggest that it is preferable to go back to those times.
Another common theme found on the internet is that women cannot drive. These images of car crashes are often captioned with “this is what happens when women leave the kitchen.” Another joke is, “Why can’t women drive? Because there is no road to the kitchen.” These memes hurl two insults with one joke. These jokes suggest that women cannot drive and, again, their only place is in the kitchen. Another popular meme suggests that women are technologically impaired. This meme usually features a man loaning his computer to his girlfriend. Upon having it returned, it is usually a cluttered mess filled with viruses and barely working.
This shirt shows that this meme has transgressed from the internet into reality. Shirts have been made for people to wear. This adds a new level of how far this meme has gone. It is now readily available to be put on clothing. Often, especially with teenagers of America, people express themselves and their beliefs through their dress. Now you can readily show that you believe women should go make you a sandwich on demand.
These memes may seem harmless. After all, they are just captioned pictures on the internet. But often what is once a joke online becomes a problem in real life. Someone continually makes these jokes, in an insulting and demeaning manner, whoever has to listen to these jokes may just grow tired of hearing them. To avoid these jokes, they will change their behavior. This could include doing what the joke says to do. Women, then, will make sandwiches when demanded, take on all the household chores; stop driving, or whatever else they need to do to avoid these jokes. Ultimately, it is peer pressure that forces women to change their behaviors to model the more “acceptable” role by society.
Recent data shows that there are 273 million North American internet users. So if a meme did reach all 175 North American Facebook users, it would reach 60% of the internet population. Those are scary numbers, but there is a way to fight back. We, as third wave feminists, must use everything in our repertoire to fight back. Ednie Kaeh Garrison writes in her essay U.S. Feminism-Grrl Style! Youth (Sub)Cultures and the Technologies of the Third Wave that our repertoire includes “print and visual media; music genres, technologies, and cultures… and the Internet” (143, Feminist Studies). We as feminists need to use the same media that the misogynists are using. We must use memes and spin their message so that have a feminist message and spread them across the internet.