The Meme World of Stereotypes and Sexuality

Media has played a huge role in the post-modern era. In particular, social media with websites such as Facebook and Twitter, have become the main sources of communication. My personal experience and interaction with these websites involves networking, communication, and entertainment. As part of entertainment, a new phenomenon has taken over Facebook: Memes.  

Merriam dictionary defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” On Facebook, this takes place in the form of a picture, usually with some sort of caption(s). Up until I took this class, I used to blindly go through the memes and get a chuckle out of them. However, as I became more critical of my surroundings and attempted to notice varied representations of gender around me, memes opened a new window for me. These memes, I realized, serve as windows into the culture I am part of. These images represent what the wide community finds humorous or entertaining, to say the least.

A critical look at the memes makes it evident that they are filled with gender stereotypes. In certain ways, they reflect the view of males and females in the society. These views include: how men and women are supposed to act, how they really act, and at times how they are seen, and how they really are supposed to be seen. Reflecting on the definition, these memes are very influential. In essence, they take certain stereotypes and reinforce them or even create new stereotypes to promote varied representations of gender.

When I began a critical evaluation of these memes, a pattern with a recurrent theme became evident to me. Majority of the memes had to do with females. They idealize them, fantasize them, and degrade them, to cite just a few reactions.

I went through a series of memes and gathered memes that had to with females (which did not take long at all, as almost everyone had to do with them). I will briefly go through a few of them and demonstrate the images and stereotypes they create or reinforce to the wide audience on Facebook.

 Meme # 1

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The above meme represents or rather mocks gender roles and attempts to portray the roles of young men and women.

Meme # 2

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Here, the meme clearly degrades the female, and portrays her as a ‘toy’ – it denounces their intelligence as well as abuses their sexuality – as a simple guitar is enough to get a women naked.

Meme # 3

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A clear sexualization of female body is obvious here.        

Meme # 4 

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Once again, female stereotypes are reinforced .

Meme # 5

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Why is it always the mother doing the dishes? Once again, reinforcement of stereotypes.

Meme # 6 

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Clear sexualization of the female body is visible here – for entertainment purposes

Meme # 7

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Once again, female body is highly sexualized, not to mention degraded.

Meme # 8

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This meme is wrong at so many levels. First, the outfits define which holiday is better. Second, the outfits define that these females are “hookers”. Third, stereotypes are reinforced.

Meme # 9

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Stereotypes: arguments, women as sex objects.

Meme # 9

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The captions on the meme speak for themselves. They raise an interesting point, and I am not sure if its right question that is being raised or if there is rights answer to it. What is important here is that, this meme reveals that women are actually falling for the stereotypes by having pictures displayed on the left as their default pictures. A sense of competition, compulsion, and unsaid pressure may be some of the factors that are leading to such representations of females of themselves in the public eye.

Meme # 10

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This meme speaks volumes. It shows that some cleavage can attract a lot more attention. Not only does it subconsciously influence females to put up such pictures, but it also creates certain expectations amongst men.  Gender disparity is clearly visible here.

Meme # 11

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Either you see a man sitting on a chair reading a book, or you see a man sitting on a chair, with a female on the floor performing oral sex on him. This double play of image as well as the text and caption on the image attests to the idea of sex (man being the dominant one while the woman is on the floor) that is being promoted here.

Meme # 12 

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The stereotype that women are supposed to be “proper” is visible here.

Meme # 13

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Once again the response is highly stereotypical and mocks women.

Meme # 14

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Self-explanatory – highly stereotypical and not true at all. I know a lot of men who are scared or cockroaches and women who are not afraid of elephants.

Meme # 15

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This meme once again reinforces the stereotype of how women are supposed to act and the type of fashion that accompanies their behavior in the society.

These are the images that the youth in the society are growing up looking at. What are the memes doing? They are creating certain expectations and promoting stereotypes on how they are supposed to act in the society as well as on the Facebook world, which is a major part of “culture” today.

In your opinion, how effective are these memes? Do they have enough power to change ones views? What can we do to change the stereotypical and degrading portrayal of females and gender roles? 

Next time you look at such memes and get a chuckle out of it, know that you are promoting  gender stereotypes prevalent in the society around us. 

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3 thoughts on “The Meme World of Stereotypes and Sexuality

  1. […] The Meme World of Stereotypes and Sexuality (genderandrepresentation.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Very interesting post.

  3. Colette Harris says:

    Shams, you raise some really good points here. This week a group of women’s organisations launched a campaign to get Facebook to sanction seriously degrading images of women posted on its site in the same way they sanction racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic images. It is interesting in itself that the Facebook administrators did not themselves see sexist images as hate speech while they apparently immediately understood the homophobic images as such. I understand Facebook has now agreed to take down seriously degrading images of women but as your blog has illustrated it may not always be easy to figure out where the boundary line lies. The issue of women going along with this is also complex – how much do they feel obliged to do so because of pressures on them? What about men? Do they feel that posting such images makes them appear manly?

    I think the issue is more that the images reflect the current situation of gender relations in the places their posters are situated. If nothing else, your selection of images goes to prove that the west (and I am assuming perhaps wrongly that most if not all of these images here come from western sources) is as sexist as anything we see elsewhere. It’s just no longer possible to be quite as open about it as in some other places. The images may well reflect a vicious circle with negative images encouraging others to post such images. Difficult to say how best to tackle the situation.

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