As an adult child of the internet, I have a deep and abiding fondness for the odd meme. I’m not particular, though I have been known to have a preference for those featuring Henry the 8th, Keanu Reeves doing things taken out of context, or felines in outlandish situations. Show me a cat wearing glasses, a bowtie, and hanging out in a laboratory, asking what do you do with a dead scientist, and I am the first person to cry, “BARIUM” all while laughing wickedly and forwarding said meme on to my dad in an email I will mark as urgent.
There are some memes that have never really appealed to me. These are the ones of awkward school photos, or studio portraits inflicted upon someone who is not yet comfortable in their own skin. They might have been uproariously funny to me when I was twelve, or thirteen - you know, one of the crueler ages. Even still, when I was twelve I thought ramen noodles were haute cuisine and that Benny Hill was the funniest man ever birthed.
So, you know, probably shouldn't hold much stock in anything past-Becca has to say in defense of meanness. “But the captions are clever!” I hear her say, though it is admittedly difficult to do so over the silky, calf-length tropical print shorts she insists on wearing. “Are they really that clever though?” I say instead, and past-Becca shrugs, she has lost interest and there is the inside of a microwave-popcorn bag to lick.
A meme on the internet is at it’s best when it’s charming and vaguely stupid. It should be easily digestible, easy to forget, and irrefutable. But this isn’t always the case, because, as time and trolls have proved, the internet has some dark corners. It is easy to be an asshole when no one’s looking, and the internet, while replete with wonders like this very site and a dedicated group of Lumpy Space Princess cosplayers, can sadly be proof positive of this.
The latest in a long line of things that make me swear my imaginary-children will never have cell phones or computers or ever leave their rooms, is the Plus Sized Swimsuit Model Meme. In the meme in question a beautiful woman wearing a tangerine colored one piece smiles at the camera. She looks happy and stylish and inspires envy and awe - because she is A MODEL. Not content to allow a woman to deviate from the carefully proscribed strictures of modern femininity, the internet has decided to use her picture to make funnies.
“Big Boobs,” reads one, “TRADE OFF.” I was confused at first, what’s the trade off? Being a model? Making dollars based on your good looks? Then I was sad. “Oh...because she is a plus sized model.” It’s not just one caption either - it’s many. That’s what makes a meme, a meme. The run the gamut from well-meaning but awful ( “Fat, still maintains her hygiene and good fashion sense”) to just regular awful, (“Fucks like a champ, can make one hell of a breakfast the next morning.”)
It is one thing to conjure up a variety of captions for an image of a cat-scientist. The situation is absurd. Cats don’t walk on two legs usually, they also do not practice chemistry. It is a wordless image that demands comment and invites the imagination.
An image of a woman - any woman - in a bathing suit should not. Yet, the fact remains, that if a woman of any body type should dare to be photographed in a bathing suit she is inviting commentary, good, bad, and mostly ugly.
The argument could be made that a model should be accepting of this sort of feedback given that their body and face are their livelihood. After all, plus-sized models don’t have it easier than industry standard models. They have to fit a very specific type as well, and that type is different than a non-model’s type. I’d go ahead and wipe out this line of thought immediately, by suggesting that someone’s basic rights as a human trump whatever might be expected of them in their profession.
Besides, It is not just plus-sized models or models at all. I typed in the search terms “eat a sandwich ” and was immediately presented with images of women who society has decided are too thin, women whose bodies have been the subject of conversation for so long that you can hardly blame them for doing everything in their power to become invisible. We’ve gone that to them!
It’s hard not to “take back” this meme. It’s hard not to flood the internet with the same photo, only this time captioned simply as: human, beautiful, woman, model, etc. It’s hard, but I think it’s important not to. Instead I think the real power comes in our face to face interactions with each other, in treating each other well, in making it clear that our bodies are not available for judgement at the hands of others, or ourselves.
Because, while it is very easy to be an asshole when no one is looking, it is also exceptionally easy not to be one.
Has your body ever been the subject of a stranger’s judgment? Have you gone toe-to-toe with internet assholes? What can we do to begin to solve the problem of how we talk about women’s bodies? I guess this wasn’t as funny as my usual stuff, but good god damn this stuff makes me angry! How about you? TO THE COMMENTS LOVELIES!