Cynical memes often put a smirk on my face well before I have analyzed them thoroughly, but when I do pause to analyze them thoroughly sometimes I AM super in favor of their grouchy sentiments. At first glance, I do want to be a grumpy cat. I do want to be furry and frown at things in love-able curmudgeon ways. And then, I seriously DO want both teams to lose during football season. I hope the hyper-masculinized, extravagant, modern day gladiatorial distractions from real issues to fall on their faces and people wake up and join our more thoughtful, harmonious, populist queer movements.
Memes (and emoticons, emojis, Tweets, etc.) in modern life often help us concisely spell out and then examine what it turns out that we actually are believing and enacting. Sometimes, the more positive, queer-seeming, encouraging memes are the least aligned with the actual boundaries, consent, and gender fluidity that we truly believe in. Our contemporary philosophy nuggets are sometimes more queerly apt when they are slightly caustic unicorns pooping rainbows, or sarcastic kittens with hearts for eyes, or tart, third-wave Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl … ,” about re-analyzing Foucault while eating lots of chocolate. It’s not that we shouldn’t be joyous and triumphant and heartfelt, it’s just that many of the saccharine memes hide messages — that are at best hollow, at worst dangerous — that we should always have our chins up and work harder for everyone but ourselves. I just think that we should prance, dance, and twirl while being extra bend-over-backwards careful not to level anti-self-care advice at those who are already more vulnerable in life. We better acknowledge our priviledges while also growing our spines, not shrinking them.
All of the following are from the last three months of 2015, and much of my ire is reserved for the memes that seem to say “Weird Is Good!”
At first we cheer for them. “Yeah! Wierd IS good! We are weird! And we are good! Everybody should be weird! Screw your norms, stereotypes, and xenophobia!” But wait. Which kinds of “weird” are we actually talking about? Because, we do unequivocally dislike un-examined norms and narrow-minded, exclusionary, pointless adherence to norms. But we are smart enough to know that every group of cool kids possesses group-norming, including us. Social norms exist for a reason, and we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There should never, ever, ever, be reduced access to human rights and basic resources based on even the most outrageous breakages from norms – like murder, rape, Wall Street fraud, etc. – but we do not and should not accept and promote all weirdness.
Perhaps I am being a bit persnickety here, having recently been abused by a proud queer, but phrases such as “don’t hate on my weirdness” are extremely easily used as queer gaslighting phrases. Like, “Hey, don’t be mad that I crossed all of your boundaries, was rude, was selfish, was un-supportive, was XYZ … It’s just me being my weird self. Don’t hate my weirdness. Don’t hate my wild, queer ways.”
I LOVE our queer freak flags, but I think maybe we need to be more specific, and say such things as, “We love fat, wild hair, and well-articulated desires between consenting adults, but we do not accept you blasting weirdness all over us,” lest it lead to such memes as:
Guess what. Just because we are queer, feminist, trans radicals doesn’t mean that we don’t have flaws to address as human beings. Stop disowning your flaws as part of the righteous weird that you expect everyone to accept. It is not charming that we rely so heavily on alcohol and other altering substances. It is not delightful that we operate on “Gay Standard Time,” … always late. And plenty of our weirdness gets worse than that. It is abhorrent that any of us might request that anyone who love us see us as completely perfect with no potential to become dangerous when we don’t acknowledge the moments when we are actually wrong. We deeply need, as a movement and individuals, to be able to confess our misteps, errors, and annoying quirks and make serious amends, before errors lead us to demand acceptance of our horrific “dark shadows.”
Our darkest shadows are not our physical pains or our history of trauma or our well-managed disorders or our clearly articulated boundaries or clear, concrete consenual desires. Our worst shadows are our un-examined, untreated, un-dealt-with, un-controlled actions that effect others against their will.
None of us should subject others or be subjected to another’s darkest shadows for long and without massive apology and self-change. When we reveal our darkest shadows, we should not expect immediate forgiveness, forgetfulness, and certainly not assert that friends and family prove their love by staying up close and personal to our worst shadows. That would not be us queerly accepting a small, lovely piece of thoughtful wierdness, that would be us becoming abusive, predatory, and harmful. We should, in fact, be encouraged to do the exact opposite. When you recognize that someone is hefting their darkest shadows on to you – run like hell. “I am so sorry that your darkest shadows turned out to be unwavering selfishness, sleeping through the day without concern, having massive breaks from reality, not being nice to me, banning me from opening windows or adjusting thermostatts, etc., …. Peace. I’m out.”
Otherwise, we may begin to justify being burried, in the name of being understanding:
Yeah, sometimes you have been planted … in a dark hole or a terrible situation, by an abusive turd that you should flee, not patiently assist with your beautiful ability to sprout. Get the fuck out of there.
Overthinking is not our biggest problem. Oppressive jerks who do not assess or take actions on account of their privileges or un-examined flaws are our biggest problem. And it is ok to occupy our minds with them until we have found away out of the poop pile.
You do not need to think positively while someone is heaping and heaping a giant pile of dung on your head. Go ahead and think negative things about that person, and use those thoughts to create action that gets you out of there. You are not required by being queer to support selfish ninnies who return none of the favors that keep you busy. Please, pause to allow yourself to think negatively about jerks.
We must, must, must acknowledge our own privileges and be grateful for the ways in which we have not been cursed by circumstance, and please, for the love of everything notice when we are the guilty party profiting from others’ misfortune, oppression, or otherwise squashing. But we must not misinterpret this in order to level too, too, tooooooo much self-reflection at those of us who already doing more than the lion’s share of emotional, empathetic, and social justice heavy work.
There are parties in this world who need to do better jobs of filling all relationship boxes and tending to connections and sensitivities. Pause. Assess who in the situation has more power and privilege. Only post and direct memes, theories, philosophies at or about the big cat on top. Do not encourage the vulnerable folks on the bottom to keep overflowing their boxes while begging for scraps. Each meme like this must from now on, read: “To: the relationship slacker who doesn’t already put in way too much effort.”
Otherwise, we delve right into crap advice like this, aimed at the vulnerable, with the goal of retaining something that is clearly causing big distress:
Bullshit. Only build trust with those who deserve it. Only be there for those who return your efforts. Make sure that someone is making time for you before you give them all of yours. Don’t forget how this current situation is similar to past mistreatment. Not all arguments are “normal.” Expect either change or to leave. Do not appreciate another’s flaws that hurt you. Only become best friends with someone who is returning your efforts. Do not, under any circumstances love unconditionally, at least not at close range. Life is conditional. Get the fuck out of there.
We pretend that these ideas are obvious an juevenile, or silly and only fit for self-help books, … but then we educated queers post crap memes that say the opposite. If you find yourself needing this much varying advice all at one time, something is far more wrong than an enabling meme can handle. You better go find some drastic changes instead of pointing this cannon at someone else vulnerable. Stop posting the advice that anybody should stick with something shitty for longer. Advice such as this is not queer and accepting of tiny, awesome weirdness – this is telling someone in desperate trouble to dive in deeper.
Likewise, while forgiveness is divine, NOT holding onto anger over serious mistreatment does in fact hurt a person. If someone is NOT sorry, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’re trying to forgive someone who has trouble with empathy, perspective-taking, and important social contracts. They need to self-assess, get sorry, make change, and THEN embrace their tiny pieces of weirdness that don’t hurt other people.
When you say or shout these sentiments or other long lost, self-spine-ing things to a person in your life who does not want you to stand up for yourself, they may begin to gaslight you, including with memes or similar sentiments. And the trouble with gaslighting is that they will tell you that YOU are doing it.
The aggressive, boundary-crossing party in your life may try to tell you that they no longer need to ask for permission, further muddying consent:
Many pieces of feminist, queer, neuro-atypical, patient-centered, and otherwise empathetic and progressive memes are perfectly suited to being used against real victims/survivors by anyone who is vicious or narcissistic enough to abuse or who already struggles with impulse control and self-evaluation. Many of the phrases and memes that gaslighters turn on their less privileged, less powerful subjects are tactics that less privileged, less powerful loved ones beg of someone experiencing a mental health crisis, new DSM diagnosis, addiction, or other self-unaware emergency that affects others deeply and dangerously.
Pause. Assess who had the privileges here. Check all of your own serious flaws. Run them past your trusted safety network. If the answer is that you are repeatedly being taken advantage of, get out of there and don’t let another meme or the dirt bag in your life call you negative for acting, asking, or commenting against their un-examined, un-addressed, continuing bullshit.
It’s ok to look after your future happiness by leaving or demanding change when someone in the present is pooping on you. Even if they tell you that you’re being really negative in the present moment.
Screw you, pseudo-positivity. I’m trying to ditch this presently sucky condition. If you’re not happy in the present, go ahead and work away from the buttheads and towards your happy future that you are designing.
It’s ok to ask someonewho is negatively impacting you to take occasional, professional tests that are aimed at helping them become functional human beings who would be deserving of your understanding and who wouldn’t poop all over you with their unaddressed deficits. It is ok to expect someone to meet some standards:
Sometimes, those with really intelligent and brilliant minds need to practice mindfulness and empathy.
It’s ok not to be open-minded about a jerk farting in your mouth after you’ve asked them not to. You do not have to be open-minded about assholes living in your personal bubble and treading all over you.
It’s ok to comment, think through, or leave a shit pool when somebody sucks. You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions. You are allowed to feel negatively about that kind of weirdness.
If we’re going to post memes all over the place, and if we want to actually celebrate diversity, thoughtful weirdness, and examined atypical behaviors, let’s toss some out there that aren’t so easily gaslit and turned against those of us who already do acknowledge our own privileges and tackle our own BS:
Acknowledge your privileges and only hang out with those who do the same.
You don’t have to agree with everybody, but don’t believe that you’re wrong if you can see them looming over you in society. Don’t tell jerks that they don’t have the right to exist. It’s ok if you want to love them from afar. Far, far away.
It’s ok to call out or walk away from oppressors even as they stomp their feet and point their fingers at you for your rebuttals.
Notice what it is that makes certain people stomp their feet, space yourself accordingly far away. Don’t try to be positive and overlook serious red flags in the name of being weird.
You do not have to remain so, so, soooooo thoughtful that you never ever use expletives against actual fools. While you should not level them willy nilly, you should sometimes stand up for yourself. Get comfortable with whom you believe to be fools. Notice it. Examine it. Do not stay in the fools’ places with them.
If you were too, too, toooooo understanding in the first place, allow yourself to recover. Provide some self care instead of only care for others.
We can embrace lust, desire, and sparkles up the wazoo without becoming slaves to them and never noticing what kind of person with which kind of actions are beneath the surface.
It is ok to say so when you have a sword in your neck.
Sometimes, the really valid reason to be negative for a moment is that somebody has been a jerk to you.
Don’t beat yourself up. Notice whose bad decisions are making you sad and begin working to get away from them. Take a break from them and their poop.
We should sometimes have flowery, cheesy, genuine, sentimental self-care memes that a Second Wave lesbian would say over hot herbal tea:
And then don’t let somebody with more privilege than you use it against you. It’s ok to have memes that might get called out like Second Wave righteous anger. It’s still ok to notice gender inequality in self-care:
We should all follow this advice, not the advice of those who blast themselves in our faces:
No more keeping quiet on behalf of those who happen to not only be funny weirdos but who are also embarrassed by their drunken abuses. No more overlooking giant red flags when everyone is suspicious but is waiting for our either A.) justification and defense or B.) confirmation or announcement that someone has been awful to us. No more memes that ask us to fill our boxes with positivism and secrets. NO more cramming these things down our throats. Just endless memes about getting out of there and standing up for ourselves instead of others.
But really, just this comic. This is the best comic I have ever seen. Not just for illustrating the use of consent in sexual situations, but for all situations. If somebody in your life can’t follow these guidelines or quickly and easily be shown these guidelines for most topics, get the hell out of there.
You don’t always have to be supportive, positive, and minimal. Sometimes, GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!
*** I have not credited any of these memes to their makers, both due to unreliable claims of creation and so as to not implicate actual creators with my opinions. ***