Feminism/ Gender Analysis – Internet Memes

Recently there has been memes circulating over the Internet on popular social media websites. Memes are short phrases or words that represents a certain cultural/ popular idea or symbol. These are used to spread the popular idea across the Internet, usually to draw attention or make a particular statement. I have chosen to do a feminist analysis on popular and constantly circulating meme’s. Currently on various websites such as, Reddit.com, and 9gag.com, memes that have the basic ideology that all women belongs in the kitchen and should be doing everything that involved cooking and housework. Such ideology is spread across North American websites and is seen by the general public, specifically the people who visit such websites. However, memes are also starting to be posted by adults, young adults, and teenagers on social media websites, such as Facebook. The messages of these memes enforces the idea of women should be stay-at-home mothers, and obeying the orders of men. This ideal women, is portrayed as desirable for men and women should act like this in society. It challenges the idea that women now are able and is acceptable to accomplish tasks outside the kitchen and home.

Behaviours and beliefs of these texts reinforces the idea of a women’s role is in the kitchen is normal, appropriate and should be desired. Where as the role of the men should be ordering the women to cook for them in the kitchen while they go out work, and/or have fun. In the first meme, “NO… you make me a sandwich”, it challenges the masculine hegemony in the form of the woman rebelling against the man’s order of making him a sandwich (being the most common form of food in memes that reinforces the role of the woman), and also using violence to ultimately make a statement. In this meme the woman’s role can be presented depending on how the audience’s view is. If viewed from a cultural feminist perspective both the man and the woman are capable in making “the sandwich”, and why should the woman be the only one making it. It offers a blatant, preferred reading as women are stereotyped with the feminine skills of cooking and cleaning in particularly at home. In this meme the woman is portrayed as the model and other women should want to be like this and rebel against the idea of making a sandwich for the men.

In a second meme, “WOMEN, know your place”, it is presented as normal, appropriate, and should be desirable for the women to always be in the kitchen. Here the woman, including the daughter, is portrayed as being happy while washing the dishes and watching her husband/father and son/brother play games and resting, and while the woman and the daughter is present in the kitchen. Also this included an occluded preferred reading, as there is not a direct message that women should look like this in the kitchen. The message, when viewed with a radical feminist perspective, emphasizes that women should not only be in the kitchen, but should look “happy” while being in their supposed place. It should be normal for a woman to look like this and act like this, which will create the “Perfect woman” for men. It demonstrates that the female audience should want to be like the woman on the game box, and a happy family would result from such roles. Also this enforces the hegemony that women are cookers, cleaners, and caregivers, while the men of the household is allowed time to relax.

With further research on the game box design and year of release, it is found that it was, and still is, the popular board game Battleship. This particular version of it was released in 1967, advertised “for all ages 8 to adult” (Isreal, 2011). During this period it was the third wave feminism, and during this time it was argued and had been focused on providing equal rights for both men and women. Also for the women to break out of the stereotype of being oppressed into their supposed roles. The audiences for this game would mostly likely be for the “white, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual people” (Sellnow, 92). This cover for the game reinforces the idea that this is a family game, but with the underlying message of women should enjoy watching from the sidelines.

Therefore in the first meme, the role of the women is reversed and rebelled against. The message that both the male and female audience may receive is that, cooking should and could be done by men and women. The ideology of women cooking for men is portrayed as undesirable and it challenges the status quo of women in society. Where as in the second meme the message is perceived that it should be normal for women to be in the kitchen, and also desirable to look “happy” while being in the kitchen. She is portrayed as taking the traditional role for women. The potential implication on society from this meme may be women are to act in this role and belong in the kitchen. As opposed to the first meme where the implication may be that women should rebel against the stereotype. Feminism has been a struggle for many years. Memes like the second one would only create a larger barrier, as it only enforces the ideology of the traditional women. With memes like the second one it breaks down some of the barrier as it provides a message that women can rebel against the society’s stereotype.

David K. Isreal “10 Awesome Paintings of Old Board Games” Mental_Floss. Mental_Floss, 1 Sept. 2011. Web. 6 Feb. 2012.

Sellnow, Deanna.The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. California: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2010. Print.

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2 thoughts on “Feminism/ Gender Analysis – Internet Memes

  1. Blog Review: Onie Tam on Feminst Perspective: Internet Memes
    By: Jackie Mahoney

    Onie`s review of the internet memes is a very interesting choice, and while she brings up many good points regarding the feminist perspective that these memes take, she is missing out on a very important detail. The meme “No, you make me a sandwich,“ does indeed reinforce masculine hegemony. However, this meme is a part of the recent uprising in a fad known as “retro feminism` which uses advertisements with common pictures of women from the 1950`s doing household chores or basically reinforcing their status as lower than the males to subtextually reinforce masculine hegemony. In these ads, the sexism is so blatantly obvious that the viewer is meant to think that the advertisers are being comedic in their portrayal of these women. However, all these advertisements really do is reinforce the masculine hegemony of women`s place being in the kitchen. Onie also brings up a very good point that what is seen as acceptable and desirable in a woman is for them to be taking their position in the kitchen. The second meme does indeed support this idea, as these women are viewed as enjoying doing the dishes while they watch the men enjoy their game. The men are also viewed as seeing the tasks of these women as acceptable, because this looks like a regular night in the family’s home. The first meme, however, as Onie has said, opposes this. Here, the woman is going against the acceptable and desirable view of the woman and saying no to being forced into doing traditionally acceptable ‘female’ tasks. Onie is also right in that the meme that she picked does indeed oppose masculine hegemony. This is because it is in the style of 1950`s cartoons, which reminds the audience of the retro feminist “make me a sandwich, woman“ cartoons, but then rejects the hegemony that those cartoons supported.

  2. this is amazing. Thank goodness someone else wrote about it. Mind if i link to this on my post? My posts go up on sundays and I was going to write about the same thing this week! x

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