Sunday, November 6, 2011

Facebook Hell

Does anyone else feel like they’re in facebook hell? American has suddenly learned of the power of overly-sentimental, sexist mottos and memes and has decided to share them with EVERYONE through the worlds most powerful tool…facebook.

For instance, yesterday, this popped up on my newsfeed:

Seriously, I think I need to delete my facebook account. This little gem of "gender difference" pissed me off. Any men out there insulted by this? Well, you have every right to be. This absurd journal entry is insulting to men because we all know loads of men who are conscientious and sensitive and who legitimately care for the people around them (and even if they do have motorcycle, would still notice their wife crying). Why promote stereotypes that show women as overly-emotional children and men as unfeeling giants?

Well, perhaps her husband didn’t notice his wife crying because women do it ALL THE TIME apparently. This fascinating piece of prose has also been floating around facebook:

A little boy asked his mother, "Why are you crying?" "Because I'm a woman," she told him.

"I don't understand," he said. His Mom just hugged him and said, "And you never will."

Later the little boy asked his father, "Why does mother seem to cry for no reason?"

"All women cry for no reason," was all his dad could say.

The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry.

Finally he put in a call to God. When God got on the phone, he asked, "God, why do women cry so easily?"

God said, "When I made the woman she had to be special.

I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world,

yet gentle enough to give comfort.

I gave her an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times comes from her children.

I gave her a hardness that allows her to keep going when everyone else gives up, and take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining.

I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances, even when her child has hurt her very badly.

I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.

I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.

And finally, I gave her a tear to shed. This is hers exclusively to use whenever it is needed."

"You see my son," said God, "the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart - the place where love resides."

You now have two choices. Like this photo and move on with your life
Share this photo on your wall as a tribute to all the women in your life.”

I love it that in this meme, the only people who are worth anything are, way to be exclusive....except while women are super special, being one must suck since it seems like everyone has the right to treat her like crap (according to the author anyway).

Oh, and I guess all women understand the eternal truths of, “I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.
I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.” Gee, I’m so grateful that I was made to protect my husbands heart and I’m so glad he has a free pass from God to be a jerk to me, because well, he’s just testing my resolve and commitment to him.

Really, to whoever invented this thing, can you not see how problematic what you wrote is? And WHY did you choose a picture of Casey Anthony of all people to represent the beauties of womanhood? 99% of America is convinced this woman murdered her child…don’t you think you might be sending a mixed message here?

But yet, the madness continues!

"Yes, I'm a female. I push doors that clearly say PULL. I laugh harder when I try to explain why I'm laughing. I walk into a room and forget why I was there. I count on my fingers. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I say it is a long story, when it really is not, just to get out of having to tell it. I cry a lot more than you think I do. I care about people who don't care about me. I am strong because I have to be, not because I want to be. I listen to you, even when you don't listen to me. And a hug will always help. Yes, I'm a girl!!!!! Re-post if you're a girl and proud to be one"

Because it’s not enough to be a compulsive crier, women are also bad at math, can’t read and are super proud of the fact that we love to be emotionally abused….oh wait, I don’t like being emotionally abused. Does this mean I’m not a woman?

And it’s not enough to love being abused as a woman, but men should love it too!

True men adore it when their loved ones treat them like crap and a true woman is demanding, whiny, clingy and abusive. Isn’t this sweet? Also, what in the hell are "car directions" and since when did use of the remote make you an adult?

Wait! Don’t stop reading and go bang your head against a wall yet, I have more!

Instead of just ragging on men and women and creating absurd stereotypes, let’s also set up destructive mottoes for relationships because jealousy is always a good mark of a healthy, functioning relationship. It’s also a nice determiner of masculinity and maturity.

I also love how truly practical many of the memes are…would you like to test the fidelity of your spouse and partner? Well step right up, because it’s easy to do! All you need is a trunk, your loved one and a dog.

Thanks facebook for teaching me all things I ever needed to know about being a man, a woman and in a successful relationship.

Ok, back to reality now, I really don’t blame facebook. It’s not Mark Zuckerberg’s fault that the rest of the world likes really stupid memes and has decided to share them on his internet site; Pinterest contributes as well (damn you internet!).

To me, while these cutesy little mottoes are problematic, the bigger issue here is that no one seems to see them as problematic. People are posting this left and right and hailing them as adorable pictures and worthwhile advice. What has happened to our society that hurtful, mindless kitsch has become something to, not only be admired, but shared?

To my mind, the problem is logic. Our society values the kitschy and, supposedly, heartwarming over thoughtful consideration. If people would take the time to really consider what it is that they're reading I think a lot of people would realize the underlying message that's really being conveyed. Ours is a society of thoughtless speed; it's time that we took a few minutes to consider the consequences of what we view and share on the internet.


  1. Just to add to the irony of that gentleman vs. boy thing - notice how the woman remains a "girl" in either scenario? Also notice how she stays in the relationship no matter how he treats her, as if we're just stuck with what we get and have no recourse for leaving?

  2. I was one who posted the first picture on my facebook. Perhaps you saw it from my feed, I'm not sure. It clearly portrays the stereotypes of both men and women. I'm fully aware of that.

    I found it amusing because my wife and I have struggled through similar times. She at times internalizes messages that I don't intend to send. I am not always as communicative as she would like. We've both learned to better understand one another and to communicate more effectively. We still laugh at the misunderstandings we've had in the past. I shared it because I thought others might find amusement in laughing at themselves and their own shortcomings.

    I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone. I definitely don't believe the stereotype applies to all people. In fact, I would say the stereotype doesn't apply to anyone all of the time. But for me, it brings up memories of the few times the stereotype has applied to me and my wife. I laugh at how foolish I have been and I smile when I think of how we've grown together.

    I apologize that it brought different emotions to you.

  3. Thanks for commenting Jeff...I had several fb friends post the first meme, so I don't remember who I grabbed it from. We're glad you could join the discussion though.

    The reason I brought it up here is because I think that the stereotype can be really damaging, not because the couple had communication issues, because everyone has those, that's just part of being human, but because of the way it paints men and women.

    I think that both genders struggle equally with over-analyzing and being too focused on their own issues...for me, when the stereotypes are used in this context and passed around so freely, it seems to rather condone and create certain behaviors instead of help fix them.

    Many of the women I know are incredibly analytical and logical and I also know lots of men who are sensitive and extremely communicative, I think it's destructive to tell women that they're always overly-emotional and tell men that they never pay attention to the women in their life. To my mind, it sets up a bad precedence and encourages gender roles and stereotypes, instead of letting us move past them as a society.

  4. A note in defense of the gentleman/boy image, as it's one I've posted myself.

    This really has nothing to do with gender at all, I think - rather, it is about trust in relationships and treating your partner with respect, both of which are things I believe every feminist should strive for. The image is NOT suggesting that "girls" are stuck in relationships no matter how a guy treats her - in fact, I cannot see ANY way you could pull that out of the image presented, without the accompanying angry blog post - and the use of the word "girl" is not here meant derogatorily, especially considering the fact that it doesn't differentiate between women who are with jerks and women who with gentleman. You may disagree with the use of the term "girl" generally as an identifier of a romantic partner, I guess. But that seems a bit ridiculous to me to use those grounds to critique an image that is trying to say that jealousy ISN'T part of a healthy relationship. The point of that image is that you should be so kind, respectful, and good to your partner that they have no reason to be jealous, and others who see you will want that same kind of treatment. And WHAT in that is perpetuating a male stereotype? Last time I checked, "macho" men aren't generally thought of as kind, respectful people who treat their partners with love.

    For the record, when I saw this reposted by friends of mine, one of the girls said, "This goes for the ladies too..." - again, it's not received as a gendered thing.

    I agree with you completely about a rash of insensitive, inappropriate and frankly offensive stuff being passed around on facebook - the things you have presented are excellent examples, as are a string of sexist jokes I find offensive.

    That said, when you critique something, make sure it fits your overall point and that it's not just on the same theme - attacking this image lessened your credibility with me. There are a lot bigger fish to fry - like the other things you presented! - than someone's use of the word "girl," especially considering the positive message AGAINST jealousy and cause for it in relationships. This type of image, in general, encourages men to treat women more as people (whom one should treat well and to whom one should be loyal) than as sexual objets. And you have a problem with that?

    You have a lot of valid comments here, and I agree with your article overall, but I feel like you are bashing something that is putting forward a good message with the gentleman image, and I don't buy your justification of the attack. In that regard, it makes your last statement pretty ironic - how much thought and time did YOU give the gentleman comment? Because you aren't interpreting it at all the way I've seen everyone else interpret it, I can't follow your logic in interpretation, and I'm saying this despite the fact that I AGREE WITH YOU ON ALL YOUR OTHER POINTS.

  5. Brett,

    in regards to the gentleman jealously meme, I actually pulled that one from another feminists site that also found it offensive, so I'm not the only one seeing it as problematic (and men and women were a part of the discussion against on that site).

    I have to say that I love Emily's comment in regards to it and that I totally agree with her! The meme does indicate an initializing of women to me, in that women in this relationship are acted upon, not contributing partners. I think it also shows a problematic case of possession for me--I feel like I see the language of "his" "hers" and "makes" as one in which are trophies or toys for the person they're with at the time, to be treated however that person wants--though you're right, it is trying to say that men should treat "girls" nicely.

    I feel like I should point out here, that the meme is definitely one that is presented as a gendered argument...consider the pronouns used. However, were you to reverse the meme and make it say "A girl makes her boy jealous of other boys, but a lady makes other boys jealous of her boy" it would still be problematic for me.

    Also, I still have a problem with the use of jealousy here. I think that there are better determiners of a healthy relationship than whether others are jealous of them. Jealousy in my book is still a negative, and just because you present a pretty face to the public, does not mean you treat your partner respectfully in private.

    This meme is still operating off a set of values about "looking good" for society and acting upon your spouse or partner.

    I'm sorry if I wasn't as clear about why I find the meme problematic in my post.

  6. Ack...sorry I meant infantalizing, not initializing...

  7. Just the word "girl" is infantalizing by itself. Girls are children. Women/ladies are adults. Perhaps in another meme, this wouldn't stick out as much - but the meme is specifically differentiating between "boy" (child) and "man" (adult).

    AND women feature in the meme as well - as agents being either jealous or not jealous. The suggestion here is that women in relationships are always "girls" in comparison to males, whether those males are boys or men. And that's a problem. Sure, you could argue that it's a problem of semantics, and it probably is, but semantic issues point to underlying cultural stuff, and feminism (as I understand it) is after the underlying cultural stuff more than it is after specific behaviors. Changing behaviors doesn't help much; changing root causes does.

  8. Fair responses. To be honest, I came back today to apologize for the emotional content of my post - it was more aggressive than I would like to be, and I apologize if it was offensive.

    The infantilizing argument is a good one, and reversing the genders and using the word "boy" DOES rankle for me, so I can give you that.

    That said, I think there is a lot of extrapolation going on here that is not necessarily justified. I don't think the image is commenting on the "acted upon" partner in the relationship at all - I cannot read into it a guarantee that the gentleman will maintain his relationship. You have a fair point in the "Acted upon" vs. active partner argument as well, but again, I cannot see how the meme is inteded to be directed at both partners. Rather, it is instructing one partner to behave in such a way - at least to appear to others - that is desirable. And, in that case, the possesive IS appropriate - it's a specifying referent, not an indicator of a power relationship. If I may make my point clear, how else would one indicate the person with whom one was romantially involved, without the use of a possessive pronoun, in English, in that sentence?

    Additionally, I cannot make the step I feel you take to assume that "looking good for others" automatically means that behavior is insincere. The meme doesn't specify how others become "jealous" (which word I'll return to)- and that lack of specificity, I feel, eliminates a lot of the potential for the insincerity mentioned earlier. If a woman is talking to her friends about a relationship, shouldn't the gentleman be acting in such a way that she would want to and, when entirely out of his control, want to give a good report of him to others? I don't find support for the assumption of insincerity.

    I think part the cleverness of the meme in question is that it uses an equivocation of the word "jealousy," which has a spectrum of meanings. The first one, as I read it, definitely implies the standard meaning: in Swedish, we'd use the word "svårtsjuk" - distrust of the partner's loyalty (presumably based on disloyal behavior), distrust of others, and a sort of fearful and controlling "possesion" of the other person. (And I agree with you that "possessing" one's partner is a bad thing! BUt I think that's connected to the first word "jealousy," rather than to the word "his.")

    The second use, though, cannot refer to that kind of jealousy, because it is "jealousy" by people who don't possess anything in question. The worst interpretation I can take from the second line is that of envy - being angry at someone else because they have something you don't. But jealousy also includes the lighter, "I'm jealous (spoken directly to a friend)" kind of meaning that is a lot closer to admiration.

    I guess it's a question of interpretation primarily - I was complimented a lot on that post by men and women, who thought it was a graceful reminder that, first, one is primarily responsible for one's own behavior in a relationship; therefore, one should not give one's partner cause for jealousy, but instead cause for appreciation and good report.

    As per the underlying themes - again, I think that is a matter of interpretation; I and those who enjoyed that meme -even after thinking it through - didn't find it sexist at all, but rather a call for respect and compassion in relationships. If it is a good thing expressed poorly, I would far prefer a inoffensive option (this is good, but I have these problems with it, and it would have been better if...) rather than a categorical rejection of it, or those who enjoy it.

    Thank you for your responses! They were both reasoned and respectful, and I again apologize for the aspects of my first response that were not.

  9. Brett, I think the point where Rachel and I aren't seeing eye-to-eye with you stems from what it is we're critiquing, as opposed to what you're defending. See, we're critiquing these memes as part of an overall pattern of communication. I didn't point out the "girl" thing randomly - as Crystal pointed out, it's highlighted by the progression of boy to man, but it's something I've noticed all over the place, and it troubles me when people take pairs of words like boy/girl, man/woman and mix them up so you have man/girl - why? because when it happens consistently, it stands out as a sign that as a culture we don't value adult, mature qualities in women as much as we do in men.

    So yes, any of these memes on their own could just be funny or idiosyncratic, but as a whole, they paint a troubling pattern. Frankly, I found the joke about the dog funny, but only if you take it as a very sarcastic joke. And despite finding it amusing, I saw exactly why Rachel critiqued it and appreciated her critique.

  10. Not regarding the above comments, it seems you are just friends with the wrong people. Not Facebook's fault. If I come across a friend that posts that crap, I just block their status updates or unfriend them. Usually, they're not really friends IRL anyhow.

  11. i understand why you take offense at those things. to me, it seems like most of these things are jokes or generalities. the jokes you can't take serious, because they aren't meant to be; the generalities are like stereotypes--of course they aren't true for all, but they fit often (or often enough) to be said.

    as for the negative points it makes towards men, i don't care at all. but i think that women have a more difficult situation than men. their role has been continually redefined, and for centuries they have been underappreciated as people, and their thoughts and ideas have been belittled.

    so my question is, do you find the memes offensive, or does it just make you mad when women allow themselves to be generalized and buy into these ideas (like the 'repost this if you're a girl and proud to be one')?

    i hope that my thoughts are coming through clearly...

  12. It was cathartic for me to read this. I have many friends who have posted very similar memes, and it takes everything I've got not to start ranting and ruining relationships over it. But, it is a pernicious problem and I believe something needs to be said. Looks like I have something to re-post. ;) This is the worst I've ever seen (Literal objectification, much?)

  13. Jeremy,

    I think number two...It bothers me that women buy into this and sell themselves short alot of the times...That goes for men too.

    I think it's unfortunate that we live in a society where its considered cool and funny to just say, "Oh I'm a girl, I'm supposed to be bad at this" or "I'm a guy, I'm not supposed to listen".

    No, we're people. Some people are good at some things and bad at others. Some people are good listeners and some are bad...I think that the sooner that we can move towards to that idea, the sooner people will feel more comfortable with who they are.

    I love how much controversy this has kicked up--good discussion is what it's all about. I love it!

  14. rachel,

    i like that. it is true that people often use their gender stereotype as an excuse for bad behavior or lack of effort.

    and i also agree with you that it is awfully hard to describe the proper role of men and women, since each person and their circumstances are different.

    if you have a second, i would be interested in your thoughts regarding a post i made on my blog about gender equality, found here :

    i don't know if i have a completely solid opinion on the subject, but i love writing out my thoughts. i guess i am open to different points of view, and this sometimes causes me to change my mind. so rather than a firm opinion, i think that the post is more my musings on the subject than anything else.

  15. Jeremy,

    I'll definitely check it out. Perhaps I should point out though, that the word "role" in regards to gender is one that I don't ever really use.

    While there are biological roles, the father physically inseminates the mother and the mother physically gives birth to the child, I don't really believe that there are specific "roles" that each gender must fulfill.