Memes – images, videos or even ideas that are passed electronically from one Internet user to another – are quick to spread and also quick to fizzle. They inundate social networks. The success of memes can be dependent on timeliness, but they often seem to drop out of nowhere riding a shifting cultural mood or commenting on an existing one.
Usually memes take the form of an image that rapidly moves through social networks from person to person. Or they are a concept, often a running joke.
Someecards is a parody e-greeting card website that allows users to create their own memes. And, this is the format that people have used to create personal responses to current issues including the fight for reproductive rights. This particular e-card circulated after the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced they wouldn’t be directing funds to Planned Parenthood. (Before the about-face, of course.)
Celebrity heartthrob Ryan Gosling is the subject of his very own feminist meme, “Feminist Ryan Gosling,” created by Danielle Henderson initially as a study aid. Even though the actor had been known to say some pretty keen feminist tidbits in real life, the meme percolates society with greater strength. Most memes are tongue-in-cheek but, they are efficient in disseminating relevant information; providing a great method for niche communities to bring often esoteric discussions into the mainstream.
While people in the feminist community are mastering the laugh/drool combo over “Feminist Ryan Gosling,” it’s good to note the deeper value behind this meme. Memes spread important news in an accessible, empowering and funny way, which causes them to be passed around with higher frequency than hard news articles.
That’s the reason memes can be so successful. They relate a message that can often be creative, smart but also newsworthy.
The “Texts From Hillary” meme garnered attention at a time when women’s issues are becoming central to the political discussion. Women leaders advocating for women’s reproductive rights have been drawing more media attention. And, in this shift of discussion toward women’s health, it’s not surprising to see arguably the most powerful woman in the country being portrayed as a cool-minded badass.
The power of memes for the reproductive rights movement is the same we have with all forms of social media. They are tools to create easy-to-digest commentary on current issues that are generally frustrating to deal with. And, they are something we can all create, consume and distribute. While they are not long-lasting they do have a definite impact.