When memes go wrong

Confession time: I am an avid meme consumer. I love memes, and my favorite ones tend to fall into the categories of “wholesome,” “absurdist,” “nihilistic,” and “queer jokes.” I have a folder on my desktop labeled “V Important” filled with meme screenshots, and my friends will tell you that I have a meme reaction for every situation (basically true).

Some examples of my favorite memes

However, sometimes people use this art form and beautiful linguistic expression to perpetuate some more questionable and disappointing aspects of society. One of these in particular that has been bothering me lately is the “Romphim” memes.

In case you haven’t seen it, the Romphim is a romper designed for men. Their company, according to the website, is founded on freedom of expression and stereotype-breaking, as well as rocking the boat through fashion.

Their branding is somewhat similar to Chubbies, another (primarily) men’s clothing company, on a superficial level. The websites have similar layout, products have similar names, and the energy of the websites (somewhat bro-y, with Chubbies being much more so) is similar. So why was one met with ridicule, and the other embraced?

Is it Romphim’s inclusive message? Is it that men are satisfied with their limited (and honestly sometimes terrible, as Chubbies will tell you about cargo shorts) clothing options? Is it that people are resisting the blurring of gender norms? Or, worse, is it another indicator that anything remotely feminine, especially when adopted by men, is really what society hates?

Granted, some of the memes are pretty hilarious:

But others are a little more concerning:

Street harassment, controlling relationships, heteronormative relations between men and women, fat-shaming, oh my.

What all of these have in common is that they’re taking scenarios that often happen between men and women (based on the content of the memes and how they enforce the traditional gender binary, we’re using that here) and flipping the genders.

Am I missing something? Why is it that feminizing men is funny?

All of a sudden, it’s funny that a man might be made uncomfortable because he’s being followed down the street because of how he’s dressed — in feminine, “provocative” clothing. It’s funny to stop being friends with someone because of what they’re wearing. It’s funny to joke about telling your S.O. what they can/can’t wear.

Then there’s the whole issues of other people saying they won’t take men seriously if they’re wearing a Romphim, or not being friends with someone anymore who is. This is just perpetuating gender norms about who can or can’t wear particular clothing items.

These kinds of memes are pretty damn indicative of what society as a whole thinks men and women should be doing (not to mention the fact that they’re saying that there are ~just~ men and women). Women are generally at liberty to wear “men’s” clothing, as androgynous styles tend to lean “masculine”, but men aren’t at the same liberty to wear “women’s” clothing without public ridicule.

It also shows us that a hell of a lot of people think feminizing men is funny. Why? Because deep down, they recognize that women don’t have the same societal power as men, no matter how many times they say that feminism isn’t necessary or the fight for equality is over.

That’s not funny at all.

Luckily, not all hope is lost.

Bottom line: While memes are a source of joy and humor, the ones we choose to circulate show a lot about how we see the world. Next time you see something funny and want to share it with everyone, take a second to make sure that what you’re sharing is in line the kind of person you’d like to be.

Looking for some wholesome memes and other content? Have some thoughts on the Romphim or comments on the article? Find me on Twitter!