Amidst the rise of Trump, intersectional feminist Instagram accounts are seizing the memes of production and reclaiming virtual space.
In recent months, the white supremacist neo-nazi “Alt-Right” movement has boasted online that it has not only popularized Trump as a political figure but has also lead to him being elected as President of the United States through memes. While the factual basis of these claims remain unsubstantiated, what is evident is that memes are used to share and exchange cultural phenomena in online communities hinging on each end of the political spectrum.
Whether it’s the Alt-Right corner of 4Chan or Bernie Sanders Dank Meme Stash, so-called “dank memes” utilizing abstract humour and political discourse are impacting the world around us. By using Instagram as a platform to share memes about intersectional feminism and mental health, users like GothShakira, SensualMemes and Scariest_Bug_Ever are generating content that allows us to feel that we belong somewhere in the virtual realm and that there are others like us.
Navigating the online world can be difficult with the ongoing barrage of sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist memes that are spewed out from anonymous posters with little to no repercussions. For many, being on the Internet is inherently triggering in that there are few spaces in which one can feel safe to occupy without persecution for simply not wanting to participate in oppressive behavior or even mentioning that it exists.
GothShakira, SensualMemes and Scariest_Bug_Ever are all Instagram accounts with over ten thousand followers which demonstrates that there is indeed a segment of the Internet that yearns for intersectional, feminist and—yes—dank memes. In becoming meme-makers, these Instagram users are participating in a powerful internet culture artform that allows them to connect with a broad audience. Memes posted on these accounts deconstruct and criticize problematic discourse and are used to process and reflect on mental health and the real world experiences of women, people of color and other marginalized communities.
These memes are not only transcendent but cathartic. We send them to one another and allow them to do the talking for us. A simple response of “same” can sum up everything we have been thinking and feeling but have not been in an emotional state to share outright. Intersectional feminist Instagrammers provide us with the memes through which to express ourselves and to respond to the world at-large.
A significant portion of the Internet dedicates itself to mobilizing against the left with purely reactionary intent. A lot of the time, the Alt-Right simply wants to see what would happen if we lived in a world where Trump has been elected president without having any real stake in such a political outcome other than to continue oppressing marginalized communities. The left is painted as being home to a host of overly offended, politically correct cry-babies who have nothing better to do than complain. But oppression is not a laughing matter, nor is it something to be taken lightly. Instead of mocking those at a disadvantage, intersectional feminist Instagrammers fight back by smashing the cisheteropatriarchy and decolonizing the whiteness of dank meme stashes. Before accounts like these existed, finding a meme community to identify with as a feminist, a woman, a person of color or an LGBT person was far more difficult.
Memes are found in every corner of the Internet and are used to express every imaginable concept and idea. By seizing the memes of production, feminist Instagram accounts are creating wholesome content used for self-love, recognition of diversity, destigmatization of mental health, meaningful dialogue about intersectional feminism and the allowance for emotional release—all of which continue to disrupt and unsettle the Internet.