Feminist memes: Intersectional activism through humour


In the face of macho violence 2.0, feminist memes are making advances. Strategies based on online sorority, resistance and humour are essential nowadays. As claimed by l’Etnográfica, an association created to bring an anthropological perspective to society.Today we talk to Rosa Frasquet,, journalist, anthropologist and founding member of l’Etnográfica about feminist and intersectional memes. What are they and why are they so successful?

A life  associated with  networks and forums offers a wide range of possibilities but also exposes us to certain risks, such as online violence. Why is online sorority so necessary and why is it so intersectional?

For us, it is important to stress that, in the current context, feminist cyberactivism must be carried out and that this feminism must be intersectional, that is, it must reflect the diversity of women and the violence that crosses us, which is made up of machismo, but also racism, classism… In Barcelona, there is a tradition of collectives that carry out feminist cyberactivism and that claim the reappropriation of memes and laughter, such as Memes Feministas, or collectives that work for the inclusion of women in digital environments and that denounce sexist violence on the Internet, such as Donestech.

Initiatives and activism that counteract the misogynist and anti-feminist discourses of the manosphere (masculinised internet space), and the predominance of homophobic and sexist humour. The subject of this humour and the one who says his own is usually the white, heterosexual, middle-class male. It seems that humour is only masculine and so is technology, and we believe it is necessary to appropriate technological knowledge and the powerful language of memes.

And when we say intersectional it is because within feminism there is a diversity of women and non-hegemonic subjects. And this humour, this reappropriation has to represent the existing diversity. The intersectional discourse is increasingly present but sometimes it is difficult to ground it and become aware of one’s own privileges.

What role does humour play in the activism you propose?

We see humour as a discourse, a way of conveying ideas and as a strategy to communicate. We want to focus on the question of who has the power to make humour and who generates discourse and plays the cultural keys.

This type of activism also serves to weave complicities, because through humour, mockery, or ridicule, we share experiences, we connect with others; especially if there are common experiences. It’s very powerful to talk about oppressions collectively and to find a place for criticism and to laugh with the people you’re doing a meme workshop with. The “this happens to me too” makes us share the catharsis. When you create memes, your own experience shows that ‘the personal is political’.

Why do memes work so well, and what is it about their format that makes them viral?

A meme is a minimal structure of cultural meaning. We are talking about an image accompanied by a simple phrase and it is very easy to convey messages quickly. Memes are increasingly linked to current affairs and one can be made about almost any subject.

For us, it’s about transferring the issues of feminist debates to the language of memes and spreading the message to as many people as possible. It’s a very easy language to learn, and once you start to understand how it works and create memes it’s non-stop. It’s a cool tool for creating political discourse, but at the same time there’s something spontaneous about it.

At the end of April you are offering an online workshop on intersectional feminist memes at the Espai Societat Oberta. Who do you recommend this workshop to and why?

The workshop is designed for people of very different ages and from very different backgrounds. The idea is for it to be an open space in which to share experiences and bring knowledge together, to break down the technological barrier and for anyone with an interest to come.

We want to make the language of memes accessible and for there to be many different voices on power relations. Because women go through different situations of oppression and we want there to be a diversity of voices to make the workshop as intersectional as possible. Feminism is not only about patriarchy, it is also about racism, homophobia, lesbophobia, etc.

If you are also interested in memes, you can register here for the intersectional feminist memes workshop organised by l’Etnográfica in April in the Espai Societat Oberta. And don’t miss the exhibition and talk #SonelsPrivilegis during which they will show 11 posters made with collective memes from previous workshops that illustrate different situations of oppression.

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