It has been a week since we have suffered the blow of the American election, and despite the overwhelming push to stay calm and trust in the American system, Things Are Not Going Well. In the first week, we have seen the corners of the Internet previously relegated for Internet trolls summon those trolls to life on the incoming White House staff. We have seen completely unprecedented calls for racism, white nationalism, hate crimes, and the evil foreboding of deportation and concentration camps.
So why am I discussing this with you adorable readers, in your pinks and pastels and frills and laces? Well, because I believe there is something we can do about it. There is something we can all do about it, whether you have access to a fancy computer or simply apps on your smartphone. Okay, here is my advice to you: goshdarnit, make some damn memes.
Okay, stay with me here. This is not just armchair activism at work. I’m going to explain why memes matter.
When I wrote my original article on kawaii subversive, I talked about how pastel and kawaii subversive text wrapped feminism, trans and LGBT rights in the lovable aesthetic trend of kawaii, femme and soft grunge. Did these memes change the world? No. What they did do was foster an environment of tolerance, acceptance, defense and normalization of these topics. They made these topics cool, and trending, and at the very least, got you to share support for your fellow women, sisters and LGBT folk on your blog or Tumblr and Twitter feed. For every person who stands up, the culture shifts a little closer to where we would like it to be.
This election has been changed by Internet culture and millennial involvement more than we ever could have imagined, even since Barack Obama’s run in 2008 and 2012. What we saw in this election cycle is that social media has risen above that of standard journalism. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Tumblr are all at the cutting edge of how we communicate; the President-Elect’s Twitter has been the subject of more news scrutinizing than we ever could have imagined. (Read this article on how Facebook’s algorithms helped promote radicalized spaces during this election.) Fake news sites, hoaxes and false quotes spread with the strong power of the meme, an easily shared and digestible bite of information. I remember seeing false Hillary information about late-term abortions being shared through nothing more than a photograph with text. I remember the deluge of Bernie memes that fired up his base and encouraged a strong millennial presence. Even after the election, Biden/Obama bromance memes soothed the collective American psyche as we all made in-jokes at the expense of our new President-Elect.
Memes can spread information for calling your senators and state representatives. Memes can shame public figures, such as they were used to make sure no one forgets the name and face of rapist Brock Turner. Memes of celebrities and public figures can either lampoon them or celebrate them, cause relatability or distance. If memes gain enough popularity and interest, they can garner national attention, such as Pepe the Frog, or the Ice Bucket Challenge. Millennial communication through memes and social media channels does not make our voices any less valid by our chosen venue.
What we need, and what the kawaii and youthful Internet culture can give, is pro-resistance memes. Where the mainstream media urges normalization and acceptance, we the Internet culture has no such filter. We need memes that call out white supremacy for the Voldemort-come-to-life it is. We need memes to remind everyone that Japanese concentration camps are not the model for America moving forward. We need memes that speak out against hate crimes. We need memes not to accept the normalization of a corrupt president and Nazi and KKK platform in our country. We need memes that rally the base, that do not settle for complacency, that foster the idea that we can do something, even as the doors of democracy slam shut in our faces.
In looking back on this, what Hillary needed was more memes to change her public perception. Remember Wendy Davis memes after her stunning Texas filibuster to protect women’s healthcare? I wanted floral crowns and Photoshopped Khaleesi dragons for you, Hillary. But let’s focus on the future of what memes can do for the resistance now.
To Donald, the victor, go the memes, in this election. His supporters made countless memes and shareable images to bolster and incite his base to victory. They will continue to make more memes. While the “liberal elite” continues to swap articles and fact-checks, the fascist right will continue to make memes, political cartoons, and images. And I hey, I love articles. They’re a great resource. But they do not have the instant impact given over to memes.
This is not to say we do not have enough anti-Donald memes. He is great meme fodder; the man is the darkest joke we have ever seen. In part, I think gallows humor has much to play here, but we also need to look critically at how the humor surrounding his portrayal has underestimated him. If anything, I think we need fewer anti-Donald memes and more pro-resistance memes. Normalizing Donald as our wacky oh-shucks leader is the most dangerous game we can play. He is not just the idiotic orange cheeto-in-chief; he is a deeply racist, misogynistic leader who is threatening our most basic freedoms and way of life.
And again, why do I appeal to you, the kawaii culture reader? Because the kawaii culture has skin in the game. Kawaii culture has always been a place of diversity, religious, ethnic, racial and LGBT and gender fluidity alike. We have always said, from the words of Novala Takemoto, that lolita fashion is a princess with the soul of a punk. Punk is a prime example of how aesthetic was used to make a political statement in previous decades. Fashion has power because we live our lives in it; it and aesthetic encapsulates us as fish to water. Lolita fashion has always stood against the patriarchy, to make a statement of who we are, despite what society tells us to be. It is time to put our fashion and aesthetic where our mouths are.
This doesn’t just apply to sweet and kawaii fashion lovers. I appeal to all Internet youth cultures to flood the social media outlets with memes encouraging protesting and resistance. If you are a Harry Potter fan, make memes. If you are an anime fan, make memes. If you are pastel, grunge, Dr. Who, Supernatural, neogoth, vaporwave, make memes in whatever aesthetic you prefer. If you cannot protest, you can choose to network by sharing information and spirit and support across social media. Even if you are not American, if you are against fascism and racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and hatred in all its forms, you can make memes. We do not need to manufacture fake news to garner support; the real news is dark enough. Quote your favorite activists and journalists. Quote real statistics. The truth is on our side. Love still trumps hate.
I am going to be working on creating #KawaiiResistance memes and concentrating them on a Tumblr and Facebook page, and I am accepting submissions, but I also encourage you to create resistance memes of any aesthetic and share them across all social media platforms. This blog has always stood for positivity, personal empowerment of women and girls through kawaii aesthetic, and it will continue to face the onslaught against these freedoms and its intersectional marginalized groups without ever. backing. down. If you would like to collaborate on this issue further, feel free to contact me on my Twitter @victoriasuzanne or by private message on the Parfait Doll Facebook fanpage.