I Never Thought It’d Happen to Me(me)

Meme? Like, Mim? Or is it like Meh-Meh? Oh, I know! Me-me! Hmm, meme? Like theme? Okay sure, I’ll write an article about that.

The above was my reaction when I was asked to write about memes for a Columbia journal my sophomore year. You can look up the article if you’d like. I honestly don’t have the wherewithal and self-confidence to revisit it. I promise it’s not good. Actually, don’t look it up. I don’t want you losing faith in me.

Okay, now that you’re back from BETRAYING MY TRUST, I want to explain how my appreciation and understanding of memes has completely changed. They’re a huge part of my life, now. I only recently stopped scrolling through multiple Instagram humor accounts before bed because I have a complete lack of self-control and was starting to stay up really late because of it. I always laugh at the jokes and pass them on ad nauseam, but I never really think about the people – and hand puppets – captured in those pictures and screenshots. Were they chosen at random? Were the pictures posed for? I honestly didn’t care… until it happened to me.

So, peep this: I wake up one summer day ready to face a completely empty schedule. I know to most people this sounds like the dream. It’s summer and you have nothing at all to do! You should be rejoicing, Karen! Well – I wasn’t. I have a very obsessive personality that requires I be constantly busy or being made to feel useful. Three task-free weeks between school and work were hell for me. Let’s just say I wasn’t in a great place.

I logged into Twitter. I passed through a few memes – it all comes full circle – and landed on a tweet from @OfficialJaden – Jaden Smith:

Jaden smith tweet

I GROANED. I thought about my annoyance with the proclivity of individuals – namely men – to call women “females.” I remembered in that instance how I recently schooled one of my cousins on the discrepancy. “You wouldn’t call guys ‘males.’ It reduces us to nothing more than a set of privates. I’m more than just a vagina, right, cuz?” He grimaced because I’d mentioned my vagina, but said he thought he understood. I remembered that small victory and took it upon myself to be a warrior for justice once more.

I hit reply on the tweet and typed:

Karen tweet

I immediately got push back. A guy asked me why I couldn’t just take the compliment. I considered ignoring the response, but I thought about some of my favorite internet savvy writers and creators. @Chescaleigh (Franchesca Ramsey) wouldn’t back down, neither would @HeavenRants (Heben Nigatu) @EveEwing or @AmandaSeales… one would assume.

I responded, using a helpful Buzzfeed article written by Heben and Tracy Clayton as my main reasoning. My internet assailant did not take kindly to my use of Buzzfeed as a source. Suffice it to say, he didn’t agree with my grievances.

 The hate started flooding in, and a few hours after my original tweet. It happened. I became a meme.

Versace tweet

I thought, “but I’m not… I can’t be… I’m not annoying, am I?” The whole point of a meme is to define something with an image that can’t or might not necessarily be so easily defined with just words. This unseen person – whose account has since been deleted mind you – had defined me.

The meme got TONS of likes and comments and sent a horde of people flooding over to my original tweet to say both mean and nice things – but mostly mean things. At the time of my publishing this article, my original tweet has 136,822 impressions and 52,290 engagements. Keep in mind that before this I only had 70 Twitter followers. I mostly used Twitter to say dumb things like:

karen regular tweet1

karen regular tweet 2

karen regular tweet 3

Clearly, I was speaking to the void and suddenly I had people going through my page and commenting on old stuff with:

karen lbj tweet

lbj reply 1

karen lbj reply 2

It’s like people were just trying to find some “gold” that would get them as many retweets and interactions as @VersaceSilk got before. It was sickening. I learned how to turn off notifications for that specific post, but that wasn’t enough. I turned off notifications for Twitter completely… but that wasn’t’ enough. I still couldn’t help logging in to see what people were saying about me. Things like:

rude reply 1

rude reply 2

rude reply 3

rude reply 4

That last one struck fear in me and made me delete the Twitter app completely. Then it showed up on Facebook. @FuckJerry had reposted it. I thanked God my Twitter name was a silly spelling of my name and not close enough that random people could make the connection to my actual Facebook page. Then it showed up on Instagram. @BeigeCardigan, @FuckJerry’s “sister” account, posted it with a caption telling me to “sit down.” Some girl tagged me in a comment saying she’d “found me” on Instagram. “IT’S THE SAME HANDLE, GIRLFRIEND!! YOU AIN’T NO SUPERSLEUTH!” Is what I wanted to respond, but I was scared there’d be more pushback. I made my Instagram account private and curled up under my covers.

My friends seemed to find out one by one. Matt called me – “Karen, you’re famous!” He encouraged me to capitalize on this. To let this launch me into fame. He said I’d have to become a feminazi online to keep it up. “But I don’t wanna be a feminazi. I just want to express my opinion every once in a while and not be demonized for it.” My writer’s group friends from Columbia told me they’d all reported @FuckJerry for reposting it. This was way before reports of how reporting doesn’t actually work for black women, but it was no use anyway. It was everywhere. I couldn’t run from it.

The first two days were incredibly hard. I pretended to be okay and laugh it off, but I cried… a lot. By the third day, I had people defending me wholeheartedly when I just wanted it to all disappear.

The last place it showed up was Reddit. A friend with whom I went to camp in middle school called me. “Hey Karen did you know…” “Yes, Ryan. I know.” He helped me laugh about it. He told me he’d make fun of me for a while for it, but he knew that was just my brand of sarcasm. He knew it didn’t read like I’d have actually said it.

And that’s just it. I listened to a podcast recently that talked about how with text-based platforms, there emerges this certain level of intimacy that feels violated when questioned. Our words are unavoidably close to who we are and when they’re misconstrued, we’re at a huge loss to regain control of what we “meant” or “intended.”

Thankfully, the buzz subsided. In fact, exactly a week later, I was able to log in to my social media accounts and not see anything concerning the meme. It was a huge relief.

Now, every once in a while, someone online will bring it up. A new, burgeoning humor account will repost the meme in hopes of getting the same kind of acclaim. There’s nothing creative or nuanced about their approach. It’s just a cruel, uninspired rehashing. People will tag me in it thinking they’re the first to do so or hoping I’ll go off. They aren’t, and I won’t.

Initially, part of me wished I’d been more straightforward. I thought, “if only I’d been clearer about what I meant, maybe people would have been more inclined to hear me out.” I had to stop that destructive thinking. No one should have to cater their dissent to the understanding of their oppressors. I know, I know. “Dissent” and “oppressors” feel like big words for something that seems so small, but it’s not small! Calling a woman a female reduces her to nothing more than an animal or an object strictly defined by her genitalia. On the one hand, it doesn’t make sense. “Female” is an adjective. On the other hand, this is dangerous for multiple reasons. For one thing, this nomenclature completely erases transwomen and lumps gender nonconforming individuals into a basket they didn’t ask for. This kind of thinking can also inevitably lead to physical and verbal violence and the continued oppression and belittling of an entire subsection of the human race.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still drop it low in da club to all the misogynistic bangers from the 90’s, 2000 and beyond (and before, I see you “Tootsie Roll”) but I don’t deny that the language used in these songs is reductive and incendiary. It’s a tough line to tread – being a woman who considers herself “woke” but who also wants to participate in many of the facets of daily life and pop culture. There’s a lot to juggle. Way more than I could address in one article. Nevertheless, I’ve decided I can personally choose small battles day by day.

 

I have about 100 more followers on Twitter now. I know. I’m killing it. And I know most are there waiting for me to say something else they consider dumb or “meme-able,” but that’s okay.  Not everyone is going to like you and not everyone is going to understand you. But if you’re smart, you’ll spend more time listening to the people who love you and do understand you.

Either way, the moral of the story is – if you’re gonna come for Jaden Smith, be prepared to face a little push back :).

– @Ckharyn

 

Three things I love about being home in Oakland for the holidays.

School starts tomorrow, so it’s the last time I can reflect about being home for the holidays and it still be relevant. It’s so much different as an adult in grad school going home for the holidays. My bedroom is no longer mine. It’s honestly barely a bedroom. It’s full of boxes my sister and I dumped on my parents after we both moved out. I don’t come home for as long as I used to and I often bring my boyfriend along with me. As different as it is though, there are a few reliable staples about going home that I’ll forever appreciate.

Food!

I’m so fucking lucky when it comes to food. My dad makes incredible food all the time, just because he loves to cook. He’ll make full on meals because he got a new appliance, or a dessert because he saw a version of it on Food Network and wants to try it out.

dad-foodMy two younger siblings don’t always appreciate it, or eat it so I always have a lot of leftovers to choose from. Also, because I’m home, my parents are more inclined to add my favorite foods to their shopping menus which allows me to take photos of my most instagramable foods cause their kitchen has beautiful natural light.

foodstagram

But in all seriousness it’s one of the best parts about being home. I love being the taste tester for my dad and since my friends all work at high end restaurants, I also get to try a fair amount of the food from their restaurants. They work at restaurants I can’t afford of a student/nanny budget, but because they’re amazing they always seem to slip an extra bowl of patatas bravas, glass of Red or tray of salumi my way. And don’t even get me started on their food connections. I didn’t even realize the food industry was so close knit until I went out to restaurants with my food industry friends. I’ve tried so many random foods while eating out with them just because they gave a chef a free drink at their restaurant once and they want to return the favor with a rare fish or gourmet pizza. I will gladly ride the coattails of my friends’ food industry perks until we all get dope ass jobs where we be like Harry Potter on his first ride in the Hogwarts express and casually say “we’ll take the lot!”

Kwanzaa

Although we celebrate Christmas, my family also celebrates Kwanzaa. And I think we do it in the most special way. For those who don’t know, Kwanzaa was invented 50 years ago as a celebration of African American culture. It’s not religious, but has some similarities to Christmas or Hanukah where there is a candle holder that is lit every day, family and friends join to celebrate, there’s tons of food and the occasional present. For over ten years we’ve been celebrating Kwanzaa with my neighbors and it’s an absolute delight. We go to different houses each night, casually discuss the night’s principles, recognize and pay respects to certain people and then eat. Kwanzaa is such a slept on holiday that deserves more recognition. With no religious affiliations or gift giving requirements, it’s just an excuse to talk about how dope it is to be black with your black friends and family. How cool!? I’m incredibly thankful that we’ve kept this tradition going for so long.

The New Parkway Theater

I cannot rave about this Oakland gem enough. Every single time the lights dim and their personalized pre-credits begin to roll while I’m munching on buttery popcorn and working on my pitcher of local beer, I get this incredibly warm feeling in my stomach. There’s no other way to describe this place other than wonderful.the-new-parkway

Whenever I’m home I always make an effort to go see as many movies as I can there. The staff are some of the friendliest people I’ve come across working at a theater. It’s the kind of theater that makes you feel so at home and it helps that the seats are all couches and love seats. You can order burgers, salads, paninis that are brought straight to your seat. The movie selection is always on point. They have a great combination of independent films, big budget movies and cult classics and they host the occasional film festival whether it be shorts or animated. It really is a gem of a theater and I have yet to find one that matches it’s quality. Honestly The New Parkway Theater probably deserves an entire post, but it truly is one of my favorite parts about being home in Oakland.

 

30 Day Challenge: A Photo A Day

Introducing a new 30 day challenge: I’m going to take one photo that I like every day! 

I’m really excited about this challenge because I’ve been eager to improve my photography skills. One of the biggest things I’d like to work on is simply finding the image in everyday scenarios. While I’ve always loved photography, I’ve also always made excuses as to why I can’t practice it. “I don’t know any models.””I don’t have access to good locations”… Reading them now makes me feel really dumb too.. I live in the Bay Area, there are gorgeous people and settings everywhere you look! 

So, no more excuses. For me this challenge is about making myself take the time to find a picture. I can also be really impatient when trying to take pictures, so I know this will help me in that area too. So wish me luck, follow me on Instagram (@sunflowerrz), and I’ll see you soon for an update. 

Love, 

Sab