So my cousin, Denna reshared this meme on Facebook last night and it’s been weighing on my mind ever since. It features pictures of Halle Berry, Janet Jaclson, J-Lo and Kim Kardashian in lingerie with captions showing that each has been married three times and then a picture of David and Tamela Mann posing in their dining room and points out that they’ve been married for 25 years. Denna didn’t make it, so I don’t feel too bad about making fun of it. Not that I wouldn’t anyway. My cousin is a lovely and wonderful woman, but I’m just mean and this is what I do.
Anyway, I don’t think the message the mememaker is trying to make comes through here. Like I get what she’s TRYING to say; the original post even has a text caption that says “Maybe this will encourage some of you women that think you have to look a certain way to keep a man so I’m just gonna sit this right here!” But honestly that’s not the message i get from the image. Like without even resorting to my normal sarcastic miserable pessimistic self, the message I get from this isn’t “love god and be yourself and you can keep a man.” It’s more “get divorced a lot! It’ll keep you thin.” Nothing against David and Tamela Mann. I don’t know them personally but they’re good actors. But neither of them is known as a sex symbol. While on one hand, that’s the point of the meme. It’s trying to say that Tamela doesn’t have to be a thin and half naked to keep a man, because… I guess … because God likes BBWs? Except, since David is also overweight, instead of really being about body acceptance, it kind of sends the message that “if you’re fat, settle for someone else fat.” And that’s the nice way of putting it. The other not so nice way of looking at it is that “if you look good in your underwear you don’t need a man.”
Really, there were probably better choices. Off the top of my head there’s Hugh Jackman and Deborah Lee-Furness. They’ve been married for twenty years. She’s 13 years older than he is and a little on the heavy side and he’s… Wolverine. I don’t know that they necessarily attribute their marriage to God, but I don’t actually know for sure that the Manns have ever said that either. Both of them are former Gospel singers, so I can assume they’re at least somewhat religious, but Jackman has talked at length about being a devout Christian as well. And it’s not like there’s any evidence that Berry, Jackson, Lopez or Kardashian being Pagans or Satanists or anything. For all I know, they’re all Christians. I know the Kardashian family is Catholic, or at least I know the members have mentioned having had a Catholic school education and at the very least the Jackson family is well established as being Jehovah’s Witnesses.
So i don’t think it really has anything to do with God at all. The only thing “ungodly” about any of the women in that picture is that they happen to have penchant for posing in their underwear… and looking damn good doing it too, btw. They’re also women of color (giving Kim the benefit of the doubt for the purpose of this one). Of course, so is Toni Braxton, and she was a gospel singer too. And honestly, it’s hard for me picture Toni Braxton in my mind NOT half naked. In fact, I’ve been a fan of hers for over twenty years and I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen her with her clothes on. And she’s divorced. And on the male side, there’s also Prince, again, a devout Jehovah’s witness, who oozed sex so badly that it was hard to not accidentally get pregnant just watching a video — even as a guy. And he was married and divorced twice. And if we want white sex symbols too, there’s Jessica Simpson, a preacher’s daughter and abstinence until marriage advocate. Also fond of posing in her underwear. Also divorced.
So at best, I guess the meme is trying to imply that being sexy means God hates your marriage. Especially if you’re black. Except then we have Meagan Good. It’s worth mentioning that I’m not a huge fan of hers. In fact, I literally only really know three things about her. She is a big advocate of remaining celibate until marriage, she is married to a preacher, and she likes to show off her cleavage… A LOT. They’ve only been married like four years, so who knows if it will last, but since he’s an active minister, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that at least in theory they think God is “into” their marriage.
(BTW, and honestly, nothing against religious people here… and again, I think I know what you’re going for… but I’ve heard people use that phrase several times before. And seriously saying that God is a into your marriage or a part of your marriage or the only thing that comes between you and your spouse is like LITERALLY the creepiest possible way you could put that sentiment. Seriously… like saying God blesses your marriage, fine. Saying God inspires your marriage. Ok. Saying “my wife and I love Jesus!” Wonderful. But phrasing it as though he is a third party that is actively involved and putting it in like the most sexual rhetoric possible, is WAY FUCKING CREEPY! And this is coming from who is a longtime advocate of polyamory. Just saying!)
It’s certainly not uncommon for internet memes to be thoughtless and abupid; hell, I’d argue been thoughtless and stupid is kind of the point most of the time. This is pretty common with internet memes. It’s the memes that purport to be helpful or useful when they aren’t really all that well thought out are the ones I find problematic. A lot of times these are political… “so-and-so-candidate is basically a nazi because of this total misunderstanding of a nebulous comment they once made that is kind of out of context, but hey, I support the other guy so lets just go with it” (I am talking both democrats and republicans here). At least those are easy to disprove and who cares because they never change anyone’s mind anyway since the opposition is just posting the same basic memes about the other guy. And a lot of them are inspirational, like the ones that proudly proclaim that in today’s sizes Marilyn Monroe would be a size 16 despite no shortage of naked photographs and Hollywood costuming documentation showing that she was quite petite. And my absolute favorite is a picture that I constantly see going around the internet that is supposedly Time Magazine’s “perfect body” from 1955, but Snopes has long since debunked it and shown that it is actually porn a shot from 2005 of modern day porn star Aria Giovanni who wasn’t even born until 1977. Of course none of that matters. The memes keep coming back, because “I saw it on the internet and it must be true.”
But I think “relationship advice” memes are the ones that bother me the most. They seem to prey on the most vulnerable and base emotions of people. People want to be loved and so they’ll believe any ridiculous thing that makes them feel like they’re in a warm and gushy romantic comedy from the 1950s. Most of them are just silly pointless quotes that make no sense “a real man loves a woman unconditionally” Umm, no that’s called being a stalker. My love has lots of conditions. Number one is that you love me back. Number two is don’t stab me. Number three is that you appreciate that I’m batshit crazy and will make long rant posts like this from time to time. Hell, “fuck me regularly” is probably number four… so all of those memes that imply that “sex shouldn’t matter a real man just wants to cuddle” memes are stupid too. Number five is that the toilet paper goes on the roll with the paper facing outward because we are civilized human beings and not fucking savages. If you don’t like it, that’s fine… you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with me. Go find someone who doesn’t mind not having sex and is ok with you stabbing them.
But a lot of these spread verifiably misleading information that no one ever checks into because they want to believe in some bullshit simplification of “real love like the old days” that never existed and is based solely on old TV shows and movies from the time period which was nothing like that except that regulations kept them from showing what the world is really like. The one that stands out in my head that I’ve seen making the rounds most recently is an elderly couple who are “quoted” (in so much as you can quote a couple of people who are clearly a from a stock photograph) as saying that they’ve survived 65 years of marriage because they “were born in a time, where if something was wrong you fixed it rather than throw it away.” This is supposed to sound lovely. It’s supposed to make you go “Awwww… that’s beautiful! I want that in my life!” This is the stupidest bullshit I’ve ever heard. First of all, it’s a lie. Let’s assume they’ve been married 65 years. Conservatively that makes them at least about 85 years old. That means they were born in the 1930s. They got married around 1950. That wonderful time of chaste romance and true love. Marriage was forever and no one got divorced! No! No No No No NO! They were NOT born in a time where people fixed problems. They were born in a time where people ignored problems.
First of all, the divorce rate is not really that high now compared to 1950. It is about twice as high as it was in 1930… which sounds bad… except the divorce rate in 1930 was just under two divorces per thousand people and the rate now is just under four. That’s IT! It’s really not that bad. And the reason it’s gone up at all isn’t so much that people are less caring or they try harder. It’s more that we let women get divorced before then. For the most part, before the 1970s, you had to show fault to get a divorce. And since women were much less likely to be earning an income in the mid-century, the prospects of getting one weren’t exactly great. Saving yourself for marriage also wasn’t as common as people like to think. Weddings are expensive and people like sex, so starting with the Great Depression in 1929, people basically started just shacking up a lot. And if you’ve ever heard stories about the raunchy times that servicemen were having on leave during once WWII started, just who do you think they were fucking? And when the war was over, their kids, the baby boomers were the first generation of youth to have widespread freedom because of access to cars. For HOVA’s sake, haven’t you people ever seen Happy Days or Back to the Future? Despite what your grandparents and great grandparents have told you, Grandpa and Grandma were hitting it regularly in the backseat of a T-Bird at lookout point. And once they were married, if things didn’t go so well, Grandpa just started fucking his secretary and Grandma just dealt with it. Not because she was trying to fix anything, but because it was the 50s and what the fuck else was she supposed to do. This was the era where if your wife got lippy about something like that it was your responsibility as a man to smack some sense into her. And if she had a problem with it, then she’d be out on the streets. So instead, keep your mouth shut, raise the kids and if you get bored then feel free to fuck the milkman from time to time.
So it isn’t so much that Halle, Janet, J-Lo and Kim are godless whores. It’s that they live in 2016 and they’re rich enough that they don’t have to put up with anyone’s bullshit.
The thing with the original meme is that it somehow just offends me on every possible level. Auspiciously, it’s pro-marriage, pro-body acceptance and pro-religion, and great, I guess. But in practice it does so not really by saying anything positive about marriage but by expressing shame to people to don’t exactly fit the exact mold that they meme maker happens to see as ideal. It is doing the exact thing that it probably feels like the “Hollywood image” of marriage is doing to them:
- It shames people who have been married multiple times and tells them God thinks they did something wrong. Even if they’re currently happily married (as Jackson and Kardashian both are). As a matter of fact, my parents have been married two and three times respectively… and they both consider themselves Christians… Too bad, I hope they don’t mind burning in Hell.
- It shames non-religious people by telling them their marriages are doomed.
- It shames “sexy” people by claiming that if you’re thin (or sexy or like being half naked) God hates your marriage and oh yeah, you’re a whore! Go put on some clothes!
- It shames both religious and fat people by implying they can’t be sexy. And they better not get divorced because you’re not likely to get another shot at this!
Really though, one of the biggest problems with it is that it’s anti-single people in general and really, anti-woman. Because the only way any of this makes senses at all is that the only thing that makes you worthwhile is finding and keeping a man. Look here are four hot women who can’t (even though two of them apparently can) and here’s one large woman who can… but mostly only because of God. And if you don’t see that that’s the most important thing… fuck you.