Gina Rinehart – Meme Mining

One of my favourite parts of online culture is the spread of memes.

Memes are a simple, creative and often hilarious way of making a point, subverting a culture, challenging hypocrisy or to simply have a good laugh.

Memes have also become a surprise source of political commentary and social change. Whenever a public figure makes a big statement you can almost instantly go online and find a series of memes co-opted from their words.

When it was reported that Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart made calls for the minimum wage in Australia to be lowered and criticised the country’s poor, Australians leapt at the opportunity to respond. A variety of memes emerged responding to Rinehart’s comments:

Many of the memes provided an important outlet for Australians to respond to Rinehart’s statements. The role of humour and satire cannot be underestimated in terms of social impact. The memes have contributed to some important social, cultural and political discussions.

However, the spread of the meme has also raised some serious issues about how these online cultures can provide a platform for attacks of another kind:

After seeing a string of images posted online criticising Rinehart on the basis of her appearance or gender I tweeted the following:

I love the Gina Rinehart memes calling her out on her bullshit, I do not however like the ones focusing purely on her gender or weight.

There is a big difference between criticising someone for their actions, their words or their values and criticising someone for their gender or appearance. There is an inherent viciousness and hypocrisy in Rinehart’s recent statements towards the less fortunate in our community that is worthy of ridicule. Many of the memes that have spread relating to Rinehart  have been a vital way of helping the community process and respond to her statements. The community rejection of her values has been important, but the community is also served a great disservice by those who criticise Rinehart purely because of her weight or gender.

Just because Gina Rinehart is unpopular in the public eye, does not make it okay to stoop to this level. It’s cheap, it’s nasty and it lessens the impact of those making valid statements against her values. It helps to perpetuate the kind of stereotypes and misogyny we wouldn’t take being targeted at our loved ones so we shouldn’t accept this behaviour being targeted at our public figures, regardless of how unpopular they might be at the time.

We can do better as a community.

Satirise, argue and joke with Gina Rinehart all you like for her ridiculous views, values and words. It’s actually really important that you do, but before you make a cheap fat joke or a gendered attack on Rinehart think about the negative culture you’re contributing to.

– Jonathan Brown

Jonathan is the Creative Director of We Matter Media. You can follow him @JB_AU