“The feminine urge” meme is the latest trend to blow up on social media; it consists of making lighthearted jokes out of questionable traits and desires. On paper, that’s all that this trend appears to be: a lighthearted joke. With viral tweets such as “The feminine urge to lure sailors into shipwrecking on my rocky shores” or “The feminine urge to gone girl,” this trend appears to be nothing more than another meme. However, as the tweets and videos become increasingly stereotypical, it is hard to ignore the perpetuation of gender roles that this joke enables.
According to Know Your Meme, the very first “feminine urge” joke emerged on Twitter on December 21, 2009. “The feminine urge to be passive aggressive until I get what I want” can be funny at first glance, but it begs the question as to why certain traits are being assigned a gender. Although the idea of socially acceptable jokes has changed drastically since user @stompanie sent this tweet, it’s surprising to see similar tweets and TikToks going viral even today. In recent years, gender norms have been increasingly questioned and dismantled; some efforts include separating gender from certain clothes, colors, and media consumption.
However, “the feminine urge” trend seems to revert back to these norms by associating femininity with traits like manipulation or passiveness. “The feminine urge to spend ₤3 on a latte,” or “The feminine urge to wear fuzzy socks,” though not inherently problematic, do further enforce the separation between men and women and enable a more binary view on gender. Furthermore, there has been little to no discussion on the implications of this trend in the media, largely due to the fact that it is seen as nothing more than a joke.
Humor oftentimes has the effect of excusing problematic or hurtful rhetoric under the guise of comedy. If something is deemed a joke, those who take it more seriously are seen as hyper-sensitive and ridiculous. However, there are times when humor can be less lighthearted than it appears to be on the surface. Humor is a perpetuation of societal norms, and the majority of jokes are based, at least loosely, on reality. After all, a joke about how ugly someone’s hat is wouldn’t be funny unless they were actually wearing a hat. Therefore, although “the feminine urge” trend is largely seen as a joke, many takes on the trend are at least based loosely on the belief that a given trait is inherently feminine.
On the other hand, separating traits as masculine or feminine is not inherently problematic. After all, they are two opposite ends of the spectrum, and so the characteristics of the two must vary. What is more concerning is the implication that femininity and identifying as a woman, or masculinity and identifying as a man, are equivalent. Though initially this trend seemed to perpetuate gender roles — specifically with women — by assigning a gender to certain traits, more recent spins on the trend have been more inclusive.
“The feminine urge” is no longer the only type of urge to be included in this trend. Lately, tweets and videos with “the masculine urge” or “the non-binary urge” have been gaining traction. The trend has become a place for everyone to poke a little fun at themselves and find people to whom they relate. With tweets such as “The non-binary urge to wear the worst outfit [you] have ever seen,” or even, “The feminine urge to just die,” many social media users are trying to change the narrative about what is feminine and masculine. While the trend is still very satirical and points out certain stereotypes within gender expression, the added inclusivity makes it deceptively progressive. There’s nothing wrong with conforming to stereotypical traits in the way you express yourself, but enforcing the differences between men and women as universal and absolute is what raises concerns regarding this trend.
For the most part, “the feminine urge” is seen as nothing more than relatable and self-deprecating jokes from women, intended to poke fun at stereotypically feminine traits. Although gender expression and identity are entirely separate, this trend associates femininity exclusively with women. By assigning a gender to certain actions and behaviors, this trend threatens to reverse the progress made in society’s perception of gender with antiquated stereotypes. While this trend isn’t inherently harmful and has even become progressive in some ways, it’s important to discuss the potential dangers of this type of comedy. Satire, though effective in calling attention to societal issues, can sometimes fall into offensive territory, excusing harmful rhetoric as a joke. Since the issues with this trend are hidden under the guise of comedy, very few people seem to be discussing it in depth. However, now that I’ve fulfilled the feminine urge to analyze this trend, perhaps further discourse on the subject will ensue.