Interviews

Instagram’s @gothshakira is Decolonizing the Whiteness of Dank Memes

July 1, 2016
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Instagram’s @gothshakira makes intersectional feminist memes that will keep you loling. Here, she talks dank memery, cultural critique, and the word “slut” with Kristen Cochrane. 

Main image Charlotte Forbes/Maiko Rodrig

In the unforgiving world of memecraft, it can be hard to find consistently hilarious meme accounts on Instagram made by people who have found new and unique ways of exposing life’s universally relatable embarrassing moments. However, things like nipple hair, toxic relationships, and recurring UTIs are things that are generally (and tragically) considered TMI for memery. However, a celestial being from Montreal who goes by @gothshakira on Instagram has brought light to the anxieties that we generally save for our therapists.

Instagram meme culture is often plagued with images of black people and African American Vernacular English—a fact @gothshakira brought up in our interview. The problem with this is that we don’t know who the authors of these memes are—like, re they they white kids from the suburbs pretending to be black to get that like button smashed on Insta? Where @gothshakira’s memery diverges is in her authenticity to her Latinx background—she frequently uses the expressive faces of Jennifer Lopez and Selena Gomez to express anxieties about the intersections of race and gender. For example, how annoying it is to be fetishized for your race by saying you look “exotic,” which is also compounded with the problem of widespread sexism towards women. Annoying! Luckily, @gothshakira addresses our collective grievances, and we really just want to send her pizzas for life to thank her for making us laugh but also for ~realizing shit~.

During our phone chat, the Colombian-born @gothshakira (a.k.a. Dre, the name her friends call her) talked about her rapid ascent to viral meme account status, where she gained 10k followers in two months earlier this Spring, shortly after starting the account—and the followers keep following.

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Kristen: How did this account start?

@gothshakira: I went through a rough winter—I was going through seasonal depression and I spent a lot of time on the internet, a lot of time looking at memes, and so when I was coming out of that I just started making some of my own memes. I made two or three and I just thought “My girlfriends would laugh at that.” At the time I only had 250 followers, who I knew in real life. But then people just started sharing and it became this crazy snowball effect.

Jennifer Lopez’s modern image is used the most in your memes. Why J.Lo? Is it the the vast array of faces she’s able to make?

I started using Latina celebrities because I saw this trend online, especially with memes, where people were using African-Americans and Black people as reaction images. The thing about the internet—especially the art of memecraft, if you will—is that a lot of people do it anonymously, which is fine, but you don’t really know who’s behind that computer screen making these memes with African American Vernacular English, or using an image of a Black person. Like, that person could be black, but what if they’re not? In the interest of being true to my values, I figured that it would be fitting for me to use female Latina celebrities, like Shakira. Also J.Lo is just super expressive—there are so many amazing images of her.

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A meditation on Male Art Hoes with paradoxical views, but also a contemporary ail in our cultural moment.

I laughed really hard at the picture where you dressed up as a “fuckboy” named Trevor and wrote a lengthy caption where you interpreted his idiocy. Do you think there is a “fuckboy” trend or that it’s just another manifestation of shitty people being shitty?

I think the whole fuckboy trend is very generation-specific. OK, this is my theory—fuckboys and fuckmen have existed for millennia, through the different passing of time, different eras, different spaces, different cultures, they take on different forms. When I made that post, I was just in my apartment thinking, “Why give these guys so much of my time,” and at the same time realizing that I have certain habits engrained in myself, and I identify pretty strongly with my own masculine identity, and the duality of the masculine self and the feminine self. I realized that “Hey, I’m Trevor sometimes too,” you know? I can be really shitty, and I think that there’s a Trevor in all of us. And although I was calling out a sub-group of really shitty dudes, I feel like I was also kind of dragging myself.

I know what you mean. I was thinking about how often I get annoyed with that whole “6ixxx bro” culture in Toronto right now, where the dudes basically speak in Future lyrics. But then I realized, I think I am a little bit of a 6ixx bro? So I think really I’m just hating myself?

It is so true, like all the dudes who are like “OVO Sound Radio” and my sneakers that I paid hundreds of dollars for but I’m still asking my mom for rent money.

I have also loled very hard at your memes that talked about Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht and the one where you celebrate finding a man who will browse murder-for-hire listings on the darknet with you, among other nice guy qualities like asking about your mom. Do you actually like browsing the classifieds of the darknet?

I find it so fascinating. I did it more when I was younger, being a weird, nerdy teenager in my bedroom on my HP laptop, not even realizing that it was really dangerous for me to do, but I did it anyway, and the deep web has always really fascinated me. I still eat up as much knowledge about it as I can. I’m glad you enjoyed that one—I thought it was kind of left-field. I’m pretty sure most people are used to my girly J.Lo memes and thought, “what the fuck…”.

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@gothshakira via The Fader

Who are your feminist idols?

Cardi B. 100%.

Wait, so if someone would say “she’s not a feminist,” how would you say she is a feminist?

Oh I would say that she is 100% a feminist. She is a sex worker who is open about sex work, open about her own sex work, and open about the rights that she deserves while being a sex worker. Her most recent mixtape Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 1 is basically a sonic treatise on the economic realities of African-American women in the American context, and in the context of sex work too. She’s a performance artist. She’s so many things. She does this whole monologue at the very end of the mixtape where it’s her having a conversation with presumably a guy who is an older sugar daddy, and it’s basically this reversal of the narrative of the very submissive sugar baby who has to do what her sugar daddy wants. She’s cutting into this guy, like “alright what are you gonna offer me? What are you gonna do,” totally manipulating him. Not saying that it’s necessarily good to manipulate people, but it’s a very powerful statement and a lot of the songs on that album are her talking about why she started stripping, why she still proudly claims all of that.

You’re obviously a sex-positive pro-sex work feminist—you’ve made memes about the term “slut,” like the one with Selena Gomez where you add the text that says “when a dude tries to insult me by calling me a slut,” which you have above a picture of Selena Gomez saying “It’s such an honor to be named after someone so amazing.” LOL. What does the word “slut” mean to you?

One of my biggest influences when it comes to my beliefs on the word “slut” was what Kathleen Hanna did back in the 90s at her shows with Bikini Kill and she would have the word “slut” scrawled across her stomach onstage. To my knowledge that had never been done before that time, and it was very scandalous. I remember seeing that image as a teenage girl and being like, “yeah.” A part of me wishes that the words slut, whore and bitch didn’t exist in the first place, but they do, and people have used them for years, and why not reclaim them? Why not turn them into something empowering or funny. I use the word “binch”—it’s a way of acknowledging your fellow women and female-identifying people but in a way that is recognizable but also really funny and absurdist.

Kristen Cochrane is a writer and academic in Ontario, Canada, who’s researching some very interesting things, like queer Latin American cinema, and the fetishization of the female tennis body. Read her most recent essay for Slutever, about 5 Legacies of Alfred Kinsey, HERE :)

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