The swooning Ivanka Trump meme took over Twitter Tuesday, after online speculators claimed she instantly fell in love with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at their White House meeting. Ironically, the two came together for a meeting on women in the workplace, just before Ivanka was pigeonholed as a lovestruck woman who couldn't pay attention in the workplace. Ivanka Trump's listening face was mistaken for infatuation, which happens far too often for women in society and says a lot about how they're valued.
Once you look at it with a critical lens, the sexist undertones of the meme are pretty apparent. People almost instantly invented a false narrative about Ivanka falling in love with Trudeau on sight, rather than ascribing the look on her face to her focus on the meeting. That story perpetuates a really dangerous idea that women are always distracted by men and constantly looking for love. Social rhetoric like this provides evidence for misogynistic claims about gender segregation and women's abilities in the workplace. And, yes, it would make a great rom-com, but trivializing women's workplace contributions, particularly in this situation, where Ivanka is one of the only visible women in her father's administration, sets all women back.
On the flip side, Trudeau is portrayed as extremely desirable because he's a self-proclaimed feminist. The basis of the meme was that Ivanka was meeting a real feminist man for the first time in her life and was immediately swept off her feet. To be fair, Trudeau does seem like a genuinely good guy who's trying to make feminist advancements in his country, but he's turned into a hero just because he says he's a feminist. A guy saying he's a feminist, or even following that up with feminist actions, isn't a hero — he's just a decent human doing the least society should expect of him. Men shouldn't be rewarded for being feminists, because it's just what's right.
Society constantly looks down on women in subtle ways like this, and it causes real harm to women and society in general. Because of the social propensity to spin narratives like this, heteronormativity and hypersexualization dominate ideas about male-female relationships. It's why many people still believe outdated stereotypes like that men and women can't be platonic friends, and also contributes to more harmful sexist ideas like that women should be excluded from certain professional fields. In turn, people become so socialized to believe those things that in some cases they become true. The only way society can break the cycle is by calling out problematic behavior like the Ivanka swooning meme whenever it crops up and explaining exactly why it's wrong.
Joking that Ivanka Trump is swooning over Justin Trudeau isn’t funny, it’s sexist https://t.co/Rb3yKKBvH3— The Independent (@Independent) February 17, 2017
This meme will probably fade in few days' time, but the social norms that it typifies have been around for centuries. Millennials have to be the ones to change that misogynistic culture, because it's safe to say that the patriarchy is causing more harm than good right now. Even though the Internet moves at light speed and nobody wants to get left behind when the latest story takes over, people have to collectively figure out how to do that without perpetuating these outdated sexist stereotypes.