It’s a goofy meme, but there’s also deeper meaning in the laughter. Ever fallen for someone who wasn’t worth your time or whose interest in you was merely an illusion? Ever held on to false hope and then felt like a doofus once you realize the object of your affection has more in common with a raccoon than a soul mate? We’ve all lived some version of this situation. And the meme thrives on that familiarity.
As of Wednesday, that original tweet has almost 21,000 retweets, and hundreds of others have joined in.
There are versions about refrigerators, books, synonyms, raccoons, manatees, the New York subway. If he “interjects with unsolicited advice,” “reads your personal documents” and “constantly tries to help you format paragraphs” — he’s not your man, journalist Rachel Zarrell tweeted. He’s Clippy, the Microsoft Word Office assistant.
The Bard chimed in with a Shakespearean twist: “'Tis not thy man. 'Tis all men.”
Even dating apps themselves — where you’ll find plenty of men who will ignore your texts! — have gotten in on the joke.
Yes, Rutherford B. Hayes and animated paper clips have little to do with your dating life or gender relations. But there’s a reason it’s “He’s not your man.” I doubt a “She’s not your woman” formula would have taken off in quite the same way. Dating advice is most often directed at women — and women are trained to tolerate and explain away a partner’s inattention, entitlement and mistreatment when we should really be saying, “Thank u, next.”
The time was ripe for some way of finding comedy in a similar kind of pain. The joke’s setup hinges on a power differential that can occur in heterosexual relationships. Traditionally, women are judged more severely for being single than men are, so she might excuse bad behavior longer than she should. If a woman has less earning power, she might stay in a bad relationship for economic reasons. She might work hard to keep her partner happy, even if he is not matching her efforts. From a young age, women are told that it’s better to be with a man than lacking one, that it’s better to go along with things than to fight back.
Just as women are increasingly aware of these problems, this meme has a way of implying: Keep your standards high, and don’t be a fool who mistakes a man for a manatee.