(This is part of an occasional series in which we explain what’s behind a popular meme. We like to call it memesplaining; you might call it meme-ruining. Regardless, if you just chanced upon a joke, tweet, image, app or GIF you don’t understand, we have the answers — insofar as answers can be had.)
The meme: “I love this woman and her curvy body.”
Robbie Tripp really wants the world to know that 1) he loves his wife and 2) his wife is “curvy.”
“Husband to a curvy goddess” is right in his Instagram bio, which also contains a link to his TEDx talk. Last Sunday, Tripp wrote an ode to his wife “and her curvy body” and posted it to Instagram:
“As a teenager, I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side, ones who were shorter and curvier, girls that the average (basic) bro might refer to as ‘chubby’ or even ‘fat.’ Then, as I became a man and started to educate myself on issues such as feminism and how the media marginalizes women by portraying a very narrow and very specific standard of beauty (thin, tall, lean) I realized how many men have bought into that lie.”
Tripp goes on to praise his wife’s “thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll, etc.” and provided some advice for the women reading his post: “There is a guy out there who is going to celebrate you for exactly who you are, someone who will love you like I love my Sarah.” It has more than 30,000 likes on Instagram.
The post went viral, twice, over the course of a single week, going from body-positive inspiration fodder to a mocking meme.
How it started
The initial response to Tripp’s post was mostly positive.
HuffPost wrote an article titled, “Husband’s Love Note To His ‘Curvy’ Wife Should Be Required Reading.” PopSugar praised its message. And in an interview with E! News, Tripp and his wife, Sarah, said they were surprised but excited the post went viral.
“It’s awesome to see all the love being shown to the curvy girls and women out there who often feel so ignored and even shamed by society,” Robbie Tripp said. Sarah added, “I’ve been getting so many messages from curvy women all over the world sharing how the post made them cry.”
But something about BuzzFeed’s headline, “People Are Applauding This Man For Celebrating His Wife’s Curves On The Internet,” really seemed to catch the attention of those who felt Tripp’s message, maybe, wasn’t worth celebrating.
While Tripp’s post was gaining praise and likes on Instagram, the story was a bit different on Twitter, where many of the most viral tweets about Tripp’s message were those calling it out and mocking it.
*guy likes curvy woman* 16,667 favs, national news— #trishy (@soulthot) August 4, 2017
*curvy woman likes herself* 12 favs, 48 people in your mentions talking about diabetes
I have had too many creepy men tweet @ me saying how hot they think I am & how they'd date me. The expectation is that I'll be flattered..— Melanie Lynskey (@melanielynskey) August 6, 2017
Basically, the argument the meme presents against Tripp’s post is:
1) It shouldn’t be extraordinary to find a “curvy” woman attractive, but Tripp’s post implies that it is.
2) That, because of 1), praising Tripp as brave or extra woke or the perfect man or what have you just because he loves his wife is a bit laughable.
3) His characterization of what “real women” are like (“A real woman is not a porn star or a bikini mannequin or a movie character”) and prescriptive advice to women and men isn’t as helpful to women or body positivity as Tripp seems to think it is.
That last point, by the way, is explored pretty in depth in an essay by Sam Escobar at Allure, in case you wanted to read more.
Eventually, the meme involved into mockingly juxtaposing Tripp’s language with other images — or riffing on some of the lines of his post to highlight their absurdity:
I FEAR MY CURVY WIFE— Jennifer Morrow (@jenniferemorrow) August 5, 2017
by H.P. Lovecraft
I shudder to think of her non-Euclidean geometry, an eldritch shape no earthly eye can comprehend...
I love my curvy wife— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) August 4, 2017
I love how her body is like three big circles stacked on one another
made of snow
her carrot nose
and i will tell anyo
How has Tripp responded to all this?
Glad you asked. Robbie Tripp’s Instagram feed has continued to be #inspirational. In a couple of posts since his message to his curvy wife, Tripp has thanked people who shared his message positively:
On his Twitter account, Tripp posted images of the positive feedback he’s getting from the post:
(If you don’t know who Jake Paul is or why Tripp might be tweeting at him about “haters,” we have a primer, here.)
How to use the meme like you know what you’re doing:
This meme, kind of like the “Women Wearing Headphones” meme, is basically a way of weighing in on a larger issue by making fun of someone you think is wrong about it. The best attempts at the “curvy wife” meme have channeled the tone of Tripp’s original post and the cycle of Facebook shareable inspiration fodder that swept it up.
A smart observation to make at your next nerdy dinner party:
Since the meme itself has done a pretty good job of explaining the underlying reasons for its own existence, we’ll leave you with this:
What happened with this “curvy body” post is an excellent example of how human beings tend to want “The Internet” to have a unified opinion about things, yet that consensus never actually exists.
Tripp’s post went viral as inspirational “required reading,” something an early round of press touted as a great message for the body-positive movement. But others saw something different: a mushy post that said nothing particularly unusual about what it’s like to be in love with someone, but was nonetheless being held up as heroic.