I usually let these memes stew on my desktop for a couple of days. Kind of letting them marinate while I decide what particular mixture of snark, cynicism, despair or disdain to add to the brew to make a perfect Internet Meme Demolition Derby Pie (mmmmmm Derby Pie…) But this particularly vile piece of wannabe folk wisdom, which came across my Facebook feed this morning via fellow Grounded Parent Emily Sexton, called for a faster turn around. In case you can’t see the image, what we have here is a bit of Concrete Poetry in the shape of a tree which goes as follows…
Girls are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. The boys don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t as good, but easy. So the apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, they’re amazing. They just have to wait for the right boy to come along, the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.
Where to begin. Now I don’t expect every analogy to be perfect. As Chris Brecheen often opines, “If it were perfect it wouldn’t be an analogy… it would be the same thing.” But lets just get the obvious out of the way. This person has quite obviously never been anywhere near a fucking apple tree. Nobody eats the apples that fall on the ground. Apples that have fallen from the tree are usually very very ripe, ripe past the point of fitness for human consumption. A quick survey of apple aficionados on my social media network revealed that it is customary to pick the apples from the tree well before they reach that stage of ripeness. Usually this is done from the ground, maybe with a stepladder? We pay undocumented workers to climb the trees to get to those amazing ones at the top.
But that’s hardly the most problematic part of this piece of shit, and I’m pretty sure longtime Skepchick network readers have already guessed where we are going. But we have to go there anyways, no matter how icky. In our analogy, girls are the apples, and we are clearly given a hierarchy to follow. The best girls are at the top of the tree and the worst ones are the rotten ones that have fallen off of the tree. They aren’t as good as the super special top apples. But the boys eat them anyways because they are easy. Do I need to get out the double entendre stick and whack some people with it, or are we all in agreement that the thing the boys are looking for in this scenario is not pie ingredients, but is in fact SEX? Dirty, filthy, icky, sinful SEX! I mean I suppose I could be putting words in the authors mouth here, but that’s where my imagination wanders. If the author meant something else by pairing the rotten, fallen apples with the descriptor easy, then they should have been more clear. But I’m going to continue here with the assumption that one of the things our meme author is specifically valuing here is sexual virginity. The innuendo is too clear. One of the things that obviously makes the apples at the top of the tree more “amazing” is their sexual purity and pretty obviously the ones on the ground. The easy, fallen apples have spoiled themselves by throwing away their virginity to any lazy cowardly boy who walks along. It’s not like “abstinence only” sex “education” classes haven’t been comparing girls who have premarital sex to used chewing gum, or used toothbrushes or tape for decades at this point. The author could at least Google “fallen woman” (see how easy that was?) to get an understanding of the problematic nature of their imagery. Unless slut shaming was the author’s intention all along, then good job asshole, your message comes through loud and clear.
The other core problem here is depicting the girls as an object for the boy to claim and judging the value of the girl based on the quality of the boy who claims her. And of course the happenstance of where they were placed on the tree by good fortune of birth, social class, race, geography and other complicating factors is largely ignored. The girls in this scenario are passive objects, the boys active participants. ANY time that you place boys and girls into that active/passive dichotomy you are treading on pretty misogynist ground. You are reinforcing ancient stereotypes about the proper roles of boys and girls in sexual or romantic relationships. You are encouraging girls to center their self worth on how attractive they are to boys and you are pretty straightforwardly encouraging girls to look down on their fellows who happen to be lower than them on the tree! We could also ask how regressive it is to erase all of the lesbian apples that might want a girl to pick them, Or the bi apples that could go either way. Or the asexual apples that just want to be left on the goddamn tree!
And all of this slut shaming innuendo is coated in a saccharine layer of fake Grrl Power. I did a Google Image search and it was jarring to see this retrograde tripe on Pinterest pages next to Betty White quotes or this awesome image. I suppose I can get inside that mindset a little bit. We want our little girls to feel “amazing”. We want them to have self worth. And we want them to feel like they are the best apple on the tree. We want them to meet great guys/girls/polyamorous triads/houses full of cats. I’m the proud Dad of two awesome little girls and I want everything in the world with a cherry and whipped cream on top for them. I also have a little boy, and I like the idea of him being brave, of him being unafraid to climb that tree. especially since he’s going through a phase right now where he is afraid of hiking, let alone climbing to the top of trees. But I can’t separate those obviously compelling metaphors from the horrible stereotypes that this meme obviously perpetuates. This is Feminism 101 stuff here folks and the fact that it appears that a significant number of people are missing the simple calculus that anytime you treat women or girls as an object in your analogy you are probably about to say/do/create something really sexist at its core, that there is a huge problem.
As usual, if you have come across a really sexist, homophobic, paleo-conservative memes related to children or parents in your own social media universe, drop a line in the comments, use the Grounded Parents contact form, check out our Facebook Page, drop us a line on Twitter @GroundedParents or even approach one of us live this coming weekend at the Chi-Fi Geek Con in Chicago Illinois where we will have our very own panel “Evaluating Parenting Information with the Grounded Parents” at the god awful hour of 8:30 AM Sunday morning!
I wish I could find the origin of the cute little Voltron girl. She’s bad ass!