Known to her followers as @xenaworrierprincess, Wisconsin-based writer Maddy (who asked that we not include her last name) began making memes to fill in the dearth of lesbian media in pop culture today. It's clear from the reactions to her instagram that each of her memes nails the complicated, funny, often dramatic idiosyncrasies of being a modern lez. OUT caught up with Maddy to discuss lesbian representation in the media and whether meme-making is in fact the highest form of art.
OUT: Your Instagram fills a void in my life. How did you get started making memes?
Maddy: [Laughs] Thank you. I went to a Women's College, lived in West Philly for a few years and then I moved to the midwest to do a grad program in women's studies. So I also felt like I had this void in my life.
How does meme-making fit into your larger creative process?
I think writing fiction, especially in an MFA program, you're just writing and rewriting and revising the same work over and over again, and a lot of time I'll write things that only five people will read. Making lesbian memes feels like the opposite of that because I can just make something really quickly and then it has such a huge resonance. That's really encouraging to me because the other work I do, especially when I was in my grad program, you create things and then your professor reads that paper and it doesn't go anywhere and that can feel kind of sad and isolating.
Do you think you're meme-making and writing are connected?
Yeah, I think memes identify paradoxes or really specific experiences, which is what fiction is trying to do, and making those relatable to a lot of people.
I've always felt a great meme is so specific and so universal at the same time.
I definitely make memes that are just about me, but then I see that it resonates with all these people, which is cool. I'm sometimes surprised to have serious conversations with memes.
What does your meme-making process look like?
Well, they have to make me laugh right away. I try not to make memes that are thinkers because I don't think that's the point of memes, unless the complicatedness is part of the joke, which happens sometimes when you're writing about lesbian identity. Sometimes you have this very specific experience, so usually I'll make it and then I'll send it to two or three friends who are very honest with me. They usually tell me if it's too complicated, you need to pare this down so that people can just laugh at it.
How long have you been making memes?
I think since November.
Why do you think you've gained such a following since then?
I was thinking about The L Word revival that's happening--that so much lesbian media is for straight people. Like even Transparent has these teachable moments where someone will just stop and be like, "I'm an intersex person and that mean's this, this and this," which is really important. But there's not a lot of queer media, especially lesbian media, that is actually for lesbians.
Especially lesbian content that feels like it comes from the inside.
Exactly. I don't want to watch a TV show where the narrator stops and somebody provides a really kind of offensive, overtly sexual description of butch/femme or something. Or there's a short nail joke and it has to be explained, you know? That's not funny to me but I think memes are so accessible and easy to make that I feel more seen.
Do you see memes as being political?
Definitely. Memes are political in the sense that they are a statement, right? Lesbian identity is erased a lot--it's a very safe identity to joke about, so I think that memes are a really good way to be like no, actually this is a valid and vibrant identity.
Why do you think the lesbian community is such a wealth of material for meme-making?
Even when you're a lesbian, so many of the expectations put on womanhood are really oriented towards men. Whether it be romantically or socially--and not to generalize about how different people who identify as lesbian experience the world--but when you don't have that orientation towards men in your life, all these really beautiful possibilities are opened up. There's also an incredibly specific queer experience. Lesbian communities are so insular. Doing the meme page, I get followed by strangers but they're people who know people that I know in real life. There's an incredible connectivity.
Have you received feedback from your followers?
I get a lot of feedback from people who use my memes to start a conversation with their ex or just starting a conversation with a Tinder date to keep it going, and that feels really gratifying. I am happy to help make things less awkward. And I get a lot of meme requests to like to make memes about certain situations.
Is there a situation that people request more than any other?
A lot of people will actually request memes that are specific to them, like a situation they went through... an awkward OKCupid date. I usually tell people that by sending me that meme request, they actually just wrote the meme because you identified a paradox, right? And sometimes they'll essentially send a photo and say, "Use this photo," and I'm like, "You just made it." But I'm always telling people to make memes, I think it's a good outlet.