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‘Hey Girl,’ Science Says Those Ryan Gosling Memes Actually Make A Difference

“Feminist Ryan Gosling” goes from meme to serious ambassador for feminist throught

image via (cc) flickr user zaffi

”Hey Girl...”

By now we’ve all probably come across the “Feminist Ryan Gosling” meme, created by writer Danielle Henderson, in which images of the sensitive-eyed heartthrob are paired with a sentence or two of feminist theory or general progressive sentiment. The meme, which Henderson stopped working on a year ago in order to focus on academia, has been featured in Newsweek, Time magazine, GQ, and even has its own book. But while Feminist Ryan Gosling seems at first like an ordinary (albeit wonderful, and massively popular) bit of internet ephemera like that which floods our Twitter streams and newsfeeds on a daily basis, new research indicates the meme may actually be more impactful than previously thought.

In a study entitled “The Effect of Ryan Gosling Feminist Memes on Feminist Identification and Endorsement of Feminist Beliefs” University of Saskatchewan researchers took 99 subjects—a third of whom were male—and divided them into two groups. One group was shown images of Ryan Gosling without any text, the other shown the feminist meme. Subjects then answered a series of questions designed to assess their relationship to feminism and feminist thought. While female participants did not exhibit any noticeable change in their feminist sympathies, the researchers were surprised to find that male participants saw their openness to feminist theory—in particular, the socialist and radical strains—increase by as much as 10 percent.

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In offering an explanation for the increase in feminist attitudes among male participants, researcher and social psychology Ph.D. candidate Linzi Williamson told Canada’s National Post: “We don’t know what it was about him that they liked so much [...] It could have been they just really admired him or they think he’s a cool dude.” Co-researcher, and fellow Ph.D. candidate Sarah Stangster, offered the National Post a slightly more pointed explanation, saying: “He’s viewed as sexual competition, so he becomes someone to live up to.”

Whatever the root pyschological cause of the “Gosling Bump” (please can we call it that? Let’s call it that) the research team point to their findings as providing initial support for “the notion that popular internet memes can serve more than an entertainment function in that they can also serve as a persuasive device for relaying ideological information.”

In other words: Memes matter.

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