Feminist Ryan Gosling was started in 2011 by a bored graduate student and quickly became a viral phenomenon, spawning a book.
At the time Danielle Henderson said she had no idea how big the meme would become. “I greatly underestimated the popularity of Ryan Gosling and feminism! I greatly underestimated that those two working in conjunction would do something for people,” she told Feministing.
Four years later and two academics at the University of Saskatchewan have proved just how much Ryan Gosling and feminism can do, after finding that viewing the images causes a surge in feminist feeling for men.
The study by PhD students Sarah Sangster and Linzi Williamson showed various pictures of Gosling to 99 participants: 69 female, 30 male. Half had feminist phrases written over the pictures, feminist Ryan Gosling-style, and half did not. After looking at the pictures, participants filled out a questionnaire asking about their beliefs about feminism and if they agreed with feminist statements such as “the workplace is organised around men’s oppression of women”.
They found that while men in the experiment did not increase in identifying themselves as feminist, they were more likely to agree with feminist statements, concluding “results support hypothesis that exposure to memes increases endorsement of specific feminist beliefs”.
One caveat, the sample was very small. “We saw this pop culture phenomenon that many people dismissed,” said Sangster. “But maybe they also have an important effect.”
The findings were originally presented last year at the Canadian Psychological Association Convention.