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How a mom’s “This Is My Son” anti-feminist brag went viral — and completely backfired

One family’s viral #HimToo feud gave us the best meme of the week so far.

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

The downside to the age-old mantra “Never tweet” is that if we never tweeted, the internet would not occasionally reward us with amazing karmic justice — as it has in the case of the latest development on the #HimToo hashtag, the conversation around sexual assault, and the ill-advised tweet that inspired it all.

The uproar centered on a now-deleted tweet from a now-deleted user going by BlueStarNavyMom3, who made a post opining that her son was afraid to date in the #MeToo era. The apparently sincere tweet yielded not only one of the best overnight memes we’ve seen in a while but also a truly beautiful chaser, with the son in question showing up to gently disagree with his mom and deliver a win for feminism and people not being dicks to each other on the internet.

This might actually be whatever the opposite of a Milkshake Duck is — when a viral moment starts out seeming awful but then becomes unexpectedly good.

Until Monday, BlueStarNavyMom3 was an infrequent tweeter. A seemingly mild-mannered retiree and a proud mother from Oklahoma, she generally confined her social media content to tweets about TV and local Tulsa news.

Then this happened:

A screengrab of BlueStarNavyMom3’s tweet BlueStarNavyMom3 via Twitter

“This is MY son,” read the now-infamous tweet. “He graduated #1 in boot camp. He was awarded the USO award. He was #1 in A school. He is a gentleman who respects women. He won’t go on solo dates due to the current climate of false sexual accusations by radical feminists with an axe to grind. I VOTE. #HimToo.”

The #HimToo hashtag has been around for a while in response to the #MeToo movement, mainly fueled by conservatives who use it to claim that men are being marginalized by the push for workplace equality and the stories of sexual assault being shared in the #MeToo era.

Ironically, the #HimToo hashtag was originally used by male sexual assault survivors and their allies to share their own #MeToo stories, before it became overrun by alt-right Twitter users and other conservatives pushing against the #MeToo movement. These days, the typical rhetoric of the #HimToo hashtag, echoed in BlueStarNavyMom3’s tweet, is that now no man is safe from being falsely accused of sexual assault by women. (In reality, the percentage of rape reports that are false is very low — estimated at between 2 and 8 percent.)

But even beyond its hashtag, the original tweet had all the ingredients of virality: sincerity bordering on satire, a clean-cut sailor, looking fresh-faced and primed to break into a jaunty homoerotic musical number, and a sense of disproportionate wounded outrage that’s increasingly familiar in the Trump era.

So it’s no wonder that Twitter users immediately responded with wide-ranging parodies — many of them pointing out the hyperbolic naiveté of mothers’ blind love for their potentially dangerous sons:

These memes highlight the absurdity of the “no man is safe” rhetoric — but they’re also just fun.

But in the middle of all this hilarity, there was one person who was a little confused: Jon Hanson, brother of 32-year-old Pieter Hanson — the guy in the sailor outfit.

As Hanson watched his mom’s tweet and his brother’s photo go viral, he could only respond with amused bafflement:

But eventually he stepped forward to do all of us a public service and convince his brother to make a Twitter account.

And behold — Pieter Hanson’s first tweet, made using the handle @thatwasmymom, made everything better.

Not only is Pieter Hanson, proud Navy vet and cat dad, not a misogynist, he is a feminist ally with a sense of humor! He followed up this tweet with a highly respectable series of photos of his cats, and a plea to passersby to donate to cancer charities on behalf of his other brother, a cancer survivor.

Pieter’s Twitter debut served to change the course of his viral celebrity, turning him from an unfortunate symbol of an unfortunate counter-movement into an unexpectedly charming feminist ally. As one of his friends came forward to attest, Hanson is also a minister who apparently performs weddings dressed like a tiki bar:

And here he is doing ... uh, this ... with his brother:

He also works at a brewhouse, where he crafts beer and makes Instagram posts like these:

View this post on Instagram

I learned how to beach

A post shared by Pieter Hanson (@pieter.communitybrewhouse) on

I know what you’re thinking. Are these guys ... actually good? Could it be true? It’s not all a giant setup priming us for disappointment later?

In fact, as the Hanson brothers told the Washington Post, they remain totally baffled about why their mom made the original tweet about Pieter. She took it down at his request, and removed her entire Twitter account as well.

“It doesn’t represent me at all,” Hanson told the Post. “I love my mom to death, but boy . . . I’m still trying to wrap my head around all this.”

Go ahead and be happy for once, Twitter users, it’s okay.

However, the conversation around the Hanson family hasn’t entirely drowned out the more serious aspects of the conversation that sprang up after their mom’s tweet. The #HimToo hashtag, remember, once served as an important outlet for men who don’t often have one.

Then there’s the rhetoric around “no man is safe now,” which works to silence women and keep them from coming forward, and creates an atmosphere where they’re less likely to be believed when they do. And while, yes, this time, the guy really did turn out to be a gentleman, there are plenty of people who believe the rhetoric, as well as people who are fixated on this idea for the wrong reasons — as this thread outlines.

Then there’s the other side of this reality, where highly prized sons can grow up to commit sexual assault and possibly avoid severe consequences.

Was that too much of a buzzkill after this one shining moment of happiness on the internet? I didn’t even mention the Supreme Court!

Okay, look, I’m sorry. Go back to enjoying your reverse Milkshake Duck while you can, before he turns out to have a sordid past that will make this all seem like a long-lost dream. In the meantime, go look at Pieter Hanson’s adorable cats and be thankful for the brief reassurance that there’s still some good left in the world, and on Twitter.

Correction: This article originally stated that the percentage of false rape accusations is between 2 and 8 percent. That percentage describes the number of false rape reports.

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