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:
“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.
#HimToo sounds like a sexy cologne advertised during General Hospital in 1977.— Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) October 9, 2018
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:
This is MY son. He singlehandedly runs a small hotel. He's a homeowner. He knows a boy's best friend is his mother. He goes a little mad sometimes. He won't go on solo dates due to the current climate of false accusations by radical anti-shower-stabbing feminists. I VOTE. #HimToo pic.twitter.com/qSYY7Cy46E— Night of the Living Marble (@living_marble) October 8, 2018
This is MY son. My special, special boy. He is #1 in my heart and does what his Mother tells him. He's a good boy. He doesn't go on solo dates because of the current climate of drug use and promiscuity among radical teenagers... but he does have an axe to grind. I VOTE. #HimToo pic.twitter.com/OTRkwXnjM4— Shannon & Swift (@shannonandswift) October 9, 2018
This is MY son, Ted. He worked for Republicans, went to law school, and is described as charming & charismatic. He drives a sensible Volkswagen. He WILL go on solo dates, if you’re interested- even during the current climate of ridiculous accusations against him. I VOTE. #HimToo pic.twitter.com/lEkjbWn0da— smy pan (@Amyspano1) October 9, 2018
These memes highlight the absurdity of the “no man is safe” rhetoric — but they’re also just fun.
This is my son. He was #1 on the charts. He won’t go on solo dates even though he never gave up, let you down, run around, or deserted you, make you cry, say goodbye, tell a lie nor hurt you #HimToo pic.twitter.com/Q5sMpGIVR3— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) October 8, 2018
This is MY son. Blends in really well in any situation. Seems lost in prayer, very spiritual. Only has one ear and it's under his belly, which seems appropriate for a male. Will never go on a solo date so as not to be decapitated and devoured after sex. I VOTE.#HimToo pic.twitter.com/XD4Wkgxh5P— Charlotte Clymer ️ (@cmclymer) October 9, 2018
This is my son. He is a gentleman who treats ladies with respect. He’s afraid to date right now because of the current climate. Seriously, because of the actual climate his future kids won’t be able to survive. I vote. #HimToo pic.twitter.com/pxefN68aNZ— Luna Malbroux (@LunaisAmerica) October 9, 2018
This is MY son. i found him in a cemetery eating bath salts. when i bring him with me to walmart the cashier doesn't argue about my expired coupons. sometimes he hides thumbtacks in my shoes. He won't go on solo dates because women find him sexually intimidating. I VOTE. #HimToo pic.twitter.com/zXNnmXJRCz— S. Esmerie is voting Nov 6th (@lizardwedding) October 8, 2018
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.
This has gotten bigger than I anticipated. I’m telling my brother to make a twitter account.— Jon Hanson (@DancinJonHanson) October 9, 2018
And behold — Pieter Hanson’s first tweet, made using the handle @thatwasmymom, made everything better.
That was my Mom. Sometimes the people we love do things that hurt us without realizing it. Let’s turn this around. I respect and #BelieveWomen . I never have and never will support #HimToo . I’m a proud Navy vet, Cat Dad and Ally. Also, Twitter, your meme game is on point. pic.twitter.com/yZFkEjyB6L— Pieter Hanson (@Thatwasmymom) October 9, 2018
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:
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?
I wish I was smart or talented enough to think of that. Nope. This is just my mom trying to get my brother a girlfriend.— Jon Hanson (@DancinJonHanson) October 9, 2018
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.
This is the first moment of pure joy I can remember experiencing in quite some time pic.twitter.com/yHmNOkbbGb— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) October 9, 2018
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.
The real #HimToo is that men are more likely to be sexually assaulted than falsely accused.— amanda wallwin, a ghost (@amandawallwin) October 9, 2018
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.
Okay so I'm a youth worker, and therefore have to deal with youth safety policies.— Aaah! nalee (@leeflower) October 9, 2018
So I'm going to talk for a sec about "I am/my son is afraid to be alone with women now!" and why that tells me the gentleman in question should definitely not be alone with women.
My experience as a youth worker has taught me that people who are preoccupied about false accusations are generally people who end up having difficulty operating within that culture of respect and accountability. Even though they're worried about getting falsely accused.— Aaah! nalee (@leeflower) October 9, 2018
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.
So I’ve since learned that becoming internet famous is the best way force people to look at pictures of your cats. So here we go pic.twitter.com/uQgbRrWmoF— Pieter Hanson (@Thatwasmymom) October 9, 2018
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.