I recently read an article on how Pinterest is “killing feminism.” When I first discovered the article, just a couple of weeks ago, I knew immediately that I wanted to do a blog entry on it, as I’ve felt pretty strongly about the issue since Pinterest’s inception in 2010. I’m surprised at myself as I write this post though, because my opinion has radically changed over the span of the past two weeks. Had I written on this subject in the midst of my initial passion, I’m sure I would have regretted it later. You see, I initially had the idea that women were being superficial in using Pinterest, and that maybe the social media outlet was giving us a bad name. But what exactly about women loving fashion is so wrong, and how is that a threat to feminism? Isn’t a bigger threat when we start thinking it’s okay to regulate the interests of the feminist next door?
Allow me to explain. First, for those of my readers who are unfamiliar with Pinterest, it’s essentially a social media platform that allows users to compartmentalize their interests via online “pin boards”, to which they attach links and pictures that strike their fancy (you’re welcome, Mom and Dad). So, for example, if I’m trying to plan my dream apartment in Seattle, I can use Pinterest to sort through pictures of awesome room décor, affordable living room furniture, you get the point. I’ll then post them all on a “pin-board” entitled, “dream apartment” or whatever. Pretty cool, huh?
Well, some critics would say “nay.” According to BuzzFeed writer Amy Odell, “Pinterest’s user-generated content, which overwhelmingly emphasizes recipes, home decor, and fitness and fashion tips, feels like a reminder that women still seek out the retrograde, materialistic content that women’s magazines have been hawking for decades — and that the internet was supposed to help overcome.” She further stipulates that women’s media should be informative “without overwhelming them with superficial information about diet, exercise, or clothes, or wildly aspirational images of thin, photo-shopped models wearing designer dresses and lounging in mansions.”
Okay, two problems. First, Pinterest thrives on user-generated content, which means that Pinterest isn’t the anti-Christ—the users that showcase their “superficial” interests are (by that logic, anyway). Pinterest isn’t shoving these notions of femininity, beauty, and materialism down our throats—we’re making those messages available ourselves. Further, I find it offensive that Odell’s latter implication is that Pinterest is “overwhelming” women with these “wildly aspirational images.” The assumption here is that, as a female user of Pinterest, I am indiscriminant in the material I “pin”, and that I’m fazed by every image of a size-zero gal, chiseled stomach, toned arms, long legs, etc.
Do I have a Pinterest? Yes. And I don’t use my pin boards to piece together my “dream body” or the perfect, 500-calorie-a-day diet plan (seriously, pass the bacon cheeseburger my way). But the tree-hugger in me loves the DIY, “trash to treasure” ideas. The movie lover in me is obsessed with the wealth of Pulp Fiction and Fight Club memes. The dreamer in me loves the pictures of the west coast, and gives me a forum to plan for my future, cozy apartment in Seattle, Washington. Shockingly enough, my Pinterest hasn’t served the purpose of brainwashing me into a mini-Martha Stewart minion; rather, it’s reflective of my personal interests, and gives me a cool, organized, cyber-space to put them.
And by the way, if I wanted to get my inner-Martha Stewart on, what the hell is fundamentally wrong with that? If I wanted to work on my beach bod, how is that problematic? Being a feminist doesn’t mean that I have to forgo any aspect of my femininity, even if it does align with traditional, socially prescribed gender norms. Ladies, if you want to channel your inner-June Cleaver and bake a pie, you go Glen Coco. If you decide to pin a motivational fitness quote, I won’t disparage you (but sister, remember that your pant-size doesn’t define you).
Granted, I think it’s ridiculous for women who don’t even have boyfriends to be pinning their “dream wedding”, all the way down to the cut and size of your engagement ring. To me, that’s not remotely romantic, and that’s got to make the guy feel like he’s just one last box to check off. Not cool, but I digress. On the other hand though, for brides-to-be, Pinterest is a god-send, and a great tool to organize the fine details of the big event. Moms will benefit from Pinterest’s 30-minute meal ideas, so they can quickly feed hungry mouths after a long day of work (whether it’s inside or outside the house). I personally love the fashion pins—who doesn’t love a good little black dress?
Here’s the deal. Pinterest is user-generated, meaning that the “stuff” that’s available for us to pin, we put up there ourselves. And yes, that’s obviously reflective of our interests as the users, but just because we pin recipes, jewelry, clothing, and fitness links, doesn’t make “us”, the collective female Pinterest community, bad feminists, or guilty of destroying feminism. (Nor is the list I just mentioned exhaustive—there are a host of social, political, and pop culture topics for users to explore.) Yes, it’s an interactive forum for folks to organize their interests, but let’s not act like Pinterest is the source and summit of our information. In this day and age, we’re so plugged in to social media, and Pinterest is ultimately one small facet of that. So before we disparage Pinterest for putting feminism at risk, can we please remember that feminine is not anti-feminist, and at the end of the day, it’s just a pinboard?