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Pinterest is all pink, puppies and pretty ponies

Here is a world devoid of science, of politics, of dark humour, of a social conscience


 

Sergiu Bacioiu/Flickr

Everyone’s epiphany of what womanhood means comes at different times. For some, it’s their first period. For others, it’s getting married. More likely, it’s the first time some dude in a car yells “Nice cans!” For me, it was clapping eyes on Pinterest.

For anyone unfamiliar, Pinterest is an up-and-coming social network that is based on sharing mostly visual images. You can make albums (“Dining room chairs” “Nice rapper grills” “Wedding dress ideas” “Insides of butcher shops”) and fill them with photos of things you fantasize about spending more time with. The first Pinterest album I saw was a designer’s. It was like a beautiful mood board brimming with illustrations, landscapes and black-and-white nudes; as a visual resource, it made sense to me.

The next time I visited Pinterest, it was because I’d been hearing murmurs about how it was “girly.” I was incensed. Weren’t architects, furniture makers and designers all men and women alike? Didn’t it insult them to be called “girly”?

And then I visited the homepage and was swept away on a pink and frothy tidal current of the most incredibly, undeniably girly content I’d ever seen.

I realize that I’m going to have to unpack what I mean by girly. Excuse me while I get all grad-school-y for a second, but gender, so goes the popular chorus, is a construct. We decide pink is girly and blue is for boys. Boys like sports and girls like cooking. And so on. Eventually, we start to feel all these things are not arbitrary (even though at the turn of the 19th century, pink was actually recommended for boys and “daintier” blue was for girls) but natural. That’s just the way things are, right? Boys like gadgets and space and noise and girls like… well, girls like Pinterest.

Their homepage, which features the most popular posts, is the quickest way to communicate what the average North American seems to think “femininity” is. Remember how girls in high school would paper their lockers with pictures of heartthrobs, puppies in baskets, minidresses they wanted, red, fruity cocktails they’d like to get hammered on? Imagine looking in that locker, then being shoved in it and having the door slammed closed on you. That’s a visit to Pinterest.

And that’s why I find it so bleak. Here is a world devoid of science, of politics, of dark humour, of a social conscience. It’s a world where orgasms don’t exist but babies are everywhere. Where “you go, girl!” affirmations rub shoulders with Mountain Dew cupcakes. This domain is sort of like a girls-only clubhouse, but it’s not about expressing innermost desires, just surface desires—for hair, shoes, nail art, a boyfriend that exists in soft-focus black-and-white.

It’s not a subculture, either. It’s the same idea of femininity that the two biggest female entrepreneurs of the past decade—maybe ever—Martha and Oprah, made their fortune selling. And it infuriates me because it’s so damned archaic—Pinterest circa 1912 would be fundamentally the same.

It’s easy to say that my anger stems from being on the outside of this group, and I wouldn’t deny it. This easy how-to guide to being a woman, engineered by a bunch of other women, makes me not only feel like an outsider (sure, I love cute animals and cake but I also love The New Yorker, talking about bodily functions and looking at cross-sections of sea lampreys’ faces) but also like a jerk for being mean about them.

I can’t really justify wrapping this up with a big huff about how Pinterest oppresses me, because it doesn’t. I have many female friends who share my interests. There are lots of squalid places on the Internet for men and women alike to hang out. But what it says about how women see themselves is slightly depressing. Milan Kundera once famously wrote that, “kitsch is the absolute denial of shit.” He was talking about totalitarian regimes, which brook no dissent, no expression of anything authentic and challenging, because why would anyone want to change the status quo when it’s perfect?

Pinterest isn’t exactly a totalitarian regime, but it is kind of like the Army of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Dissent at your peril.


 

Pinterest is all pink, puppies and pretty ponies

  1. Pinterest is what you make of it, and that doesn’t have to be the most popular posts, which admittedly, do represent a rather arcane view of femininity.  Personally, I indulge in Pinterest to express the girlier side of me…I like pinning recipes, home organization and decor ideas, and crafts/ideas to do with the kids.  That doesn’t mean it’s all I do, nor that I don’t engage in bigger ideas, discussions or thoughts.  Rather than viewing Pinterest as a representation of the whole of a person, perhaps you’d be better off viewing it as a part….most of my life is not cupcakes, blended soups and cake bunting, I can assure you.

    I’m certain that if you were to ascribe to a ‘darker’ (of perhaps just more academic) subset of Pinterest, you would have no trouble finding like-minded people with whom you could communicate.  Feminism (and femininity) is not doomed….

    • Yep, you’re right. My boyfriend is on Pinterest (something like a third of users are men). He subscribes to pinners that post funny comics, political statements, or DIY projects (we’re in the middle of some minor renovations). All social networks are what the users make of them. You can’t blame Facebook and Twitter for the fact that a lot of users post what they ate for.breakfast that day. It’s not the medium’s fault–it’s just as easy to discuss politics, dark humour, etc.

      Anyway, I do use Pinterest for recipes, dresses, etc. as well. I suppose I’m just a poor archaic stereotype. I like that stuff.

  2. Interesting article and you make some thought-provoking points. There actually are a couple of “Pinterest for men” sites (see: MANteresting.com or Gentlemint.com)–what do you think of these? Will they catch on in the same way? Or will it be a more gender-neutral alternative like Pinspire.com (which just seems like a total copycat, so unlikely I guess) or Clipix.com (which seems like it has a few of its own unique features) or something else I haven’t even heard of?! Would love to hear your thoughts on where this trend is going.

  3. I’m trying to somehow work a few insults and nazi name calling into this response but I can’t. It makes no sense but that’s what I do. But be warned that I haven’t given up on finding a reason. I live for it. 

    Anyway, lots of my girlfriends are on this and they are not girly girls. That Lisa Jutras would see Pinterest as an attack on feminism says more about Lisan Jutras blinkered view of the world that it does the various women (who she knows nothing about personally) who use Pinterest. 

    • Oh, poor pathetic senorito.  I know you admire me greatly, but you cannot actually be me.  Stop posting with my name, you ignorant jerk.  Do you not understand how very easy it is to see who is actually posting under whose name?  Besides, everyone knows the REAL PATCHOULI never stoops to calling anyone a “nazi.”  And Lisan (not Lisa you idiot) has been advised that I don’t mock the writers here.

      Now go find a life, you fake.

      • Oh – didn’t see this when I posted above.  l’ll have to post my Senorito definition again. 

        • LOL: the mean, fake Patchouli got more likes than sweet li’l ol’ me!  Imagine!

          • I’m taking note – ‘be less nice’.  :-)

    • This gets edited by a moderator?  You’re such a troublemaker Patchouli.  I’ve never heard of this thing, I guess I will have to take a look.

  4. This article was the equivalent of a chubby goth kid decrying the normals for being conformist and fake.
    People put up what they like, who are we to judge if it’s frilly and cute, or grimdark and “edgy”.

  5. Liked these and Pinned it!

  6. Just wanted to tell a little story of how once upon a time I put up all these pictures of Kirk Cameron on my wall because I thought that was what ”girls” did. I also threw up a few photos of Menudo for variety. It wasn’t until I actually hit puberty that I began feeling genuine lustful urges towards Val Kilmer, (via Willow & The Doors) and then despite his deadness, Jim Morrison. Visual desire is a weird thing, sometimes I think we like images of things as a projection of who we want to be, not who we actually are. Pinterest is interesting because it’s right in that space, projecting identity into the future, “those curtains are too cute” I want to be a person who has or makes curtains like those.

    I never really wanted to kiss Kirk Cameron, but I cried when I found out Val Kilmer was married.

  7. “And that’s why I find it so bleak. Here is a world devoid of science, of politics, of dark humour, of a social conscience.”

    This comment tells me that you did not really do SEARCHES on PINTEREST for what you are interested in. I have found yes it has girly stuff and guy stuff (things made from tree trunks etc) but you need to search for what you want to find.

    I discovered PINTEREST on Christmas Day when my daughter-in-law showed me it and set me up. We have gotten closer by sharing some of these ideas. We just did a Baby Shower for my daughter and many of the the things I found on there, decorations, party food, and things to make for a new baby made that shower special and very memorable for her. She posted all the pictures on Facebook to show everyone.

    I suffer from Fibromyalgia and I have found great info on this site and many health tips on food and diet.

    Devoid of science NO – I have found many home remedies for health, fixing things and ways of entertaining kids with magic tricks using common items of food found in the kitchen.

    Social Conscience – so many people are putting things on there for “GREENING YOUR HOME AND GARDEN”, that should be upper most in today’s society.

    Dark Humour, definitely on there, some too dark for me. Many inspirationals quotes to make you a better you and person in the world never hurts anyone, in fact it should improve the world.What else does it have, great learning and teaching techniques for children, many ways to recycle common things and save a little more of our earth, recipes to help you eat better or worse depending on your choice, how to fix and repair things that normally get tossed and best of all is to remind us older folks how to create and have more fun with our grandchildren that are our future.

    I almost forgot,  in today’s world we all need to LAUGH  a lot more, plenty of HUMOUR and laughs make you live longer, happier and better lives. BLEAK – NOT!
     
    At first i didn’t get it but now I do. People put things on this site to help other people, bring joy into making something very special for EVERYONE or just to make themselves happy.

    Before you criticize, hit the SEARCH BUTTON. PennyofParis

  8. a thought provoking article to say the least. But I think that the article is too black-and-white. Yes, there are a lot of kittens and puppies and “girly” things on there. However, there are also images of incredible artwork, architecture and what you might label “science.” I’ve seen political stuff on there that is really eye-opening and controversial posts that make you think. I have never been a really “girly” girl and I love Pinterest. however, I choose to follow people whose content I find interesting. I don’t have to follow any cutesy cupcake or hair-do photos if I don’t want to. Even so, is there something inherently “bad” about “feminine” things? Why do you imply that people who are interested in this stuff are ignorant about science and worldly issues? It’s full of generalizations that are not always true.

  9. I heard an interview with Chris Hedges last night on CBC’s “Ideas”.  So I looked him up on the internet this morning and found a 2009 review of his book “Empire of Illusions” on the Maclean’s page.  I spotted the Pinterest thing and read that article too.  Hey, it is a direct illustration of Mr. Hedges assertion that corporations and politicians are tricking everybody into remaining 12, mentally and emotionally. Nothing wrong with being 12, but not if you’re 20, 40 or 60. Come on, grown-ups, grow up.

  10. Shit.  Guess I’d better send back my degree and cancel all my newspaper subscriptions since my enjoyment of cupcakes, dresses and kittens has erased my ability to use my brain for other things.  I find this article kind of obnoxious.  The idea that people who use Pinterest to collect and share “girly things” are vapid airheads who do nothing *but* that, and can’t possibly like clever edgy stuff like lampreys and The New Yorker is really patronising.

    I am a feminist, an activist and an academic.  I also like dresses and baking.  I am seriously fed up with women who don’t personally enjoy “girly” things making a big deal of how un-girly they are – throwing more-femme-than-you women under the bus *is* mean and you *are* a jerk.  It’s also misogynistic and unnecessary.  Maybe if women spent less time worrying about what other women are doing and more time fighting actual oppression we might actually get somewhere.

  11. While I do not support “our mother’s feminism”, the kind of feminism which forbids women to be feminine, the kind of “hillary clinton” feminism which says in order to do what men do, a woman must essentially be a man; that kind of “pant-suit” feminism; there is something about pinterest which I don’t like. Perhaps it’s the cattiness, or the millions of home improvement ideas which represent a materialistic “barbie dream house” quality. Maybe it’s the lack of anything thought provoking.

    Pinterest doesn’t come across to me as something mature, it’s the most banal fluff imaginable. It’s not in itself feminine as it is girlie. It feels like fourteen year old girls’ slumber parties, giggling over seventeen magazine articles.

    It’s as if women need their own special internet, as if they aren’t sophisticated enough for Huffington Post. It’s like The View. And just as The View, Pinterest appeals not to women, but adult girls … and maybe a few gay men just trying too hard to be gay.

    but that’s another topic entirely

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