Pinterest and the modern feminist

Pinterest Bingo games via Boing Boing.
Pinterest Bingo games via Boing Boing.

With 10.4 million users, Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site in history - and 68 per cent of Pinterest members are women.

But according to Amy Odell of Buzzfeed, Pinterest is killing feminism.

All of these re-pinned photos of cauliflower crust pizzas, owl cupcakes and fitness motivation mantras are apparently setting the women's movement back decades.

She says, "Pinterest's user-generated content, which overwhelmingly emphasises recipes, home decor, and fitness and fashion tips, feels like a reminder that women still seek out retrograde, materialistic content."

She continues,  "it's the Mormon housewife's image bookmarking service of choice."

There are certainly a lot of photos on Pinterest of finger food for your next dinner party, messy French braids, Mason jars brimming with coconut mocha frappes, and preachy inspirational quotes written in trendy fonts backed by vintage-look photographs - like, "It's never too late to be what you might have been - George Elliot".

And although Pinterest has banned thinspiration content there is still a plethora of aspirational photos of toned abs and extreme diet tips.

But are interesting ways to paint your nails, DIY crochet tea cosy instructions, and ideas for decorating your study the end of feminism?

It's a flawed argument. On Pinterest it's just as easy to find pictures of Rosie the Riverter as it is a Victoria's Secret model.

Just because so-called retrograde, materialistic pins exist, doesn't mean they make up the entirely of Pinterest.

Art and Design pinboards outnumber Fashion pinboards, and there are almost as many travel pins as there are dream wedding pins.

Everything on there, from the Scrabble christmas ornaments to diet quesadillas, is user-generated content. Pinterest is just a platform to display and organise it.

Terri Ciccone of The Jane Dough argues that "if women are selecting and supporting the content that gets pinned and re-pinned, and if you subscribe to to Odell's argument, then Pinterest isn't killing feminism - women are."

But let's backtrack for a moment and look at the movement that is allegedly being murdered by Pinterest.

Feminism is the belief that women and men should have equal political, social, and economic rights.

As Caitlin Moran so rightly points out, most women who don't want to be called feminists don't really understand what feminism is. But what about the women who do?

Unfortunately what Odell's article argues is that in order to be a feminist, you need to be a certain kind of woman.

An earnest, meaty-reading, Mason jar hating, anti-bracelet wearing kind of woman.

If you subscribe to her model of feminism, then you must not be interested in recipes, diet, fitness, or fashion.

But kitchen porn and feminism aren't mutually exclusive, and an interest in craft or interior design doesn't mean that you don't believe in equal rights for women.

It's just as damaging to tell women that they're killing feminism by liking pretty pictures as it is to tell them that in order to be feminine you must dress, act, look a certain way.

It's the same constricted view, albeit from a different angle.

Odell tries to balance her argument by saying that it's not all Pinterest's fault that women can't make their own informed choices about the way they use social media - that, "without drastic changes to the media we're bombarded with daily - on billboards, television, the internet, and newsstands - women seem unlikely to ditch the cauliflower pizza recipes."

By making women the victims of Martha Stewart, society, and the media, this becomes the antithesis of a feminist argument.

Women are still being treated as one dimensional by other women.

No wonder sexism is still so widespread when even self-proclaimed feminists like Odell tell us that only a certain kind of woman (the Pinterest-rejecting, domesticity hater) deserves equal rights and respect.

We are fortunate that we have the luxury to be able to choose what sort of woman we want to be.

Including the freedom to be both a feminist and a connoisseur of cauliflower pizzas.

The diversity of interests that pop up each day on  Pinterest are actually a timely reminder of one important fact this debate throws up, and that is, there is no right or wrong way to be a woman.


Sydney Morning Herald