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The Ups and Downs of Being a Feminist on Pinterest

by Jarrah Hodge

Confession: I’m a feminist and I’m on Pinterest.

I thought it was time for me to weigh in on the discussion that’s been going on about feminism and Pinterest. A BuzzFeed article that was making the rounds back in October argued that Pinterest was “killing feminism”, saying:

“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.”

Amelia McDonell-Parry at The Frisky was one of several feminists who called the BuzzFeed post an overreaction:

“How users experience Pinterest varies from person to person. I, for one, rarely see a diet recipe or a fitness tip come across my dashboard, because I don’t pin that type of content and I don’t seem to follow users that do. But I don’t knock users that do; what’s wrong with wanting to get in shape, lose weight, and eat healthy? Is there something explicitly anti-feminist about that and thus anti-feminist about a platform that allows users to link to that type of content? Give me a break.”

I think it’s fair to recognize, as Terri Ciccone at the Jane Dough does, that there is problematic content on Pinterest, but that “Pinterest didn’t put it there; it’s not a monolith. Women did.”

It’s important to look at what’s on Pinterest because it can tell us something about what its users (60% women, although some estimates go as high as 79%) are looking at and sharing online. We can talk about the potentially problematic messages being shared just like we do with Facebook pages, Twitter hashtags, and Tumblr posts, by looking at what it means that so many people participate in spreading those messages. But we also need the perspective of recognizing that Pinterest is only part of many users’ social media engagement, so looking at it probably doesn’t give us quite the whole story.

So I’ve been on Pinterest now for 8 months and I wanted to talk about what I see as the potential ups and downs are for feminists on Pinterest. When you add my craft and recipe boards to the tens of millions of other Pinterest users out there, does it start to seem to an average user that women are more interested in traditionally feminine pursuits than, say, politics or the pursuit of equality? It might, and that’s something worth discussing. Are there ways to make Pinterest more of a feminist tool? I want to talk about that, too. If you’re a feminist already on Pinterest, let me know if you agree, disagree, or have anything to add.   Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 21 Comments