Pinterest’s Internalized Misogyny Problem

Like most addictions, Pinterest has its problems. The whole “fitspiration” thing, wherein pictures of muscled (but skinny!) women are posted alongside some craptastic quote about sweat being fat crying or whatever has been talked about extensively in the feminist blogosphere. There’s a great article I came across a few days ago talking about the appropriation of disability to use as “inspiration.” There’s been talk about the societal gender performance norms that make Pinterest a “girly” thing. The “Pinterest is for girls and Tumblr is for boys” thing has been popping up since the site got popular, and it shows no signs of stopping despite the hoards of Pinning boys and Tumbling girls.

But still, I understand how we’ve come associate Pinterest with all things XX. The site is a dangerous whirlpool of crafts, recipes, fashion, and home decor waiting to suck you in and drown you in a sea of procrastination. Of course, it’s also a treasure box of geekiness and feminism and LGBTQ goodness, but does that stuff ever make it to the front page? Are those the popular pins that everyone sees? Every now and then, something nerdy makes it up there, but mostly it’s wedding stuff and fitspiration garbage and celebrities.

And stop it with the comments, too.

The real issue that I have with Pinterest isn’t, however, that it’s filled with stereotypical lady things ( though I do have an issue with the construction of appropriate, unobtainable womanhood there, but that’s another post), the issue I have is that it’s brimming with internalized misogyny. Ever wonder what The Plastics grew up to do while they played housewife? Go check out the comments on Pinterest’s Popular page.

Normally, I keep my distance from comments on anything not posted in a safe space or at least on a site with decent mods. Sadly, my iPad doesn’t load Pinterest as quickly as I’d like, and while it’s busy fetching pins, I skim over the comments on some of the already loaded images. For every comment noting the coolness of a DIY blouse or the easiness of a cookie recipe, there’s one slut-shaming or denigrating someone’s body. I wish I had been taking screenshots, but trust me, they’re there. Wander over and have a look and I guarantee you’ll come across at least one image of, say, a well-muscled woman lifting weights. That pin will have three comments going “Wow! That’s really impressive!”, three lamenting about their bodies, and two saying something along the lines of “Ewwwww thats so gross women shouldnt look like that” and “No thanks!”, not to mention a transphobic comment or two. I recently came across a pin featuring an older photo of Anne Hathaway that I thought was particularly pretty. She was smiling and wasn’t super-Photoshopped. The comments were appalling. There were a few of the usual comments proclaiming her beauty or acting, and then a bunch more doing the opposite. So much hate there, and for what? My grandmother always said not to say anything at all if I didn’t have something nice to say, and while I’m all for tossing that out the window when it comes to social justice, it’s just rude and unnecessary to comment on random stuff you hate.

I should also mention that if I had a dollar for every “That’s why I hate girls! So much drama!” comment I’ve seen on Pinterest, I’d be able to pay for the rest of grad school out of pocket and afford to take an unpaid internship. Yes, we know. You’re so much better than the rest of us whiny bitchez because you only hang out with dudes and we’re just a bunch of catty drama llamas, right? This has nothing to do with playing to patriarchy for the sake of getting some guys, does it? This kind of internalized misogyny gives all the women who like to hang out with men because they like them as people a bad name. It’s true that many of my friends are male, and sometimes I hang out with just them. It’s because we have things in common. I also do this with my female friends. Weird, right? NO. So, Handmaidens of the Kingdom of LadyHate, what are you hoping to get from this? What is it that you think will come of this? Do you suppose all the other women of the Internet will bow before you and proclaim you better than them? Probably, but I hope that doesn’t happen.

I hate to blame those who get on Pinterest or wherever else and start spouting shit about how what a trashy gold-digger Kate Middleton is (saw that today!) or how tacky they think some random woman is for wearing  this shirt/those shoes/ that lipstick. It’s a sickness of the culture we live in that objectifies women, that puts us on a pedestal only to see how fast they can knock us off. Those commenters are playing the game, but there’s nothing there to win. The fact is that Pinterest is very heavily dominated by women, and the pins that exhibit the most internalized misogyny aren’t the ones being repinned or commented on by guys. Put down your shields. There’s nothing to be afraid of, nothing to gain or to lose by stopping the hate. The very things that are being said are the things that create the people who say them. It’s a cycle, and it can only be broken by knocking it the hell off.

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Elfity

Elfity, so named for her tendency to be a bit uppity and her elf-like appearance, is a graduate student and professional Scary Feminist of Rage. She has a propensity for social justice, cheese, and Doctor Who. Favorite activities include making strange noises, napping with puppies and/or kitties, and engaging in political and philosophical debates.

14 thoughts on “Pinterest’s Internalized Misogyny Problem”

  1. I use Pinterest pretty frequently but never really see that stuff there; I see it basically everywhere else, though, which is why I hide there a lot. I have a lot of male friends there (who are smart enough to see that it’s not just for women), but since they’re mostly geeky sorts they just post design, food, and tech stuff. I do admit that it’s always tempting for me to comment sarcastically on some of the dumb stuff I see there; obvious ads (repeated posts of ‘this weight loss secret really works!’ and so on), overuse of terms like ‘genius!’ (it may be a good idea to wipe your floorboards with a dryer sheet, but it is NOT ‘genius’), etc. but I keep myself in check. For now…

    I like that it is one of the few places online where I can avoid the sort of catty misogyny that is rampant elsewhere; I look at home decor, food, geek (always Doctor Who pics), tech, and when brave the occasional hair/beauty (which is mostly ads and hair braiding, but sometimes something useful).

    1. If there’s one thing that Pinterest has shown me, it’s that we have not taught our populace enough adjectives that mean “good thinking.” In addition to about 33% “genius!” tags, I see another 33-ish% of things labeled “brilliant!” Again, painting a mason jar “mint” is kind of cute, depending on what you’re up to I guess, but is it “brilliant”? I vote not.

      I should have pinned a photo of the people who were working on the Higgs Boson the other day and labeled it “genius,” just to be a douche.

      In direct opposition to Pinterest’s mission statement/purpose/whatever, I do have a board that is mocking other stuff, but usually I resist mocking because I don’t want to offend all the former classmates I follow. Ha.

  2. I was initially super into pinterest for all of the crafting ideas, it’s one of the reasons I got into needle felting (I saw some felted cacti on pinterest and wanted to make them for my Mom’s birthday).  As things progressed and as more people added me (generally facebook friends and whatnot) I noticed a lot of dream wedding stuff and a lot of fitspiration… and it’s just not my thing…. as a result I sort of stopped pinning. I never thought of it as a feminist issue though, so thanks for pointing it out! Definitely food for thought!

  3. “That’s why I hate girls! So much drama!”

    I regularly put women like this on blast on my Facebook. IRL, I don’t befriend people like that. They need to get their priorities in order and I don’t have the patience to teach them.

  4. Pinterest is like the rest of the internet… scratch that – the world. I make it a habit of avoiding the nastiness if possible, and enjoying the good as much as possible. I’ve told myself I won’t pin fitness, clothes, or food, but I pinned my first piece of clothing today (a SPF 45 shrug) so I could find it later, and I “like” a lot of food. Fitness pins fall into a couple of categories for me. One is the thinspiration bullshit which is a big no-no and even one of those gets you unfollowed for me. But I don’t mind the “strong” ones so much. I’d much rather look at pictures of muscular women who clearly eat enough to build that kind of muscle. I can see how others would find it offensive in some ways, but it doesn’t bother me.

    ETA: I pin almost exclusively home decor or architecture, because that’s my primary interest, so it’s much easier to miss a lot of the crap when you primarily have a niche interest on Pinterest.

  5. I love Pinterest, but I almost exclusively follow people I know so I can avoid this nonsense. I like checking the popular page on occasion, but I try really hard not to look at the comments because it makes me too ragey. Every once in a while I’ll comment if I see something truly heinous, but the backlash from ignorant fools stresses me out too much so I usually just report the pin and go on my way.

    1. Yeah, I really try to stick to the people I follow. Normally, however, I break down and mosey over to the other pages because I get bored compulsively checking my following page to see if something new has popped up in the last five minutes!

    2. I look at the “everything” page sometimes, but I didn’t even notice there was a “popular” option–that seems dangerous to me! But I can guess some of the stuff on it. I follow almost all my facebook friends (who are also on Pinterest) and some of the stupidest hair ideas are repinned dozens of times by them. I’m like, “you really need a pin and step by step tutorial for THAT? PLUS IT IS UGLY!” PLUS THEY ARE SO OFTEN UGLY!

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