Pinfatuation: The Trouble With Curated Femininity

Pinterest has just overcome Tumblr on the scale of national popularity. A bland marketplace for recycled taste has replaced a site known to embrace creativity and individuality, or when individuality is scarce, a gesture towards the varied modes of self-expression. Instead of producing content, as in the blogosphere, Pinterest only produces lusty little ventures into worlds one does not inhabit. A user can create her own page, thereby bravely expressing desires and wishes and images that will surely face some kind of judgment from followers, but in a way that requires no real thought, action. Instead of writing about our feelings or expressing them through art or (God forbid) conversation, we now have the freedom to express ourselves through the simple action of pinning What We Want.

Children are born dreaming. They want space exploration, they want lemonade stands, they want to be the first woman to be president or the first man to…well, men have done everything. What my generation wanted in youth is not specific—to be lawyers? Scientists? Scientologists?

It has simultaneously become hip in its own right to embrace domesticity—doing for yourself what you don’t want The Man to handle for you. Women knit more. Women raise chickens in backyard coops, in urban settings. Women pickle their own peppers. Women do. But besides giving people (I do mean women) a place to keep track of the things they do or would like to, and in an environment that is not necessarily boundary-pushing, Pinterest shifts domesticity from a thing of action and accomplishment to primeval, exhibitionist lust.

I have a lot of college girlfriends who spend a lot of time on Pinterest. Elementary education majors have classroom ideas neatly organized; those in pursuit of the MRS degree have Pinboards of engagement rings and floorplans and recipes and crafts to make. Lots of them want to lose weight, or keep it off, or simply stay in shape, and they pin inspirational Jillian Michaels quotes and detox schedules.

But I also have a lot of college girlfriends who are not planning weddings, or naming babies or trying banana-only diet plans. They are on Pinterest too, though, practicing. Maybe they only like the ideas and products they pin—maybe they have no intention or ability to actually do these things. I fall into this category. Yes, I love that $400 Tibi dress, but I will not be wearing it. Yes, that’s clever as hell to use mason jars in lighting (applicable to both the Dream House and Images of the American South Pinboards!), but I will not be getting around to that anytime soon.

In a world where Too Much Information abounds, the interior world of a woman’s wants and dreams has become synonymous with the public sector of her interests. Thank you, Pinterest, for toeing this line in the sand and then erasing it. What I want in my heart—the sprawling acreage in the American South, the property with live oaks, the children to hang from the live oaks—I feel uncomfortable talking about. But if we can hide behind the Internet persona of how domestic we are, why not? Why not confuse what is appropriate to share about yourself (by that I mean what is pertinent to your life at this moment, not the longing you have to be other than what or where you are) with what is too revealing to properly constitute social media? Boundaries, pushed. Pinterest, pioneering the grace of domesticity for a new generation.

I get to witness when one of my friends feels like she’s gained weight—I can empathize with her through her fleeting inspiration. I am able to channel the loneliness of the girl who pins pictures of friends and happy hours, the bliss of the newly-not-single woman who has floral arrangements on her mind. You could call it a guilty pleasure if guilty pleasures were real. You feel bad about your day, so you recover by making yourself seem better than you are or could ever be. Is that by wearing an apron and serving perfectly bubbly gin and tonic cupcakes? Is it by making plant-holders out of recycled lightbulbs and hanging them on a patio to prove efficiency and grace? Or is it by dreaming about these things? If Pinterest were private, these recoveries from roughnesses and expressions of self would be better, understandable maybe, at least a little more authentic. But Pinterest is not private.

In surpassing Tumblr, Pinterest has leveled itself with Facebook and Twitter as the third most used social media site in the world. Facebook is a place to connect with those you couldn’t find elsewhere, a place for people to share their interests and their thoughts and their photographs. Twitter is a place for brevity and information, mostly for humor or constant updates or sharing a quick inside joke. What these two social media giants have in common is connection. Pinterest is…Pinterest is a maze of cakes and pregnancy plans and knockoff dresses from Nordstrom—where is the connection? I am not connected to that girl from my biology lab because we like the same pair of wedges. Or am I? I guiltily snag this little piece of her precious taste and fling it against my own Pinboard and now when I see her, she knows we are connected. We’ve never spoken, but we follow each other on Pinterest. Why? Because we are both young, upper-middle-class, white collegiate girls raised by stay-at-home mothers who have some vibe or another in common. So why not share a shoe preference? Is this connection? Is this the new standard of personal understanding? We can fantasize over the same item, that maybe only one of us can afford, so we might as well indulge ourselves between biology lab work. Pinterest has an app, did I mention that?

It is good to dream, and it is definitely good to be inspired. But the condition of Pinterest throws us off into a clamor of WHAT WILL MY FUTURE BE LIKE and HOW SHOULD I WEAR MY HAIR TONIGHT. Genuine, quality, consumer-neurosis resolving questions. But these should not necessarily be given a new, public outlet. I often think I would use Pinterest much more consistently and thoroughly if my account were private. I would keep the best ideas to myself so that other people could not steal them, and I would keep the most heartfelt ideas to myself so that other people could not judge me. 


M. M. Locker