Adler, R. & Elmhorst, J.M. (2012). Communicating at work: Principles and practices for business and the professions (10th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Adler and Elmhorst share observations about gender communication, including differences in listening and language. This information was used to determine the implications of Pinterest on gender communication.
Brooke, C. (2009). Lingua fracta: Toward a rhetoric of new media (pp. 113-134). Creskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc.
Brooke offers observations regarding the differences between immersion and interaction. These insights were used when considering gender communication and Pinterest.
Jurgenson, N. (2012, March 5). Pinterest and feminism. In The Society Pages. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/03/05/pinterest-and-feminism/
This blog post provided insight regarding how Pinterest is affecting feminism. The author further explains MacKinnon’s concepts of difference and dominance feminism and applies them to Pinterest.
Keith, W. (2008). The essential guide to rhetoric. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, Inc.
Keith’s book offered insight regarding a person’s identity and how that identity is created. This information was helpful when considering the effect Pinterest has on women’s online identities and interests.
Lessig, L. (2008). Remix. London, England: The Penguin Press.
Lessig discusses the concepts of remixing as a new way to contribute to the read-write culture. This book was used to determine why remixing is important in today’s culture; this was applied to Pinterest’s option of pinning original content.
MacKinnon, C. (1984). Difference and dominance: On sex discrimination. Theorizing Feminism.
MacKinnon’s study examines the difference between difference and dominance feminism. Difference and dominance feminism offer two very different perspectives regarding women and their roles in society; these perspectives can be applied to Pinterest and its large female population.
Odell, A. (2012, October). How Pinterest is killing feminism. In BuzzFeed. Retrieved December 11, 2012, from http://www.buzzfeed.com/amyodell/how-pinterest-is-killing-feminism
This blog post discusses the effect of Pinterest on feminism. The author believes staunchly that Pinterest has set the feminist movement back; therefore, this post supported the dominance feminism aspect of this paper.
Palmeri, J. (2012). Remixing Composition (pp. 3-63). N.p.: Southern Illinois University Press.
Palmeri discusses the concept of remixing. This book was used to support the idea that Pinterest’s option of uploading, pinning, and re-pinning new content is a form of remixing.
Although the website was intended to be a place for organization and storage, it has come to symbolize much more than that for women all over the world. Women use Pinterest as a creative outlet for their subdued femininity, pinning and re-pinning items that otherwise would have been dismissed. Pinterest has become a new role-playing game for females, giving them the opportunity to lose themselves among recipes and fashion advice without social repercussions.
Ultimately, it should be noted that whichever side of feminism a women supports, Pinterest as a new RPG gives women the choice to engage with their new, second identities and rediscover their femininity. Recipes, diets, fitness and wedding planning are not the only categories available for pinning on the website. At any time, women have the opportunity to engage in different content that may not necessarily be considered “feminine” or “domestic”; Pinterest isn’t hypnotizing women into a new lifestyle. Rather, they choose to embrace this side of themselves, which any feminist would agree is a positive aspect.
Now that Pinterest, Feminism and RPGs have been addressed separately, it is time to discover how each of these three topics together impact communication. Men and women speak differently, use different methods of nonverbal communication, and even listen differently (Adler and Elmhorst 2010). In what ways could Pinterest potentially affect these standardized and stereotyped means of communication?
First, it is helpful to consider the concept of immersion vs. interaction. Immersion occurs when a person loses himself in an activity; interaction occurs when a person becomes involved in the activity without compromising his identity (Brooke 2009). Taking into consideration the idea of Pinterest as a RPG, it is safe to say that many female users immerse themselves in the website as they create and collect items that they would not necessarily organize in real life.
Therefore, women are creating for themselves two separate identities – particularly those women who are attempting to make a name in the professional world while simultaneously pinning and re-pinning what may be considered “domestic” content. Pinterest could potentially alter the advancement of the feminist movement. On the one hand, women are gaining equal opportunities in the workplace; on the other, they are rediscovering traditional feminine roles. Communication is likely to become more strained and confused as more women jump on the Pinterest bandwagon; it will become difficult to separate the two identities.
Those who agree with the ideas of difference feminism will likely consider this a positive phenomenon, as it will allow women to be socially accepted for embracing femininity. It has become the norm for women to fight for and expect for equal rights; and justly so. However, difference feminists may argue that although equal rights should exist, it should not be at the cost of severing femininity. Dominance feminists will likely consider this reawakening to traditional femininity a nightmare. Each of the objectives they have worked so hard for are crumbling with every wedding and recipe-related pin.
Regardless of which theory its users subscribe to, it cannot be denied that female Pinterest users are creating for themselves a new kind of role-playing game – one not dominated by mysterious faraway lands among rubble and ruin, but rather one in a perfect fantasy world where every cupcake is perfectly frosted and every outfit looks fabulous (even when that isn’t always the case – see inserted pin).
Role playing games, or RPGs, are games in which users can escape reality by assuming the roles of different virtual personas or characters. On Pinterest, a user’s real life talents, style, or interests are insignificant when she has the ability to create for herself an ideal world where she herself is the master of the oven, the epitome of a fashion statement, and the guru of all things fitness and dieting.
In fact, Pinterest goes a step further than a traditional RPG, because the site offers the option of adding user-generated content to one’s boards in addition to re-pinning the content of others. In his video and book, Larry Lessig addresses the idea of a read-write culture. At first, he says, America was a read-write culture, capable of both interpreting information and generating new, creative content. However, slowly this culture shifted to raising a read-only generation (Lessig 2007). Pinterest allows users to return to this read-write culture by giving users the option to post any materials, including those that are self-generated. In this way, Pinterest users are not confined to the limitations that a traditional RPG imposes; instead, users are changing and morphing their own personal RPGs every day with custom content.
A second idea that Lessig poses is the idea of remixing – taking previously established content and modifying it to match one’s current needs or opinions (Lessig 2008). While traditional RPGs have standard rules and regulations for each user, Pinterest has become the center for remixing. Users have at their fingertips ideas and suggestions ranging from recipes to do-it-yourself crafts and home decorating. “There is only one way in which a person acquires a new idea: the combination or association of two more ideas he already has into a new juxtaposition in such a manner as to discover the relationship among them of which he was previously unaware” (Palmeri 2012). Because not every user follows the instructions on each of these pins exactly, hundreds of new and different projects are created each and every day by women who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to step outside of their creative comfort zones.
There has been little research completed about the idea of Pinterest as a new RPG. However, through personal experience, observation, and interviews, it is clear that Pinterest has become an escape of sorts for the modern woman – just as standard RPGs have become for millions of other people. When combined with the idea of difference feminism, this is ideal. Difference feminism would suggest that Pinterest gives female users a space to celebrate femininity regardless of how feminine a user is. Alternatively, dominance feminism would condemn this idea as a prison
Pinterest has earned its reputation as a “women’s website”. Of its 20 million users, 72% are female – that translates to roughly one in every five users. The website has a page that links to the most popular users and their boards. Of these users and boards, the most popular consist of pins about fashion, food, hair and beauty, health and fitness, and wedding planning. Women from all over the world pin and re-pin products, ideas and advice that they find interesting. There are two ways to consider this: through difference feminism and through dominance feminism. While Pinterest is too new to have much literature connecting either subject to the website, the research that has already been done will be applied to the current situation.
In this study completed by Catharine MacKinnon, the author describes difference feminism as recognizing the fundamental differences between men and women. This stance argues that these differences should be appreciated and celebrated, rather than eliminated in the name of equality as modern society often tries to do. “The difference branch, which is generally seen as patronizing but necessary to avoid absurdity, exists to value or compensate women for what we are or have become distinctively as women (by which is meant, unlike men) under existing conditions” (MacKinnon 1984). Difference feminism, therefore, seeks out the differences between men and women to give each sex its own identity.
Difference feminism can certainly be applied to Pinterest. The site has become a holy grail for organization and planning. For women, the organization and planning is most often applied to wardrobes, weddings, meals, and child-rearing. For followers of difference feminism, these stereotypes that are laid out so clearly and definitively are not an issue – in fact, they are wonderful.
Pins like the one above, which pictures a beautiful but, according to today’s perceptions of beauty, larger woman, generally receive an overwhelmingly positive response. The caption reads, “In the 50s, this was perfection. Clearly, I’m living in the wrong decade.” Women on Pinterest invested in difference feminism recognize that today’s standards of beauty are unattainable and gender stereotypes are not always accurate. However, they do not believe it should stop them from pinning about fashion and foods. Difference feminism is what allows women to pin such stereotypical images without classifying themselves as “homemakers” or detrimental to the women’s movement.
By contrast, the very differences that are celebrated in difference feminism are condemned in dominance feminism. Dominance feminism asserts that the fundamental differences between men and women are a result of damaging patriarchy. MacKinnon argues that sex differences are constructed by a society led by men to highlight these inequalities. Therefore, any differences should be immediately addressed as misogynistic in order to rectify them and give women a chance to succeed unhindered by society-imposed limitations. This blog post by Nathan Jurgenson does an excellent job of further explaining each feminist perspective and how they relate to Pinterest. When observing Pinterest through the perspective of dominance feminism, there is much to critique.
“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.” – Amy odell, ‘How Pinterest is killing feminism‘
Ultimately, dominance feminism and Pinterest do not get along. This theory asserts that the pinning and re-pinning of recipes, fashion advice, dieting tips, and wedding planning are the result of the oppression of the fairer sex. Men have created societal expectations that have driven women to feel anchored by conforming to these beliefs.
The site’s aesthetic organization even appears to feed into the idea of the stereotypical female. When looking at Pinterest through a dominance feminism perspective, one could argue that the website is similar to the format of women’s magazines – which have traditionally been chalk full of the same tips, tricks and ideas that Pinterest users are avidly re-pinning today.
Before diving into this topic, it is important to define several key terms that will be used frequently throughout the course of this analysis.
As a boy, Ben Silbermann entertained a hobby shared by millions of people around the world: he collected things. Inspired by his passion, Silbermann hatched an innovative idea: Pinterest. Pinterest, he thought, could act like an online scrapbook – a place for people to search for and gather meaningful information. Some people prefer to search for recipes; some enjoy sharing favorite books; others use the website to save their favorite memes. Regardless of what one most enjoys, Pinterest is the place to keep it all together. The Essential Guide to Rhetoric describes one’s identity as the set of labels and patterns of behavior that make up your public persona. A person’s political power and social status are linked to the identity categories with which he affiliates (Keith 2008). Pinterest offers a different way to connect with the labels and patterns of behavior that define a person’s life.
“Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting. We… can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.” – Pinterest Mission Statement
Silbermann and a few close friends began work on Pinterest in late 2009. By March 2010, the site had opened to 5,000 select users for testing. Silbermann himself personally contact the first 5,000 users, asking for feedback and taking into consideration his betas’ thoughts and suggestions. The site officially launched in 2010 and soon after had over 10,000 users. However, it was not until the site was made into an application for the iPhone and iPad that it truly took off. It was named one of the 50 best websites and one of the top 10 best social networking sites of 2011.
Today, Pinterest is home to over 20 million users who use its services to create, collect, and organize… yet, of these 20 million users, a staggering 72% are female. What does this mean in conjunction with feminism, and how does it relate to the Internet phenomenon on role-playing games? This project will attempt to determine the implications of Pinterest, feminism, and a new type of RPG for rhetoric, writing, and gender communication.
The first presentation I viewed at the Mid-Year Symposium was called “Electronics and Time” by Jose Caraballo. Jose was kind enough to walk me through his study, which focused on discovering how much time students spend on their computers per week. Interestingly, I found I was the opposite of what he described as the norm. He stated that generally, college students use their computers most on Saturdays and least on Sundays and Mondays. Personally, I use my computer least on Saturday and most on Mondays… sorry Jose!
The next presentation was also called Electronics and Time – I think one specific class was presenting during the time I visited. I missed the presenter’s name, but his project focused on the amount of time spent listening to music on the computer over the course of the semester. When I asked him the media outlet he used most frequently for listening to music, he stated that he used his iPod and iTunes. I think it would be interesting to tie this back to one of the What’s Out There presentation and compare time spent on iTunes to time spent on Pandora.
It seemed that a big focus of this year’s symposium was how “plugged in” college students are. Everything comes back to using the computer, whether it be for recreational or academic purposes.
In class on Monday, we had an in-depth discussion about the Gutenberg Myth in conjunction with today’s technology-obsessed world.
This brought to mind several things – in particular, I was most interested in the idea that although technology is so wonderful and does such good for those with access to it, it also creates an even bigger gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Consider this on a small scale – it seems like everybody has an iPhone or an Android on campus. This connects all of BSU, whether someone is inside the four walls of a classroom or driving home for a long weekend. So, yes, it’s great. But at the same time, this makes it all the more obvious when someone does not have access to this technology. When smartphones were first introduced, it was a big deal to see someone with one in hand. Now, it’s a big deal to see someone without them. This is a very visible gap dividing students today.
On a much larger scale, we spoke in class about how although children in America and China may have access to child-oriented apps on computers and tablets, children in poverty-stricken countries could never even dream of it. This puts these countries at a severe disadvantage when it comes to technological literacy and, some may argue, learning.
We’ve heard all of this before, and we’ve discussed it in class numerous times. But this week, I got to wondering if maybe the children in third world countries have the right idea.
Sure, it’s great that American children are so intelligent and are practically born with tablets in their hands. We can talk until we’re blue in the face about how educational these tools are – but what, exactly, are they teaching kids? Fractions? Letters? How precisely are our kids better than African children for knowing how to read a Dr. Seuss book from a Kindle?
Technology has changed who we are as human beings – it has changed our interests and the way we interact with each other… and not necessarily in a good way.
So yes, I think that it is creating an even larger gap between the haves and the have nots. But maybe we have the wrong idea about who’s who – maybe the have nots are really the ones who still have access to interpersonal skills and empathy that doesn’t stem from a screen.