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.