Okay, so it might just be offiicial. I'm addicted to Pinterest. I've been pinning stuff I love all day today, instead of any of the other stuff I could be doing. I could have been making good use of the few and fleeting rays of sunshine. I could have been cleaning, or cooking, or sewing or anything else useful, handy, creative. Instead I've been going bug-eyed, getting all obsessive compulsive.
The coolest bit is when you find amazing things other people have been pinning, and it inspires you. And its just kind of exciting, right?
But as I whittled away my weekend, I realised there's a few stink things about Pinterest too. And that got me thinking. And then I realised I had a blog, and other people might be having the some feelings or might have a different perspective, and thats surely what blogs are for.
So here's the deal: Here I am scrolling through all the other pins, like a pin-maniac, and it became depressingly obvious that the beauty standards, and sheer lack of diversity within the fashion industry was also being reproduced in the pages of Pinterest. Pages and pages of white, skinny women. Pages and pages. Now it doesn't take a genuis to work out that the lack of diversity in fashion spreads and runway shows actually means that even if you were cool with women who have different bodies (bigger, shorter, black, asian, whatever) also modelling clothes, you don't actually get any choice in that at all.
(In fact the problem with the whole "choice" or "consumer" society is that choices are highly constrained by the dominant power relationships pre-existing within society)
But of course there ARE people are there who have actually taken this whole thought process one step further, and are using the internet as platform to share when we do see different women, with different bodies in the fashion industry (film, music, and all of the cultural industries), as well as celebrating that.
In the process, I think an important point gets made, that actually beauty standards are about status. As women we get judged by how we measure up to those beauty standards, and there are obvious benefits for each of us in society when we meet them. But they also operate to exclude and to marginalise.
However, these websites that are all about expanding beauty standards (even if they aren't blowing them out of the water), and that means I get to see that, AND I get my fashion fix, and I get to share that through Pinterest. And that's cool.
But, the truth is, we don't just "get judged", we also do the judging when we perceive others not meeting or (especially) threatening the dominant ideals of what a woman should aspire too. We hold others (as well as ourselves) accountable, often through shame .
Here's two examples of that happening through Pinterest
1. The wonderful late Pina Bausch was a contemporary dancer & dance choreographer. If anyone's seen the film made on her, "Pina", you'll totally get me when I say its visually and emotionally heart-thumping. One of the coolest things about Pina Bausch's work is that her dances were constantly exploring different sides of what it means to be human ( male, female, young, old, sad, happy, strong, weak etc etc....), often with humour.
There's a particular scene in one of her dances where a very attractive & slim dancer in a red dress is standing flexing what appear to be enormous arm muscles. She's showing off. However, she soon breaks away revealing a male dancer standing behind. It's one of those moments which plays with your expectations. The dancer makes you laugh when you realise that actually those aren't really a woman's arms muscles & that you've been fooled, and maybe there's even some relief in there too. But Pina's toying with those emotions, she's making you think. Now I LOVE the red dress, and I LOVE the scene. So I pinned it, with the (in retrospect overly simple) commentary of "Pina!"
From the dance "For the Children of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow"
Almost immediately it was re-pinned. I'm assuming the woman who re-pinned it, didn't know who "Pina" was. She didn't look close enough to see past the visual illusion and see the male body standing behind. She didn't bother to check the link. She went something like "EW GROSS" and pinned it to a board called "Things that freak me out". The dancer in the red dress now had pride of place alongside a collection of primarily "bizarre bodies" - obese naked men, exceptionally pregnant women, Barbie Dolls with removable foetuses. Kind of ironic right?
2. Later on I pinned a picture of Beth Ditto. I love Beth Ditto for challenging just about every "fat person" stereotype around, and being unapologetic about it. She's a serious breath of fresh air. She also has a uniqiue (and in my book awesome) style.
Again, it got re-pinned immediately. With the simple commentary underneath of "YIKES!" Now, okay, that's probably quite tame, it probably could have been much worse. And everyone has different tastes in fashion and clothes. But if that dress had been on a woman with a size zero body, then I strongly suspect it would have floated by without a flicker. Different horses for different courses But put a dress that's a little outrageous/unusual on a fat woman, and you have a target for derision and judgement.
I think the answer is NOT to stop pinning. But I'm also interested as to what experiences others have had on Pinterest? (Especially since I'm such a newbie) How do you feel about the representation of women by the fashion industry? Do you worry about reproducing the same old norms for ideal femininity?
(NB: Just in case anyone mistakes this blogpost for being something it's not.... I really don't care if you are "naturally skinny". I'm not trying to prejudice against anyone, or imply that there's a normal body that excludes skinny women. Or that white women don't have the right to model clothes, or blog for that matter. I absolutely believe everyone has the right to express themselves, and their style. Without fear.)
Geri, thanks so much for taking a deeper look at Pinterest. You are so right about how Pinterest reproduces and multiply all those same commercial images that I am trying to avoid, with our complicit help. And I have been guilty of it myself. I am a bit disgusted by Polyvore for the same reason--everything ands up being the same, commercial clothes for skinny women.( And you know as a naturally thin person myself, I still don't measure up when it comes to the boobs, hair, makeup and wealth.)
And the way people are ripinning your images is quite sad.
How can we take the internet over for our own purposes?
Catherine: Yup, agree! Because I also do think it is a useful way of organising images & inspirations.
Sigrid: Good point! I bet Market Researchers love Pinterest too -- all these women telling you exactly what they want! I also think it's interesting how well DIY/ crafting sits quite comfortably alongside the more consumerist aspect - rather than antithetical, as perhaps the more idealist crafter would hope.
I think Pinterest can also tell you quite a lot about the anxieties women have around their bodies -- what with all the fitness boards, and pins of ideal bodies". And such a good point, that so often gets missed - that actually very few women of any size measure up fully, and really I suppose that's the point. (FYI: You reminded me of a great post on Sociological Images: http://bit.ly/tLr6Rc about just how much hard work goes into bodies who do fit with the hyper feminine & masculine ideals).
Ms Modiste: For some reason I'm always kind of surprised, when I really shouldn't be! Makes the dissapointment worse :(
Great post! I don't have a Pinterest account, so I haven't noticed that trend, but I can sure appreciate your point. I thought the whole idea was to collect images that inspired and delighted in some way. Personally I don't see the point in being negative about somebody else's inspirational images, and it is pretty sad that people out there are using the site in this way. (and I'm sure if an underweight woman was pictured wearing that dress the picture would have attracted just as many negative comments!)
Thank you so much for your lovely comment on my top btw!
Sorry, for some reason your blog doesn't scroll up when it's updated on my blog list (on my blog, which is where I read from). So I keep missing your posts or show up really late. I agree with you completely about... everthing, basically. I certainly don't think a naturally thin white woman deserves any less respect than anyone else... but how many of those are there in the general population? Certainly not the same proportion as you see in media, that's for sure!
As for Pinterest, my solution is to never ever look at pins that don't come from people I already follow. Which totally limits my pinning experience but I find that I get seriously irritated when I look at the general pins (and especially if I make the mistake of reading the comments). In fact, I get super-annoyed just that whenever my cookies are refreshed (which is basically every time I close my browser) I have to log in to Pinterest again the next time I visit and inevitably I have to see a few general pins on the front page before I do. Sometimes just those three or four seconds is enough to completely annoy me.
Not a great solution, but it's what I have.
Carolyn - Agree, it is sad. It makes the feminist inside me also really sad! There is a whole "thinspiration" thing which involves pinning pictures of thin women to idealise, which I didn't know about before I wrote this post, and there does seem to be quite a hostility to images which challenge that "thinspiration". But I think as long as you do use it like Beangirl - in more of a closed kind of circle it's definately a useful tool! And Beangirl, I've DEFINATELY instituted the same sort of approach! It's really cool to know there are others out there feeling similar :) "