Pinterest Is Sexist….Against Women Says Forbes Feminist

April 11, 2012 / 5:39 pm • By Dr. Melissa Clouthier

Pinterest is sexist….against women. Seriously, that’s the position of Victoria Pynchon who says:

Pinterest Frames Women’s Interests within Tight Gender Boundaries

Go on over to Pinterest and try to find a category for business, marketing, management, entrepreneurism, politics, activism, reproductive choices, negotiation, finance, investing, law, consulting, journalism, or pretty much anything having to do with women working for a living.

This is, in a word, ridiculous.

Go to Barnes-N-Noble and what do you see? Racks of home improvement, cooking, house and garden, and fashion porn. That’s right, porn. It’s fantasy for the average woman, who comes home to her crappy couch and Hamburger Helper.

Where does she come home from? Work. What does she read because the last thing she wants to do is watch the news and/or think about business? Traditional Home, Better Homes & Garden, or in my bigwig President of a division at a Fortune 500 corporation sister: Rolling Stone (I know, I don’t get it either) and Conde Nast Travel or something.

What’s in these magazines? Beautiful pictures, mostly. Some human interest stories. Tips for living.

Why, just like Pinterest!

Yesterday, President Obama’s Pinterest team pinned some garbage about how awesome he is and so I trolled the pins. I linked to the truth. I disputed on a factual basis. No one disputed the facts, mind you. They disputed whether I should be talking about politics.

“Pinterest is a happy place,” one pinner said.

Okay then.

I’m figuring that Pinterest has done tons of market research and knows exactly what women want. Just as random porn sites know exactly what men want.

Is this a gross overgeneralization? Of course.

I noticed the constrained categories on Pinterest, too. Eh. I’ve worked around them. I have a Best Practices business page. I have a Tech Talk page. I have an America the Beautiful page. And then there’s the Politics of Freedom page.

They have lots of followers. My recipes page has more. Yes, I’ve used some of them–even women who own a couple business have to eat, and horrors! might like to cook.

What seems sexist to me is that a woman would consider a site dedicated to what most women consider interesting discriminatory.

After years of attempted gender reconstruction, and after years of women working (and nearly 80% of women do), women are still wired as women. That is, what stimulates them visually is, say, different than men. And that’s okay.

Being a girly girl is okay. I say that as a woman who has always liked “guy stuff” more–Google search metrics pegged me as a 50 to 60 year old man interested in technology and politics.

What bothers me is that to be a feminist, one cannot have traditionally feminine interests without being perceived as “less than”. Who is discriminating again?

If the majority of women like gardening, cooking, home improvement, kids crafts, and fashion, what do I care? Really? Why in the world should the difference bother any other woman?

I suggest the tomboys among us embrace Pinterest. It’s finally a female-dominated social media platform. It’s beautiful in form. It’s aspirational in substance.

Pinterest has the men joining in droves, too. As the demographics even out, categories will probably be added. Why? Because the market demands it.

It’s not discrimination. It’s Marketing 101 in practice.

But really, if men have to submit their boards to categories of the Matriachy’s standards, is that so bad?


My friend Adrienne Royer says this:

There’s so much stupid here, I don’t know where to begin.

1. Pinterest is still in beta. You MUST ASK FOR AN INVITATION. The women who are there are there because they want to be. Pink, lace and pretty houses aren’t being forced down their throats.

2. You’d think a writer at Forbes could do some research. Pinterest was started by a group of guys. Unless these men miraculously understand women better than any XY chromosome in history, the adoption of the site by women was purely accidental.

In fact, Pinterest was started to be an idea board for creative thought leaders. The main founder has a degree in architecture and worked at Facebook. He was into design, typography and photography. He thought the site would take off in the creative class.

The way women have taken to it has shocked everyone, including Silicon Valley.

3. The real story isn’t that Pinterest isn’t forcing the patriarchy down our throats. The real story is that women love social networks, the ability to share information that is vetted by trusted people and the ability to research. The real story is how Silicon Valley is still a boy’s world and women are pretty much shut out. Right now, there are all kinds of venture capitalists scratching their heads and wondering how Pinterest became some popular because none of them ever thought about designing a social network that would draw women.

Why aren’t they harping on that?

  • Mitchell

    Maybe she would like better. Mmm…probably not.

  • Svt1999

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  • Jebus4you

    There’s nothing wrong with all that, being a girl, looking at pretty pictures, but the lack of more “serious” topics implicitly assumes that women don’t have a role or interest in that “traditionally masculine” spheres of discourse. Not providing it as an option within the platform is kind of telling of how women are being framed, and where women’s interest “should”, as a “norm”, reside. Even if you have no interest in politics or whatever after a long day of work–totally understandable, but maybe somebody else does? After a long day of designing posters, staring at type, editing photographs, reading about politics is a nice change of pace to get out of your bubble and see what else is going on. It is for me. :) 

    Even though Barnes and Noble has all the female skewed topics in their magazine section that Pinterest has as options on their platform, the bookstore also has magazines with women’s interests beyond traditional gender stereotypes, business, politics, and books with a whole slate of topics. The choice is there for you to wander towards. In Pinterest it is not because it isn’t even there. Maybe in the “Other section” but that is full of, well, other things you have to sift through to find it. Or you have to actively create it yourself and lose the fun of exploring the site in the same way you explore it now for things of cultural and artistic value. Who knows what you can find by just seeing such topics as an option, clicking on it on a whim, seeing what pops up in casual browsing?

    It’s certainly cool to see a site that has unexpectedly attracted a lot of women– it raises lots of questions about what other sites are doing wrong. But it is also good to question how Pinterest could do better, not for women’s rights or anything like that per se, but as a social networking platform whose growth depends on addressing the ever-changing needs of their users.

    Thanks for the post. Whether or not we agree, it definitely got me thinking.

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  • Erica Lee Strauss

    I don’t know if it’s just because of the field I’m in, but almost every Pinboard I follow is about marketing, branding, copywriting or the like. And there’s actually a lot of them…

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