Guess My Gender and/or Sexuality: An Exploration of Pinterest

My pinterest profile: http://pinterest.com/hermes1850/

I created an account (hermes1850) on pinterest because my sister had made one to brainstorm different ideas for her upcoming wedding. I did not think much of my account other than checking updates somewhat periodically, but after the reading on pinterest and DIY I started exploring the site more. The rumors and stereotypes of pinterest as only having female accounts certainly influenced me, but during the class activity when we created different boards, I saw the potential for creating any type of profile. Once reading Piepmeier’s article on zines I did see a similarity with scrapbooking and pinterest boards. “While allowing space for personal expression,” the collection of product advertisements “often served a more colonizing interest, incorporating people into a commodity marketplace” (Piepmeier 32). But despite the obvious endorsement of commodity culture, I saw that pinterest could provide an interesting format for a project on gender and sexuality.

As a way to talk back to pinterest, I wanted to design a series of boards where the gender and/or sexuality could not easily be identified. I first created three boards showcasing stereotypical or media targeted images representing male, female and queer (first three boards). Then e-mailing a group of friends (identifying from male to female and straight to queer), I asked them to list a few interests, hobbies and general desire in their life. Searching for the key words that described their interests and likes, I created pinterest boards for each friend (“Profile 1”, “Profile 2”, etc.). In creating each profile, I wanted to assemble boards that accurately depicted what my friends expressed, but also had images that would not immediately reveal my friends’ gender or sexuality.

A large theme throughout class has been media’s construction or discourse on gender roles, including sexuality. In trying to create unique, yet mainstream boards I wanted to show that someone who identifies as male or female or even queer do not automatically adhere to specific interests. Even though some boards such as “Profile 4” suggest a particular gender (female due to images of make up, dresses and stereotypically feminine items, i.e. teddy bears), I think the majority of the boards can be read through a range of gender and sexuality. Both ‘Profile 2” and “Profile 5” do not suggest particular genders; images depicting nature or donuts do not correspond to either male or female identified people. Similarly with sexuality, I purposefully tried to include image depicting heterosexual and homosexual relationships. When one of my friends said cuddling was one of their favorite activities, I used a range of same sex or different sex interaction. Hopefully, strangers (as well as fellow classmates) looking at my different boards can see that while images can signify important characteristics or qualities of an individual, they by no means completely define us as a person.

However, important to any project lies the recognition of its limitations. Throughout the image search on pinterest, I kept thinking that sometimes what I was actually doing was defining different shades of white. In other words, there are different colors such as eggshell, meringue, nantucket fog (my personal favorite), but in the end they are basically all white. A major critique of pinterest is the white, middle to upper class, female persona that gets reiterated through images of crafts and impeccable Martha Stewart-like kitchens. Yet as Smith’s article on pinterest’s display of postfeminism showcased, there are many examples of images or words that go against the grain or mainstream femininity. While certainly not the site’s main purpose, I do think that pinterest can serve as a place for individuals to display their interests and desires. Although in a very aesthetically pleasing form, pinterest still has potential to challenge stereotypes.

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