Are you on Pinterest? No? Really? Then let me explain: it’s a site for saving (“pinning”) pictures from all over the internet and sharing them with your friends. People pin recipes, craft ideas, diet tips, pictures of their dream home, things like that. When you visit the site, you’re not seeing your friends’ actual houses or dinners or vacations. You’re seeing all the stuff your friends wish they had and did. If Facebook is where you present the best version of yourself, Pinterest is where you present the person you’d be if reality didn’t get in the way.
Some days the fantasy is great. I can ignore my dirty kitchen and scroll through page after page of beautiful houses, adorable craft projects, and picture perfect dinners. I have a board I call “crafts I would never get around to” where I pin all sorts of cute things I like to pretend I’ll create some day.
Some days the fantasy is awful. Some days I’m haunted by the idea that somebody out there actually does these things. Some days it seems like Pinterest exists to show me everything wrong with my life. My dinners aren’t fancy enough, my store-bought valentines are borderline negligent, and my house is far too small and cluttered. I haven’t seen the wonders of the world*, I know nothing about fashion, I don’t work out nearly hard enough, and my cake decorating skills are laughable.
For me, the pull of Pinterest is simple. As a SAHM, it’s really hard to tell how good a job I’m doing. Being my own boss means no one’s patting me on the back (or giving me a raise) for changing the sheets once a week or teaching my kids to read. Most of what I do is invisible. But sending out adorable hand-made invitations to a brilliantly themed birthday party? Everyone can see that. I could put that on Pinterest. My party could become the stuff of someone else’s domestic dreams.
Or nightmares. Like I said, it cuts both ways. The kind of domestic dreams Pinterest deals in can really validate the time you put into that Halloween costume or shrimp risotto, but they can also make you feel like shit for not putting your time into these visible projects. I’ve never seen a Pinterest board celebrating the triumph of keeping the house together while fighting the flu or getting dinner on the table after a long day at work. I’d love to, though. Much as I love the fantasy, some days I’d rather see a celebration of reality.
To that end, I’ve tried to broaden my Pinterest horizons. I’ve started following geek boards and pinning pictures of ball pythons and mehndi. (I didn’t pick those at random–I like looking at both of those, I promise.) I still save pictures of things I want to knit or cook, and sometimes I actually knit or cook those things, but I don’t want to stop there. After all, if Pinterest is a fantasy, I want it to be the most colorful fantasy I can create.
But maybe I should do more to subvert the fantasy. Maybe I should fill Pinterest with glamour shots of my weedy lawn and unmade bed. Maybe I should be pinning my local pizza palace or showing just how half-assed most of my craft projects are.
Or maybe I should abandon it altogether. I hear Amazon has a universal wish list that lets you save ideas without all airbrushed nonsense Pinterest makes you deal with. Who needs craft projects, anyway? I know some excellent parents with not one whit of crafting talent. Of course, those people find it oh so hard to prove their parenting skills in the face of Pinterest’s four-course dinners and hand-made St. Patrick’s Day gifts . . .
Featured Image Jan van Kessel (public domain image) via vintageprintables.com
I’m not on Pinterest but I have a flickr account full of pictures of most wonderful craft projects (I’m seriously crafty), gorgeous cupcakes and neat kids.
The point is, there are no pictures of the microwave dinners I serve, or the times the kids leave the house with their hair barely brushed, or the two months I didn’t touch the sewing machine. Sure, there might be people who manage to keep the house clean all the time and craft all the time and cook gorgeous meals all the time, but most people don’t. You only get glimpses of when they manage.
Also, for crafty people, it’s something we need to survive. It keeps us from totally breaking down, an outlet and, yes, recognition.
I’m not so generally crafty, but I always have some sort of knit or crochet project going and I genuinely enjoy cooking. Some days, when everything is a disaster, getting out basic ingredients and making something out of them is the only thing that gives me a sense of accomplishment. I get so torn about this stuff, because I have good friends who live for crafting and deserve all the recognition they can get for their skills but I also live in a culture that puts domestic skills on a pedestal and is not very kind to women whose skills and interests lie elsewhere. It’s that constant problem–anything traditionally assigned to women (like crafting and cooking–Pinterest staples) is devalued and under-recognized, but so much conservative culture also holds it up as some feminine ideal that real women are faulted for falling short of. Almost all of my friends have spent so much energy leaving that conservative ideal behind, but still struggle with either insecurities about it or questions about whether they genuinely love these things or just think they do because they didn’t grow up with a lot of options.
You know, we simply can’t have nice things.
I spent some years with a seriously bad conscience for liking sich womanly crafts and studying languages to become a teacher instead of fixing cars and getting a PhD in theoretical physics. And then I noticed “fuck that shit, this is just misogyny as well”. I understand that my likes and passions didn’t fall from the sky. After all I grew up in a family where women cooked and crafted (although I was also expected to be able to handle tools. I’m also the person in this household who owns a toolbox. A ift from my father when I moved out so I wouldn’t steal his stuff). It’s both: thse were options I was given (subconsciously, I’m from a pretty progressive household), role-models I had, but I also genuinly LIKE those things. Had I grown up differently I would probably like other things.
My likes and passions are not the problem. We cannot solve the issue about women feeling ashamed for not liking or doing these things well by shaming and blaming those women who do. Unless they’re shitty assholes who insist that you MUST do things that way.
It’s true. No matter what you do, there’s always someone waiting in the wings to judge you for it. At some point you just have to like what you like, no matter what influences went into it. It’s funny, writing for the internet kind of makes me think in generalities–what trends do I see, what dilemmas do I think would interest people–but all those generalities also affect individuals. I try to write from my own point of view and understand all sides, but just writing at all still adds to the scrutiny that makes it so hard for people to just live their lives and do what makes them happy.
Yes, I think it’s a tricky ground to navigate, because it’s a very fine line to walk (and hereby I have exhasted today’s supply of fixed expressions).
It is important to criticise aspects of feminine gender performance, the harmful stereotypes, the unrealistic expectations and so on. But it also important that we don’t accidentially tip over into femme-phobia (why is a guy who has an entire room dedicated to his railway models totally OK, but a woman with a walk in shoe cabinet a shallow consumerist?) and that we don’t throw women under the bus for liking and living such things..
It’s often two seperate conversations that we try to have at once.
I agree. It’s something I think about often, but so far I don’t have any brilliant insights to add to that larger conversation.