Monday, April 2, 2012

What I Learned From Pinterest and Why It Made Me Want to Cry

So I don't know if you guys are on pinterest, or have perhaps checked it out, or heard about this or noticed it already, but there's a faint internet discussion taking place about the prevelance of pins having to do with fitness, exercise, diet, health, losing weight, etc., that are...questionably a little intense at best, and horrifyingly evident of eating disorder inner dialogue at worst. Exhibit A.), which I just turned up clicking one pinterest link and scrolling for a matter of seconds.
You know, sure, a tough workout is going to have uncomfortable moments. My forearms scream after some silks classes! You've felt that spicy thigh burn in a long utkatasana hold. But...that's your cue it's time to take a break, not feel like you're finally working hard enough.

So how about Exhibit B.)
Why is this on the fitness board...? All I hear when I look at this image in this context, chanted in frantic voices by women all around me is, "I NEED TO LOOK LIKE THIS. I NEED TO LOOK LIKE THIS. I WANT TO BE A SEX OBJECT." And I want to cry.

And how about Exhibit C).?
Is this one just, you know, inspiration for the tough moments? A cry against excuses? What, exactly, is the subtext of "whatever it takes"? Drinking carbonated water to stave off hunger? Exercising instead of studying? Skipping, or vomiting after meals? How badly should I want it?

Exhibit D.) makes a fine point, doesn't it?
I love the way this one seems to be so, logical, and true. Why be lazy and unhappy (FAT!!!!!!!!!)? Just get up and work out, man! Then you'll be happy and love yourself (SKINNY!!!!!!:-D)!

But perhaps this is the kicker, Exhibit E.)
Skinny feels amazing! It's better than cocaine! Which helped me lose so much weight, by the way!!!

There are plenty of these. I could go right through to Z.), but I think you see my point. Of course, there are plenty of positive pins on the fitness board, too, but there are enough of ones like these that I didn't have to look for more than two minutes to find way more than the five examples that I used.

You may think I'm overreacting. I mean, taken with a grain of common sense, these are just inspirational messages, right? Perhaps for some women, they are. BUT, they all propagate the myth that all women can look like what our society has deemed is the most desirable shape and size as long as they try hard enough, and this is a big, fat, cruel, DEADLY lie. If you want further evidence, scan the pictures of women on the fitness page for yourself, on any given day. I found two pictures of women who did not depict the shape and size deemed most desirable by our society. And one of those was of two portly famous chefs chopping peppers and was about eating healthy. The other was actually a positive message about loving your body being the thing that should be motivating you to care for it. Versus the stuff depicted in these other pins.

After noticing this trend for myself, I turned around and asked my husband if he had noticed it. He hadn't, because he only follows designers on pinterest. When I pointed it out to him, he said this seems to be all that women post...this and ideas for weddings. And I said,

"Oh my God. You're right."

Pinterest is providing a window into the psyche of women, and lo and behold, it's not very healthy. We have the previously discussed "Get skinny or die trying!" rhetoric, and the ever-present, "Get married or just shoot yourself!" rhetoric. I wrote about this issue in an earlier post.

The problem is, it just doesn't make sense to assume marriage is the endgame. The marriage age is creeping upward, and the perceived number of desirable marriage partners is creeping downward. Beyond all that, marriage is just one way of living. Being single is awesome, being a nun is awesome, staying on the market and keeping an eye out for potential marriage partners while not letting that search dominate your life, or decide your happiness is particularly awesome. I could go off on a million tangents here, about acting like you want one forever partner instead of one-hundred right-now partners if that is indeed what you want, about asking yourself if you really want that, or if that's just the only way of doing healthy adulthood that you've ever been exposed to, about working on making yourself someone your potential spouse would want to marry before you worry about finding, or making a list describing, the person you want to marry, and good God[dess], that has NOTHING to do with losing weight...but I think the crucial point is,

How many women do you suppose want to get married because it's the ultimate validation of everything women are taught to value about themselves, rather than because they have taken the time to cultivate self awareness and they believe they function best within a permanent, monogamous relationship, and potentially want to raise children? How many women want the perfect wedding day, but haven't spared much thought for the thousands of days after, when the dirty socks are ON TOP of the hamper instead of IN the hamper (and Husband, I'm looking at you!) for the millionth time, when you don't feel sexy so much as exhausted, and in love so much as the urge to high five because you made it through one more day? (And I do love that end-of-a-long-day high five!)

I mean, I think to some extent there's no way to really comprehend the day to day frustrations of marriage, but it's easy to imagine the day to day deep down joy of marriage, and yes, of course, that aspect of marriage is just as legitimate, but the two co-exist in a dance so close they just might be two halves of one whole...just like you and your spouse. And maybe if you could really understand how tough marriage can be before you go through with it, you wouldn't. And maybe there'd be a lower divorce rate. Maybe if we quit flipping out about the pageantry of the wedding, if we quit making that gown and veil a right of passage, if we quit making the wedding Prom, Sweet Sixteen, and 'I'm a Princess!' rolled into one to the tenth power, and by the same token quit making marriage the only acceptable relationship status for resting on your laurels and living your life without desperately looking for more, more than half of us who walked down that aisle wouldn't be taking it back long before death do us part.

I'm just saying.

The wedding day is one day! And trust me, you don't spend nearly as much time lounging on your couch flipping through that album with a happy tear in your eye as you think you will. We've been married three years and don't actually have the album yet...and our photographer moved to Texas...Oops. At least we bought out the copyright...I promise we're going to get on that, and then I WILL take one whole afternoon to drink tea...or maybe wine, and flip through the freaking album and cry happy tears. Oh man, that sounds awesome. Our pictures came out really incredible!

But I digress. I'm really concerned for my sisters: two biological, one in-law, one in-law-to-be, and billions of spiritual worldwide. What have we become? And when, and why, did we let it happen?

You guys, you are gorgeous just the way you are, with a worth, and a strength, and a capability of living in myriad astounding, world-changing ways in any size or shape, and with or without a significant other of either gender and any legal and societal standing by your side.

Please let yourself out of this tiny, skinny, married, box!


Live Omily.


  1. I hear ya. For the non creative person, Pinterest seems to be a place for collecting things to aspire to be, or examples of things that seemingly make a perfect life. I've also noticed the trend of women who use it to collect wedding themes, dresses, gifts, and cute animals. I can't tell you how many followers I've gotten who post mindless crap, and I rarely follow them back. It's sad to me that women also use it as an alter for zeroing in on the type of body image they want. Straight gals (and gay men) should learn to accept their various body shapes like straight men and lesbians do! lol :P

  2. If lesbians are better at this body image stuff, I clearly need more lesbian friends!! The body image we're 'supposed' to have is all around us, and the only sources that seem to be saying it's ok to not have that body are saying that 'bigger' or 'curvier' women are sexy, too, or sexier. "Men like women with meat on their bones!" etc. Instead of promoting self-acceptance and love, it's the same damn trap: your body is only worthwhile in terms of how sexy it is to men, never mind the amazing things it's capable of, or if you feel good when you look at it and screw anyone else's opinion. Do gay men feel that kind of pressure, too?