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How The Fake Pinterest Wins at Satirizing Mainstream Women's Media

Pinterest front page with OMG written on it

As we near this blog series on feminism and comedy, I think it's time I started getting honest with all of you. Uncomfortably honest. And here's the uncomfortable truth about me: I can't stop looking at Pinterest.

No, not even the boards for cool things like fine art, or political activism, or Bitch Media. I get on the site's main page, and pore, horrified and intrigued, over the needlessly elaborate cake recipes, needlessly elaborate childcare ideas, and needlessly elaborate engagement photos, until I'm in a daze. For a site that reportedly counts women as the majority of its 25 million users, the site's main page displays a surprisingly racially and sexually homogenous view of modern womanhood.

There's been a lot written (by sharper minds than I) about Pinterest's gender dynamics and potential as a tool for activism. But when reading Pinterest's main page, I'm most struck by how, for something completely user-generated, the experience feels so similar to reading a mainstream women's magazine. I pick up the odd useful tip about packing a suitcase or marinating a ham, but mostly, I come away feeling bad about my body, my finances, and my inability to make a needlessly elaborate cake for my non-existent children. And yet, I am inexplicably compelled to keep coming back.

And that's why I fell in love with satirical Twitter account The Fake Pinterest the second I laid eyes on it. The brain-child of three comedy writers—Onion News Network contributors Megan Green and Daniel Kibblesmith, and Onion News Network staff writer Cullen Crawford—The Fake Pinterest skewers the "homemade-at-any-costs," aspirational sensibility that often infest the site's most popular pins, with brutal, perfectly pitched tweets like:

Beginning as a Twitter hashtag before developing into a full-on devoted account, the Fake Pinterest takes comedic advantage of what Green described as Pinterest's "very strong, cohesive voice" to send up that site's aspirational and rigidly heteronormative culture.

But The Fake Pinterest is more than just a dependable source of extremely dark humor about sex, consumerism, parenting, and cake frosting—The Fake Pinterest fits into the grand tradition of satire that sends up women's media with a feminist twist.

A brief trip in our way-back machine shows that satire has worked arm-in-arm with American feminism for over a century: from works like Marie Jenney Howe's 1912 play, "Someone Must Wash the Dishes: An Anti-Suffrage Satire," which was used to spark conversation and draw attention to the era's stereotypes of women as too "frivolous" to vote; to parodies of sexist pop culture that arose out of  1970s feminism—including those featured in the 1976 women's comedy collection Titters; to the guerilla theater of anti-Reagan activists Ladies Against Women; to the bitingly comedic art activism of the Guerilla Girls in works like the infamous "Advantages of Being a Woman Artist."

The intersection of satire and women's media has always been extra special and extra complicated. While a lot of satire and parodies of women's media use said media's oppressive content and unrealistic standards as the punch line, some of it is noxiously sexist, holding up the mere existence of women as the punch line (like in this "Family Guy" clip… can't there ever be a misogynist media trope that can't be easily illustrated by a "Family Guy" clip? Just one time? No? Fine). Like the women's magazines, TV shows, and networks that they skewer, satire of women's media is a foe to women just as often as it's a friend.

Which is why satire projects like the previously profiled Reductress and The Fake Pinterest are so important. Not only do they signify a turn toward a more sustained, powerful way of doing satire of women's media than the classic fake covers and one-off parodies of women's magazines that fill all of the internet's vast comedy holes, they also show a commitment to using humor to undo the cultural damage (well, some of the damage) of mainstream online women's media.

"With Twitter and other social media sites, it's easier than ever to get your ideas out there—which means there's more women's magazines, more mommy blogs, and more social media sites targeted at women, but there's also more opportunities to make fun of these things," says Megan Green. "As a woman, something about Pinterest immediately felt very oppressive. Like, 'Oh, this is another thing I have to do so that I can be a woman?' and 'How did everyone on here decide that marinating chicken in Greek yogurt is a thing we all like now?'"

The "Ten Tips for Calorie-Burning Orgasms" wing of women's media isn't going to go away, even as it changes forms and formats as time goes on. But the satirical responses to it will continue to develop apace, too, and keep turning women's media's messages in on themselves to show their inherent absurdity. Or, as Green puts it, "Cosmo magazine is a piece of garbage, but then Pinterest came along and it's a bunch of regular people trying to be Cosmo magazine, which is even funnier."

As for the future of The Fake Pinterest, the crew is still going strong on Twitter, and hopes to develop a book, even though, as Kibblesmith recounts, a literary agent told them "that Pinterest has the 'shelf-life of a mayfly.' Which is funny, actually, because 'picture of dead mayfly on a shelf' would make a pretty good fake Pin."

Read the rest of this series on feminsm and comedy!


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Comments

6 comments have been made. Post a comment.

nothing like making fun of

nothing like making fun of women and their stupid women interests (since pinterest IS user generated content), way to go bitchblogs. show those ladies how dumb they are!

pinterest IS user generated

pinterest IS user generated content

I had no idea that pinterest was a) ALL women and b) all WOMEN! Thanks for enlightening me, previous anonymous person!

I'm convinced that what

I'm convinced that what feminism is not, is the ignoring of all things that reduce women to images that say "10 ways to be a greatwife" or the family chef, or the only one who can clean.... because those images were submitted by women.

I just pinned this article on

I just pinned this article on Pinterest.

I think that for as many

I think that for as many "over the top" domestic how to's and wedding type writer guestbooks there are just as many women with bad ass relatable blogs that I'm glad to have found on Pinterest. Although the embarrassment I feel for being a feminist who can't get enough cleaning tips or enough of Lauren Conrads recipes is silly because I just like a clean house and avocado. Not because I'm a woman reading silly women things. I even bought power tools and have been sawing the shit out of things because reading a blogs by a young mother delving into minor carpentry who wants to empower other women to diy IS FEMINIST, right?

Yes but

Hi there, I just wanted to bring another way of thinking it.... I'm not so bothered by the things posted on pinterest because I think and of what I know it is mostly stay at home moms that go on this website, I myself have never been and am not attracted by it ! In my family all the women that does go on the website have children and stay at home. So maybe it is why the subject may often revolve around child, cake and decoration ! But I did like your article anyways :)