Pinning My Identities

I love Pinterest. It’s such a poignant symbol of modern U.S. culture. It’s communication
Is anything funnier than soc theory humor?
through shiny, colorful, visual symbols. Per Jameson and
Baudrillard, it’s postmodernism at its flashy, depthless best. Also, Jameson would say Pinterest is another example of the flattening of technology, or the inward turning, postmodern use (implosion?) of technology to project our selves rather than striving toward new physical and tangible places. And, of course, we can’t forget Giddens, who would say this is the ultimate in reflexivity, or how we use modern, consumable culture to reflect on our identities and recreate our understandings of our being.

But enough theory. Just kidding – there’s never enough theory.

My pins say something about being a social justice warrior. This is not only accurate, since I imagine most folks who know me would say I’m rather committed to fighting for equality, but it’s also essential to my sense of self to portray this as part of me. When I’m dead, I want my grave marker (i.e., a totally old school meme) to say, “Here lies Elle, who fought so that others can live better.” It would probably include a kitty emoji underneath that. Because kitties.

An actual example from my Pinterest.
Social justice warriors (SJW) come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and flavors. We SJW-ify for myriad reasons and focus on countless social issues. Because we tend to exist in opposition to some forms of institutionalized oppression, we’re not regarded universally as heroes and trailblazers. This opposition often makes us even more committed to our identities and ever-more likely to voice them with volume and pride. We SJWs often sport bumper stickers and clothing (primitive, non-digital technology) that identifies us to those who oppose us but, much more importantly, to those who agree with us. My use of bumper stickers, literal political buttons, and Pinterest pins visually marks me as an ally. Other feminist, queer, or anti-racist activists know they, as Woody might sing, have a friend in me.

Also, when occupying a not-entirely-understood counterculture like fat activism, it’s enormously important to distinguish between fat people who still feel burdened by guilt and shame over their bodies and fatties who have politicized around their identities. Finding another fat, proud person, especially in South Dakota, would, yes, shock me, but also make my year.

And let’s be honest, being regarded as social justice warrior makes me look pretty selfless. I could do with a worse identity.

In other news that shocks no one, I love animals. I have two Pinterest accounts, and both of them teem with pictures of adorable furry, scaled, skinned, and feathered beings. I find great comfort in looking at pictures of non-human creatures. Animals and nature are my spirituality, and reveling in the joy and fabulousness of faunae is to me like attending synagogue. And, like many people of faith, I feel obligated to proselytize.

All this said, I’m aware, of course, that I’m one of many middle-class, White persons who finds inspiration in animals. Environmentalists tend to be White and upper middle class, in part because it’s kind of hard to worry about deforestation and habitat loss when you’re stressing over whether you can pay rent this month or agonizing over the toxic waste dumped near your house  (since, as we know, people of color are much more likely than White persons to live near commercial waste facilities). Understanding the racial and classed implications behind my love of animals helps me contextualize it, but that doesn’t mean I love my babies any less or still don’t squee at the sight of my neighbor walking his pug.

Let's be honest --
this is the real reason Pinterest exists.
Oh and no, I don’t use Pinterest for pictures of food or DIY. I don’t cook or do DIY (unless the “yourself” means, literally, “that person not me”). While I’m all over portraying my radical fat politics, putting my “Fat, Fierce, and Fabulous” board next to “Yum Yums” (note: not an actual board) might feel a little, um, itchy. Okay, yeah, but it’s mostly because I don’t cook, anyway.

Pinterest has become an important tool for me. Not only do I use it to perform my desired self, but I also find others who have pinned similar items and may just share some of my politics. It’s like a meet-up, but with pictures and pithy captions. Jameson says technology has flattened to turn us all inward, but Pinterest both projects my sense of self and allows me to find others like me, not an easy feat for a SJW living in South Dakota with her fiancée and many animals. 


Note: I wrote this post to help my Social Psych students navigate a course assignment that asked them to post pins to Pinterest and then analyze why they chose the ones they did and what that says about them as people. 

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