Alright, I’m just going to admit this right now: Pinterest is my new favorite way to let my brain shut down for a while. I realize that for some people, Pinterest translates as just another way to waste time on the internet. And, yeah, it kind of is. But for me, it’s not wasted time because sometimes my brain just needs a break. And Pinterest is fun because there are lots of great ideas, beautiful photos, funny signs, decorating inspiration, recipes, and other stuff on it. It’s a great way to keep track of things and ideas and projects.
Having said that, there are things that people pin that I have no tolerance for. Some of it just makes me roll my eyes, like all of the photos of shirtless male celebrities. It’s like middle school all over again. Some of it is just so stinking sappy that I can’t stand it. Some of it makes my inner feminist want to rampage through the digital streets of the site like She-Hulk. But the worst, the absolute most infuriating to me, is all of the things women pin as workout encouragement.
These pins all feature a ridiculously skinny, toned woman, usually wearing very little, in some exercise pose (like with weights, or running, or sometimes just flexing), and they say things that range in unhealthiness from (essentially), “Working out all the time may be hard, but it will be totally worth the look on HIS face when he sees you like this,” to “If you aren’t puking, passed out or dead, keep going.” Don’t even get me started on how disgusting it is to me that a woman’s primary motivation for exercise involves attaining an unrealistic ideal in order to impress a man (keeping She-Hulk at bay here). Really. That’s all I’m even going to say about that. And the other one smacks of a serious disorder; does anyone actually think it’s a good idea to work out until you’re either a) puking [I’ve done that, for the record, and it’s NOT cool], b) passed out, or c) dead? Stopping before you reach any of those stages is not weak, it’s healthy.
In this sense, Pinterest provides more and more evidence of how diseased our culture is when it comes to body image. Why do we feel the need to pin photos of women who probably work out as much as an Olympic athlete? Most of us are never going to even approximate that level of muscle tone, no matter how often we hit the gym. So why do we “encourage” ourselves with images that we can’t live up to?
In backlash against these photos, a number of pins–most of which involve Marilyn Monroe–advocate that curvy is sexier than skinny. And while I appreciate the sentiment of these, they’re not really any better. Because it turns out that most of us aren’t going to achieve Marilyn’s lovely hour-glass figure either. Women with my body type, for example, don’t do curvy regardless of weight. When you’ve got straight hips, you’ve just got straight hips. Moreover, while the Marilyn-model leaves room for a slightly bigger waistline than current standards, we’re still dealing with an image of probably the most famous sex symbol in American history. Marilyn’s career was predicated entirely on her sex appeal. Her value–both on the screen and off–was determined by her ability to hold the male-gaze. Her life and legacy are reducible to one thing: her body. No one remembers her for her talent or her intellect, for the way she treated others or the causes she championed. Only her body. She is an object only. Is that really a model we want to hold up for ourselves?
I don’t know if any of you other pinners have experienced this, but all of these pins have forced my own body issues more prominently into my mind. Another thing that gets pinned a lot (that bothers me less) is workouts and specific exercises that target various parts of the body. And what I’ve noticed lately is that I see those and catch myself thinking, “Inner thigh exercises? I should do that”; “Toned abs in three weeks? Yeah.” Of course, what’s really happening in the back of my mind is a slideshow of those super-toned women and a vague idea myself with those abs, those thighs, those arms. But I’ve found myself unwilling to repin any of those exercises. Why? Do I think my Pinterest followers would judge me? Nope. But I’ve realized that those kind of pins would represent me as someone I don’t want to be. It’s not that I don’t want to have a slender, toned body. Because, let’s face it–we all do.
But I don’t want to be someone who’s obsessed with my body. I don’t want to buy into our culture’s obsession with physical perfection. Most of all, I don’t want to be someone who punishes my body for not being perfect. Because for some of those exercises, punishment is all I see. I don’t want to run no matter what, or do exercises that hurt. I don’t want to force myself to do things that aren’t fun or in any real way useful simply so that I can look a certain way. And I really, really don’t want to think of any part of my body as a “problem area” that needs to be worked on. Instead, I want to do exercises that make me feel good and happy, that keep me healthy, that are fun, and that allow me to remember how grateful I am for my healthy, functioning body.