Is It Sexist to Create a Pinterest for Dudes?

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April 1 2013 11:57 AM

Pinterest for Dudes

Is it sexist to create a visual sharing site for men?

130325_BROWSR_Tapiture

Tapiture screenshot

Around this time last year, America began to notice that something called Pinterest was taking over the Internet. By some measures, this image-centric social network was the fastest growing website of all time. And yet it seemed to sneak up on many of us. Where had all these photos of wedding dresses and cupcakes come from?

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

Some suggested that Pinterest’s stealthy ascent stemmed from the fact that most technology pundits are male, while most Pinterest users are female. Nielsen figures reveal that women make up 70 percent of Pinterest’s user base. On mobile devices the ratio skews even higher. First-time visitors who log on to Pinterest’s front page—and see photos “pinned” there by Pinterest users—tend to be greeted by a collage of wedge heels, DIY knitting projects, and recipes. Perhaps men felt vaguely unwelcome in this environment, or maybe they just weren’t interested in the content they found.

Whether or not guys understood Pinterest’s appeal, they had no difficulty intuiting that pins could make them rich. (Investors recently pegged Pinterest’s value at $2.5 billion.) If Pinterest was disproportionately attracting women, thought clever entrepreneurs, why not zag and target an underserved market? The race was on to create a visual sharing site designed for men. Soon enough, an onslaught of “Pinterests for Dudes” hit the scene, starting with Gentlemint and Manteresting, followed not long after by Dudepins, PunchPin, and probably a whole slew of other clones that feature portmanteaus built from the word bro. Strongest out of the gate so far, in terms of traffic and funding, has been Tapiture, which received $825,000 in seed investments in February.

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My initial reaction to these sites was that they seemed a little silly. There is nothing inherently “female” about Pinterest. It’s just a tool. Yes, you can use it to archive and organize images of wedding dresses and baked goods, but there’s also nothing stopping you from pinning hotrod cars and power tools. Why should dudes feel a need to escape to a whole new site with nearly identical functionality?

I asked Slate contributor Amanda Marcotte—an avid Pinterest user as well as a feminist blogger—what she thought about these male-targeted pinning sites. “I think if the female-heaviness of Pinterest scares dudes and makes them think they need a separate site that does the same thing, that's pure, unadulterated sexism,” she replied. “Pinterest is great for a variety of interests, and the only reason for men not to use it is fear of female ‘taint.’ ”

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Manteresting screenshot

The founders of the dude sites don’t see it that way. Manteresting (a recipient of some recent snark from Jezebel) launched in February 2012, after 27-year-old co-founder Brandon Patchin noticed his wife spending inordinate amounts of time on Pinterest. Where Pinterest has “boards” and “pins,” Manteresting has “workbenches” and “nails.” When I asked Patchin why men need an XY-friendly place apart from Pinterest, he acknowledged that the functionality of the two sites is very similar. But he says that if a man visits both sites for the first time—before he starts following specific users, and begins molding the site to fit his personal interests—he might more easily find topics that appeal to him on Manteresting.

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