One in five women over the age of 18 who regularly use the internet is on Pinterest, which had an estimated 23 million users users as of July. It also has an overwhelmingly female audience; around 60 percent of visitors to the site are women. And the site is only growing: between July 2011 and July 2012, 22 million users joined. Since Pinterest stopped requiring an invite to become a member in August, that number is only increasing. But the site's popularity highlights an uncomfortable reality: Pinterest's user-generated content, which overwhelmingly emphasizes recipes, home decor, and fitness and fashion tips, feels like a reminder that women still seek out the retrograde, materialistic content that women's magazines have been hawking for decades — and that the internet was supposed to help overcome.
Pinterest — which drives more traffic to marthastewart.com and marthastewartweddings.com than Facebook and Twitter combined — has become impossible to ignore, even as critics deride it as "the Mormon housewife's image bookmarking service of choice." But it's much more than a collection of pretty pictures. In fact, the site seems like one big user-curated women's magazine — from the pre-internet era. Sites like Jezebel were created as an antidote to women's print magazines, which are rife with diet, fitness and dressing tips. The internet has for many years now been thought of as a place where women can find smarter, meatier reads just for them.