Kairos 19.3
banner image for article. Article title is 'Can we block these political thingys? I just want to get f_cking recipes:' Women, Rhetoric, and Politics on Pinterest. To interact with the article, treat it as a pinterest site.

Drawing Conclusions: F*cking Recipes and Rhetorical Civic Engagement

Although the conversations that evolve on this particular comment thread are only a small selection of the multimodal composition and discursive practices that occur on Pinterest, there are broader implications for what these example rhetorical events reveal. As I have tried to demonstrate here, social media sites are spaces in which digital citizens are undertaking significant rhetorical work, and although Pinterest is a site that privileges sharing and discussing content over content creation (as Tekobbe [2013] argued that Pinterest has been characterized), it is still a space in which rhetorical composing practices are prominent. The rhetorical work that digital citizens engage in these spaces demonstrates how even the mundane composing practices of social media spaces can be viewed as rhetorically significant forms of digital civic engagement.

To conclude, I outline some of the specific insights that these rhetorical moments illuminate. There are others, of course, beyond what I discuss here, but I hope to contribute to ongoing conversations about the importance of social media sites as spaces where complex rhetorical composing work happens, and to begin to further extend this conversation to Pinterest.

1. On Pinterest, as on other social media sites, digital citizens are actively and rhetorically engaged with civic issues, with effects both online and offline.

Scholars in composition, rhetoric, and digital media studies encourage continued engagement with public rhetorics to provide renewed meaning to students' composing practices and work (see Sheridan, Ridolfo, & Michel, 2012; Weisser, 2003). Social media sites, like Pinterest, are one clear space in which this civic engagement is already being practiced. In this example rhetorical situation, the civic engagements that occurred were multivalent. First and foremost, the users engaged in conversations about the political climate of US society and presidential politics. These rhetorical engagements were clearly a way of exploring and discussing civic issues that affected their lives as, ostensibly, US citizens and digital citizens. These women discussed a range of issues, from Presidential economic policies to women's rights and status in contemporary US culture. For them, Pinterest represented a safe space for expressing their opinions and ideas on political, civic topics that affected their everyday lives as citizens. The civic issues that these women engaged extended beyond the political, however; these women also explored civic issues local to the Pinterest community itself, as they debated and discussed the purpose of the site. In doing so, these women made their very rhetorical practices a civic, community issue, and reflected upon what they felt to be best practices for the community members to engage. Though it may seem to simply be a space for saving and sharing links to Web content, these users' civic engagements in the space demonstrated complex public rhetorics that point to the potential significance of their interactions and negotiations in the space.

Bringing such rhetorical spaces into the classroom can enable students to identify publics to which they can contribute as digital citizens, as well as recognizing the spaces in which such digital civic engagement is already happening. As W. Lance Bennett (2008) explained, the arenas in which digital civic engagements are happening are shifting, and to understand the composing practices that affect students' everyday rhetorical experiences, teachers and researchers need to pay attention to the spaces in which these rhetorical and civic engagements are happening. For some students, Pinterest might represent an access point for thinking critically about their everyday composing practices, and how sharing content with a community of users is in fact rhetorical. For others who may be less familiar with Pinterest, engaging in a new public and rhetorical online space can enable them to defamiliarize the composing practices that may have become naturalized in their everyday experiences, which can lead to new critical perspectives on their rhetorical experiences across social media spaces. Researchers and teachers in rhetoric, composition, and digital media studies can embrace these new forms of civic engagement and citizenship as an avenue for rhetorical action and discovery. Perhaps especially in a conversation about women and gendered rhetorical spaces, it is important to note that turning to the everyday sites and spaces where this rhetorical action occurs can enable researchers and teachers to find new connections between students' experiences and practices and the idea of the personal being political.

2. Pinterest is a site of cyberfeminist composition and rhetorical activism.

On Pinterest, users create complex multimodal texts—from the composition of an individual pin (selecting an image, a caption, and posting it) to the creation of pinboards (curating multiple pins to cohere into a collection). Beyond the complex rhetorical composing of creating and maintaining these boards, Pinterest users engage with a larger community of users, re-sharing (or re-pinning) others' shared content, "liking" pins, and having discussions and conversations in the comment threads of the pins.

Along with these rhetorical compositions, users engage in the "vital feminist action" of identity construction (Downer et al., 2009, p. 97). As Cindy Kay Tekobbe (2013) noted, "Pinterest's member community demonstrates rich digital literacy practices by creating elaborate information-sharing networks and by collectively and individually organizing information as pastiche, montage, art, and ultimately as statement of digital/virtual identity" (p. 386). As these case study examples explore, digital/virtual identity plays a central role in the civic rhetorical engagements of the women who are part of these conversation threads. From discussions about their identities as women in US society as well as discussions of what women should be postings on the site, issues of gender identity pervade Pinterest. Although, as Sarah Summers (2010) cautioned, referring to a space as a "women's space" can become reductive, gender identity plays a large role in the world of Pinterest, both as a category to be debated and defined and as an effect of the rhetorical activities undertaken by individuals on this site. Exploring this site as a space in which gender plays a large role as well as a space in which cyberfeminist practices are enacted, whether pinning a recipe link or an infographic about womens' rights, lends renewed value to the mundane composing practices undertaken by women in this space.

Although these posters may not immediately see the conversations and arguments they are having as a form of feminism, the content of their comments suggest a feminist, activist orientation, especially as they discuss their identities and ethoi as women. From comments encouraging women to "wake up and be strong" and others pondering what happened to "I am woman hear my roar," feminist questions of female identity and women's rights are central here (Wang, 2012, /pin/2814818487402713). And even when these particular details of the conversation are set aside in favor of other issues (often economic), these women express what matters to them. These expressions might also be seen as a form of feminist activism, directing an audience of fellow females to explore what issues they feel really matter. And finally, this rhetorical exchange shows that this space is one in which female-identifying individuals feel comfortable expressing their opinions and voicing their thoughts, which in itself is a feminist act.

In the conversations explored here, individual users pay much attention to what it means to be women in their culture and society. These women work to negotiate their ethoi and identities within this particular space, defining not only their individual and collective identities as Pinterst users, but also their identities and ethoi as women in society, online and offline. Moreover, these women debate, discuss, and argue over the purpose of the space in which they are having these conversations, bringing their voices to bear on the question of what characterizes a "women's space," showing why having a space for such civic and rhetorical engagements matters. Together, these users form a community of female-identifying digital citizens, and this ethoi is created and composed through their rhetorical and civic engagements.

Tekobbe (2013) maintained that a gender gap exists between men and women's digital literacies competencies and practices. This gap arose "as women were largely absent during the canonical development of the tacit [legacy] knowledge [of technological design]," and as a result, "women's computing practices may not bear the expected marks of literacy exclusively grounded in legacy knowledge" (p. 387). The gender gap that has seemed to characterize digital literacy practices and discourses can be combatted by capaciously valuing digital literacy practices. Recognizing the rhetorical, civic, cyberfeminist engagements that women undertake on Pinterest everyday as a valid form of digital literacy helps to combat the detrimental effects, including the dismissal of women's digital literacies by the keepers of the "legacy knowledges" that have been masculinized in technological discourses. As an example, this case study can point to the ways that, despite a characterization as a women's space that is just for sharing content, the rhetorical undertakings in this space are rhetorically complex, nuanced forms of cyberfeminism and activism.

3. Through active engagements, like exploring public rhetorics and civic engagements, cyberfeminist activities, and online composing practices, social media spaces can be reshaped by users who challenge and interrogate the expectations of any given social media space.

In the compositions and communications highlighted in this article, Pinterest users engaged in lively debates that covered many topics. As users discussed the purpose of Pinterest, they interrogated and challenged how best to use the space. Although some argued that the site should be used for the purposes that had emerged as dominant within the space, like sharing "f*cking recipes" and "beautiful things," others challenged the normative standard by arguing for more inclusive uses of Pinterest that sanctioned the use of the space as users wanted to use it. Again, challenging the normative standards of the space becomes a form of civic engagement, and I would add, a form of remix and redesign that can challenge and speak back to the potentially reductive readings of the site both as a "women's space" (Summers, 2010) and/or as a space characterized by subordinate forms of digital literacy (Tekobbe, 2013). As individuals make Pinterest work for their purposes and their interests, they engage in rhetorical community shaping, challenging the dominant narratives that shape the online space they inhabit.

Such rhetorical work could easily be incorporated into composition classrooms and into the everyday lives of digital citizens. Particularly as highly visual composing platforms—and seemingly uncomplicated digital literacies— such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine, become increasingly popular, critical and complex approaches to these spaces and the compositions created for them can enable digital citizens to think more carefully about the rhetorical engagements and digital literacies they practice everyday. By highlighting how users compose within different social media spaces, both supporting the normative standards of the space and subverting them, digital citizens, including students, can be made aware that the digital literacies and composing practices they engage in across social media sites can indeed be more than just sharing.

Although users might define Pinterest as either a place for "f*cking recipes" or one that engages the inspiration provided by "politics in our beautiful country," I suggest that Pinterest can represent all of these things for users, as its rhetorical possibilities as a space of civic, rhetorical engagements are demonstrably many.