Pinterest wants to do for discovery what Google did for search, but men aren’t on board. 71 percent of Pinterest’s 72.5 million visitors are females, and so thecompany has attempted to level out its audience’s gender makeup through the investment of male-centric content – this means more “geek” content and increased pins for “cars and motorcycles” over the past few years.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal equates the male experience on Pinterest to visiting a women’s department store. “Pinterest is trying to make it easier for them to find the men’s section,” and therein lies the problem: Since its inception in 2010, Pinterest has become the hotspot for blushing brides-to-be, creative crafters, and home decorators. According to a University of Minnesota marketing study, women actually process information more comprehensively whereas men tend to focus on the basics. “In other words, Pinterest’s busy design may create an information-overload for men… It works for females because they like detail, they like more complexity.” The purpose of the platform is, intentionally or not, geared towards women, and so it’s probably difficult to find the men’s section when a women’s department store doesn’t cater to men in the first place.

If the goal is to create a “gender neutral” platform like Facebook or Instagram, then the problem exists not in the content – pushing for polarized content based on the gender binary inherently does the opposite anyway – but in the platform’s utility. Simply having pictures of “cars” and “men’s fashion” doesn’t mean Pinterest can generate a male affinity for digital scrapbooking. Such a goal requires social and cultural change over time.

For now, the perception is that associating one’s self with popular female activities such as digital scrapbooking “weakens a man’s social standing.” Pinterest may very well be perfect for men and women alike, but the situation boils down to how socially constructed gender identities place limitations on consumer behavior.

Alison Zhao, MSD Intern