Things That Matter

Here’s Why Pinterest And The Knot Are Finally Prohibiting Slave Plantation Wedding Content From Their Sites

Pinterest and the Knot Worldwide are two of the largest online wedding planning platforms in the United States. The two organizations are implementing new policies so that some content related to slave plantation weddings can no longer be promoted on the websites, according to BuzzFeed News.

The two companies are taking two different approaches to moderating how former plantations market themselves on the services. While the Knot Worldwide is policing certain language, Pinterest is taking things further by restricting some content altogether. 

The Knot Worldwide thinks language is the source of the issue.

“We want to make sure we’re serving all our couples and that they don’t feel in any way discriminated against,” chief marketing officer of the Knot Worldwide, which owns the Knot and WeddingWire, Dhanusha Sivajee told BuzzFeed News.

Content that glorifies the history of former Southern slave plantations, which are quite often used as wedding venues, will be prohibited. The way these regulations will be enforced is by reviewing the language used to describe these historical locations of mass abuse and white supremacy. 

Plantations will still be allowed on the Knot and WeddingWire, but vendors cannot refer to them as “elegant” or “charming” because people were once forced into labor, banned from literacy, and beaten to name a few of the horrors that regularly occurred on such properties. 

The new language guidelines refer to all wedding venues because some former plantations have tried to move away from that legacy in name.

“You can imagine there could be former plantations that maybe have changed their names to manors or farms,” Sivajee said. 

Pinterest is taking a more hardline approach on plantation weddings. 

The content on Pinterest is user-generated and the platform is essentially used as a search engine to find inspiration. A company spokesperson told BuzzFeed that it is working with Google to de-index searches for plantation weddings. 

When users try to find plantation wedding content it will no longer turn up and if such content does appear, users will see an advisory that the content may violate the terms of use. Pinterest will not allow plantation weddings to be promoted through their advertisement service either. 

“Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things,” a Pinterest spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “We are working to limit the distribution of this content and accounts across our platform, and continue to not accept advertisements for them.”

A civil rights advocacy group, Color of Change, is largely responsible for these new policies. 

“The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not an empowering one for the Black women and justice-minded people who use your site,” the organization wrote to the Knot. 

The Knot Worldwide says they are working closely with Color of Change to determine the best course of action with the new guidelines which will be rolled out in the coming weeks. 

“Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen,” the letter said. “The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry.”

Slave plantations were able to “rebrand” themselves as romantic venues.

Celebrities (and people who don’t care about slavery) like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds notoriously wed at Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina. In 2018, the couple was called out of for their wedding again six years later. In Marie Claire’s coverage of the backlash, journalist Pippa Nerada wrote, “Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina, is an (admittedly beautiful) house that was, like most of its kind, built by slaves.” 

Plantations weren’t merely built by slaves, they were where those slaves were tortured and raped, but it appears even reporters must insert that such locations are “admittedly beautiful.” 

Arisa Hatch, VP of Color of Change, says the organization is trying to uncover, “all the different ways that the wedding industry is disrespecting black folks by romanticizing … forced labor camps that brutalized millions of slaves.”

These attitudes that celebrate the Antebellum era come in the wake of tourists complaining that plantation tours, which allow visitors to view plantations for historical purposes, focus too much on slavery or don’t portray white people nicely enough

Margaret Biser, who worked as a plantation tour guide wrote in Vox that people would ask if slaves got paid, try to shut down conversations about slavery, tried to get her to admit that slavery wasn’t that bad, tried to assert that slaveowners housed slaves out of benevolence, and asked if slaves were loyal to their masters.

“All the misconceptions discussed here serve to prop up one overarching and incorrect belief: that slavery wasn’t really all that bad,” Biser wrote. “And if even slavery was supposedly benign, then how bad can the struggles faced by modern-day people of color really be?”

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