Dating apps work. They’re convenient, free, require as much effort as you’re willing to put in and give you access to partners you wouldn’t normally meet. Apps like Tinder have changed the landscape of dating for the better: all it takes is a simple swipe, accessible from anywhere, as long as you have a smartphone and the internet. But if dating apps seem ostensibly ideal, so why do men keep sending you pictures of their genitals?
Tinder wasn’t coded to be sexist, but it’s become just that. Men are confused when I talk about politics on Tinder, have opened conversations with me about my breasts, and have ignored me because I’ve messaged them first (an apparent digital faux pas). A friend of mine had a man open a conversation with “Hey, if my penis was a refugee, would you let him in?”
Dear men, just stop already.
In theory, Tinder gives equal power to both men and women, but in practice, regressive social norms permeate the app. Even if women are required to be on it for it to actually work (providing you’re heterosexual), the app draws more men than women — about 62% of all dating app users are male. Tinder’s rules are shaped by the people who use it, and to put it bluntly, men have ruined a perfectly good piece of technology with their silly preconceptions of gender. This is why we can’t have nice things.
So what do you do if you love sex but hate sexism? The answer might be to ditch Tinder and download Bumble, the dating app designed specifically to try and bypass these rules.
Bumble bears an outward resemblance to Tinder, except Bumble is specifically regulated to give women more power. The app allows women to message men first, and if they don’t initiate conversation within the first 24 hours, the match disappears. The app’s design follows much of the same rules as Tinder — right swipe for yes, left swipe for no — and leads with a carefully curated photo. However, unlike Tinder, it contains additional information at first glance such as education and profession, shifting its focus from an entirely aesthetics-based dating app towards something more comprehensive.
Bumble’s resemblance to Tinder is no coincidence: its CEO and creator, Whitney Woolf, was a former co-founder of the original dating app, but left the company and subsequently launched a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against her co-founders Justin Mateen and Sean Rad in 2014, alleging that that she had experienced “atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination”. She said that she was called “a whore” in meetings and was told that having a young female co-founder of Tinder made Tinder “seem like a joke.” It was a reluctant spotlight. Woolf told the Guardian “I find it really upsetting that the lawsuit still defines my story and I’m qualified by what happened at Tinder rather than the fact I am now a successful female CEO of a tech company at 25.”
That case was settled out of court, Bumble was launched, and although is is yet to release official figures, the app appears to be doing well: Woolf has stated that the app has had 5 million unique (female initiated) conversations since its launch in December (Tinder has around 10 million matches per day — though it’s unclear how many of those actually become conversations), and its monthly active users grew by 65% in May.
Personally, Bumble is my new favourite dating app in my search for true love. I like being able to message people first, to make that first move, and to have that power that is so often taken away from me in real life. Tinder has been culled to the far end of my home screen pages, sat next to iBooks and Stocks — because Bumble gives me that status quo of feminism that I expect. It’s not that you’ll always get matches well versed in academic feminism, but if you experience sexism on there, you feel justified in calling it out. And that’s the key to Bumble: it may not actually change the reality of dating, or of the behaviours between men and women, but it gives you a precedent to expect that change.
I may have avoided any dickpics on the app so far, but Bumble isn’t flawless. You can’t download it if you have an Android phone, and you’re also not guaranteed to wean out the sexism, irrespective of its progressive structure. In terms of conversation and attitudes, there is definitely a higher standard than Tinder, but the feminists are still few and far between. My first match knew “nothing about feminism” (but to his credit said he was “willing to learn”). Even the self-professed feminists that I’ve gone on dates with have ended up spending a lot of time explaining things to me — things I already knew. One man I met attempted to make his political opinion more “understandable” by using a rugby analogy — which, for someone well-versed in politics (and ignorant of rugby), was patronising and unnecessary. But then again maybe he wasn’t sexist, just a twat.
Bumble is only growing, as more women (and men) are tired of tolerating the tired tropes of sexist behaviour. It may not be able to undo hundreds of years of sexism on its own. But it might just change a few minds, one right swipe at a time.