Opinion

The Great Debate

You’d love to meet me on Tinder. Here’s why you won’t.

By Chloe Angyal
July 9, 2014

chloeheadshot

The people behind the smartphone apps Snapchat and Tinder have the power to reshape how we interact with our romantic and sexual partners, and how we seek and have sex itself.

That’s an enormous responsibility — one that requires maturity, good judgment and a healthy respect for gender equality. The problem is, a few of the people behind Snapchat and Tinder seem to have none of the above.

When news broke last week that a former vice president of Tinder filed a sexual harassment suit against the mobile dating app company, the most salacious parts of the complaint quickly spread around the Internet. Whitney Wolfe alleges that her former colleague Justin Mateen, chief marketing officer of the hugely popular app, called her a “whore” (among other slurs) and deliberately concealed Wolfe’s role in founding the company, in part because it would look too “slutty” for a woman to have contributed to the development of a dating and casual sex app. Eventually, Wolfe claims, Mateen and chief executive officer Sean Rad bullied her into resigning from Tinder.

Wolfe also named IAC/Interactive Corp, Tinder’s majority investor, in the suit. An IAC representative has described the accusations as “unfounded.” He also said that the company is conducting an internal investigation over the charges, and has suspended Mateen as a result of its finding that he did send private, inappropriate messages to Wolfe. Mateen did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Mateen is not the first Silicon Valley startup wunderkind to be busted for mistreating members of the opposite sex. In May, Valleywag published a series of leaked emails from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel. As a Stanford undergrad, Spiegel joked with his fellow Kappa Sigma brothers about how much alcohol it would take to get sorority girls drunk enough to have sex with them, and suggested that the best way to congratulate themselves for throwing a great party was to “have some girl put your large Kappa Sigma dick down her throat.” Spiegel may now wish he had Snapchatted those messages to his frat brothers, instead of emailing them. Written five years ago, they don’t exactly instill confidence in his maturity, nor do they suggest much respect for the millions of women who use his app. In May Spiegel issued a public apology for writing the emails and said that he is “mortified and embarrassed” that they were made public.

One of Wolfe’s tasks at Tinder was to get young, straight women on board, and to convince them that this instant hookup app was appealing. This isn’t a novel idea; it’s the digital equivalent of ladies’ night at the bar. If you build it and stock it with attractive women, the men will come. After reading Wolfe’s suit against her male co-founders, though, and after reading Spiegel’s emails, it should be clear that these are not the men we want at the helm of our bold new digital dating enterprise. These are not the men — the very young men — we need in charge of determining how old prejudices and problems are translated into the digital, handheld age.

The speed with which Tinder allows users to reject people — swipe left — or ”like” them — tap a green heart — is efficient, but it’s also impersonal. Objectifying people on Tinder isn’t inevitable, but it’s certainly easier than on dating websites like OkCupid or — heaven forefend — in real life. And the ephemeral nature of Snapchat — of having no record of your own words, and knowing that other people are unlikely to have a record of them either — can leave one feeling reckless and unaccountable. Reckless unaccountability and sex are rarely a good combination.

We know from observing other recent dating innovations, like OkCupid, that for all its transformative power, digital technology tends to merely reproduce pre-existing power dynamics and hierarchies. Black women find it harder to get men to respond to them on OkCupid, just as they face discrimination and warped beauty standards offline. Women across the board are subject to harassing and sexually aggressive messages in online dating spaces, just as they are in the flesh. In this sense, the supposedly disruptive world of Silicon Valley is not, as Jill Lepore recently argued in the New Yorker, all that disruptive.

The people who get funding, and thereby the chance to change our world, are the same people who have been getting funding all along: white, tech-savvy men. Only this time, they’re younger — because Silicon Valley fetishizes youth — and it’s more likely that their youthful indiscretions, like emailing fraternity brothers and urging them to get women so drunk as to make sexual consent impossible, are only a few years behind them. Because these entrepreneurs are younger, they’ve had fewer years to mature and dispense with any sexist attitudes that they may have had as undergrads.

That Silicon Valley has a gender problem is hardly news. When Google released its workplace diversity numbers in May, the figures were grim compared to the workforce in general, with women representing only 30 percent of employees overall, and just 17 percent of tech jobs at the company. But with many of our dating lives being transformed by apps developed by male entrepreneurs in their 20s, the gender problem is magnified, transformed into something truly ugly and deeply problematic — and it deserves closer attention than it now receives.

I’m precisely the kind of woman Tinder wants on board: young, single, urban, with a good profile picture. But if these are the guys who built it, I’d rather leave.

PHOTO: Tinder screenshots courtesy of the company.  REUTERS/Tinder

Comments
23 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

As a person who has never used such a site or will likely ever use such a site, I can say it is highly unlikely that you would ever meet anyone of any substance on such a site. You will find those that are pretty, but that’s a very shallow assessment of virtue. At best these are casual sex sites, which I suppose also supply those working in the sex trades some additional contacts. However, someone who is well spoken and intelligent is unlikely to need such a service. Now that said, the majority of people, both men and women are not intelligent or well spoken, and so may find them useful. Anyway, they do supply those who believe themselves to be deviants in sexual behaviors the ability to anonomously (or at least with little exposure) connect with similarly oriented people. This is only necessary because of the traditional suppressed nature of sexuality in the predomonantly religious societies that use the shame associated with sex and the supposed deviant natures as a means of control and manipulation. You may think these guys are jerks, and they probably are, but then so likely are you. When the conversation around sex becomes open and less a clandestine secret language of manipulation and use, I’ll maybe change my mind. However, this seems more like another attempt at guilt by similarity of gender rather than a well thought out expression of opinion. I don’t know you, and it is unlikely that I could ever, since manipulation requires a less than honest expression of self.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive
 

“I’m precisely the kind of woman Tinder wants on board: young, single, urban, with a good profile picture.”

Ha. Don’t flatter yourself.

Posted by DougAnderson | Report as abusive
 

the sexual revolution is alive and well.

Posted by BobWhite2000 | Report as abusive
 

” the digital, handheld age.” haha

Posted by BobWhite2000 | Report as abusive
 

As someone who does use tinder, I’ve had quite some success in meeting young, beautiful women. Cotnrary to popular opinion states, it as not as common or easy to use apps like tinder for casual sex. In fact, many of the women who use tinder are often looking only for self-validation; once an offer to meet somewhere in real,life is extended, they often shy away and cease contact. Having said that, I have had success in not only hooking up, but also making new friends. Despite Miss Angyal’s reservations, apps like Tinder will only become more the norm; in my opinion judging their nature based on the antics of the founders is rather silly. Would you not use an Apple product simply because Steve Jobs was well known to be a rude arrogant jerk to many of his employees? Would you stop using Google because Eric Schmidt is a philanderer. Use of a product or service should be based upon how useful and/or well-received it is by users, not because of personal feelings to the people who conceived it. If that were the case, than we should cease using many of the most common everyday products that have revolutionized our way of life.

Posted by Zuhalter | Report as abusive
 

Guys that started a hookup site, where self-absorbed, morally bankrupt people can meet for casual sex… turned out to be slimy? Wow… Shocking.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive
 

First really an article about this this crap. The you go and write this…
“That’s an enormous responsibility — one that requires maturity, good judgment and a healthy respect for gender equality. The problem is, a few of the people behind Snapchat and Tinder seem to have none of the above.”

Gender Equality…liberal lemming flavor of the season. You’re right. You don’t need any more social media. You’re already inundated with liberal crap & self absorbed enough. Then you are shocked at that the scum who run this crap and act all moral? Please give us all a rest.

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive
 

“The people who get funding, and thereby the chance to change our world, are the same people who have been getting funding all along: white, tech-savvy men.”
Might I suggest adding to the end, “with a sense of entitlement”.
All together, sounds a lot like the people I know who use Tinder, who all happen to be males, and certainly aren’t shining examples of morality. I do not know of any women who have used it, but as a straight, single white male with no interest in being a Silicon Valley tech superstar, I am OK with it staying that way.

Posted by NoVaCRE | Report as abusive
 

Wait, is the OP suggesting that the females on these apps are actual humans and not AI constructs? This does not compute, it’s like a divide by zero error or something.

That said, I agree with the guys further up that are shocked–shocked, I say, that the authors of a hookup app turned out to be techbros.

Posted by CppThis | Report as abusive
 

btw… I love how “alleges”, turns into guaranteed guilt in this writer’s mind. Obviously part of the… ‘they’re a guy, so of course they’re wrong’… mindset. I mean, it’s not like women have been caught lying and sending guys to prison for rape, when they actually never touched them. Everybody knows that women are perfect angels that never do anything wrong. And they of course never use dating sites as a tool to tease guys by the hundreds, because they’re desperate for attention… or want to unleash their venom towards the entire male population. No, that never happens.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive
 

I had to comment because… well, I was bored and lonely so I joined Tinder for kicks. I’m a 30 year old woman, employed, two graduate degrees, a writer and a bit arty. I live in a rural place currently for work, which is why I went in this direction.

Anyway, I’ve gone on a handful of dates with dudes from OkCupid. Successful and fun, but nothing long-term. Well I met a great guy on Tinder. 9 years older than me. Not sure if it will be a long-term relationship, but we’re dating exclusively for the moment. He’s pretty great and treats me with the utmost respect. Also, we have mind-blowing and i mean mind-blowing sex. I’m just saying. Real connections can happen.

Posted by ziggypop | Report as abusive
 

I think the lady doth congratulate herself too much.

Save the photo for Halloween!

Note to everyone: start destroying all e-mails, and never send one that says anything negative about any potential customers. Make it a point of wisdom.
And make sure your company hires a lot of disgruntled people who enjoy to bring lawsuits.

Posted by Cleveland2012 | Report as abusive
 

I would not love to meet you at all, but you might have a future in creating Halloween masks.

Happy Halloween!

Question: what does a feminist Halloween look like? Is it boring, tired, ugly, and unnatural?

Posted by Cleveland2012 | Report as abusive
 

So maybe the line “I’m precisely the kind of woman Tinder wants on board: young, single, urban, with a good profile picture” is a bit arrogant, but seriously…the comments that have come up so far only prove the author’s point about the level of maturity online: be it Tinder, Snapchat, Facebook, or Reuters. The comments represent yet another low in the “Blame ‘em, shame ‘em, then tame ‘em” dialogue.

Posted by DwDunphy | Report as abusive
 

Women are just as fickle as men in identifying potential mates. How much does he earn? Is he self confident and outgoing? How will he make me look to my friends? The superficiality problem lies with humankind and not with either men or women.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive
 

What’s truly amazing is that the young men of today don’t seem to know that to “get women so drunk as to make sexual consent impossible” is rape.

It’s not like its not had enough publicity over many years now. How can they not know? Are they relying upon women who are treated like this not wanting to speak out against being used like this?

Stick to dating people you can actually meet, and form an opinion of. Someone you might have a common interest with, as opposed to someone who you just like the look of. At least you’ll still have something to talk about when ‘bad hair’ days come along.

Posted by maniacalMaster | Report as abusive
 

Why would a writer who uses words like “forfend” think this sort of attitude is “old” it’s actually a very modern attitude.

Posted by MarieInNara | Report as abusive
 

I am a young, intelligent, successful and pretty white woman who uses Tinder exclusively because interested in dating non-white men who would find it hard to approach a young intelligent, successful and pretty white woman in real life. What about your theory now.

Posted by bluevelvet | Report as abusive
 

Chloe doesn’t see a huge business opportunity for all these under-served women in the digital dating industry – instead she sees another thing to complain about.

Such is sadly stereotypical for a young politically-correct woman to perceive the world that way – how ironic.

Posted by ColderLogic | Report as abusive
 

Ya kinda ugly.

Posted by UKantHndleTruth | Report as abusive
 

Since when did looking for quick sex require “.. a healthy respect for gender equality”?

Seriously, get over your Feminism 101 class. We objectify people all the time depending upon what we want from them. It’s normal.

How a company’s staff behaves internally is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is if their product works and is relevant to my needs.

People have relationships and behave badly when those relationships end. Use of derogatory terms is part and parcel of that whether they’re genderized or not.

What’s really awful is that we’ve politicized personal behavior.

Posted by Emelio_Lizardo | Report as abusive
 

Thank you for complaining about apps that you don’t like and won’t use. I find that very useful. Also, I am impressed by your refusal to get on board with apps that you do like, or attempting to start your own.

Posted by TheComrade | Report as abusive
 

Everyone is talking about apps like Tinder. There has been a growing demand of mobile dating apps since the last few years. Dating apps like Tinder are considered to be a fun way to connect with new and interesting people around. Hence, startups can think of developing dating apps to help the users find their potential matches. – http://bit.ly/YnwAze

Posted by RendrewWolfson | Report as abusive
 

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