Dating can be hard for feminists, but there’s now an app for that, according to founder and CEO of the Bumble app, Whitney Wolfe.
Bumble works like popular dating apps Tinder and Grindr but with a key difference, company executives say.Unlike competing apps, Bumble’s matches only last 24 hoursand in opposite-sex matches, the woman must make the first move by initiating conversation.
“We think [Bumble] is actually going to have significant social change and push social change in a real way,” Wolfe said in a Sept. 29 interview on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” “[Bumble] will empower the woman. It will take the pressure off the man, and it will really create a significant shift that we are waiting for.”
The app was released in November 2014 but gained attention in this September when Bumble sponsored filters on Snapchat with phrases like “Searching for bae.”
I am a single, college-aged woman who understands the struggles of dating and I firmly believe in equality between men and women in every part of life. I fit the mold of this app’s target demographic, and in theory, I should want to download it and start swiping away—but I do not.
I neither hate all dating apps nor the ideals this app is supposedly supporting. Women should be able to ask men out without getting slut-shamed or seeming too eager.
Instead of transforming dating, though, Bumble is like a huge, virtual Sadie Hawkins dance. Wolfe even said in a Sept. 25 Forbes article that she researched the Sadie Hawkins dance while developing Bumble.
The Sadie Hawkins dance—and in turn, Bumble—was based on the idea that women should take the initiative in dating. However, both the dance and Bumble play into societal gender norms and roles instead of changing them. They both promote the idea that women cannot be confident on their own, so they need a special platform to encourage them to ask men out.
With past gender inequality issues like property ownership and current ones like wage inequality, it’s clear that social movements can create change. This app feels less like a catalyst and more like it is fostering separate but equal opportunities for women to take the lead in dating.
Another problem is the assumption that if women initiate contact, there will be less creepy and inappropriate messaging compared to other dating apps. In a May 15 Time Magazine article, Charlotte Alter praised Bumble’s messaging model for reducing these kinds of messages. A woman messaging first will not change whether some guy is ignorant or a misogynist , however, Bumble will probably attract men who are more socially aware, based on the app’s premise, but that does not mean the creeps of Internet dating are gone.
In a July 27 opinion piece on Fusion, Hannah Smothers said any dating app can be a feminist dating app if the users are communicating with respect. I agree that achieving equality in dating and in life has less to do with an app concept and more to do with how people interact.
Bumble itself is problematic, but the ideas it has brought to the table about feminism, gender equality and the societal norms of dating are worth discussing openly. Let’s hope it creates a dialogue about these issues that could lead to real and lasting social change.