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2014-07-08

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July 9, 2014 - 9:49pm

The Feminine Critique: The truth about Tinder

BY MAURA LEVINE

When Tinder first came out and I realized what it was I’m pretty sure I turned to my friends and said, “Who would even think to create something like this?” Especially in this day and age. I mean, c’mon. We have a hard enough time keeping people safe without an app that tells your location and shares pictures with an explicitly sexual agenda. An app that facilitates a one-night-stand sexual encounter is a little creepy. But I’m not writing to focus on the bizarre nature of Tinder. I know many people who use it for fun and have never had a bad experience. I don’t judge those people. Rather, I am writing to expose the question I posed in the first sentence — who would create this? The founders of Tinder have recently been in the limelight; and they’re just as creepy as you would imagine.

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek article, Whitney Wolfe, a former vice president for marketing Tinder, is now suing the company over allegations of sexual harassment. In her lawsuit she writes, “Although it is tempting to describe the conduct of Tinder’s senior executives as ‘frat-like,’ it was in fact much worse — representing the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups.” She claims that the Chief Marketing Officer, Justin Mateen, sexually and verbally harassed her. Additionally, Wolfe says that she was called a “whore” on multiple occasions. When she went to Tinder CEO Rad to ask for help, he dismissed her and called her “dramatic.”

You can kind of get the picture of how these guys function without respect for women. The idea that they created — swiping right if you like the way a woman looks and swiping left if you don’t, effectively “trashing” her from your Tinder — exemplifies their mindset. Granted women have the same power on Tinder to pick and choose their matches, but the entire idea of basing a relationship on looks alone is misogynistic itself.

But the story continues. After Tinder became popular, Wolfe’s male co-founders began to downplay her role in the creation of the idea, refusing to give her credit for being a co-founder at all of the wildly profitable app. In fact, she was never given credit for her contributions even though she was part of Tinder from its inception. In his Businessweek article journalist Nick Summers opines that it’s obvious that Wolfe was stripped of her title and recognition for no other reason than that she she was a woman. Wolfe says her title as co-founder was taken away because the other executives told her that having a young female “makes the company seem like a joke” and “devalues” it.

Ms. Wolfe isn’t the only woman who has complained of this kind of heavy sexism and discrimination recently. Simultaneous to Ms. Wolfe’s lawsuit last week appeared a similar legal complaint by two former Goldman Sachs’ employees. These women say that they were paid less, given fewer promotions than men in the firm and experienced gender bias on a regular basis. According to the women, an apparent “boys club” atmosphere promoted the sexualization of women in the company and created a breeding ground for sexual assault and harassment. Lurid stories can be read on the Washington Post website.

Reading these horrifying accounts from both Tinder’s Whitney Wolfe and the former Goldman Sachs employees reminds me of the brilliant yet disgusting Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street.” This, much like the women’s accounts, seems almost too repulsive to be true. The fact that the men in both aforementioned lawsuits are politically denying all allegations makes no difference.

It’s important to remember that a “boys club” atmosphere isn’t exclusive to traditionally gentlemen-run institutions like financial investment firms and technology startups. It exists everywhere. Kind of like the underlying American racism that still plagues our country. Underlying sexism is everywhere. Women are still paid less for the same jobs as men and are still treated like sexual objects instead of intellectual contributors. Just acknowledging that we still have a problem is half the battle on the road to (sexism) recovery.

Maura Levine can be reached mtoval@umich.edu.


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