Swipe Right or Swipe Wrong

Tinder, or as some people call it the “modern tool for hooking up,” raises some interesting questions on how our society has evolved in the way we pursue romantic partners. It also gives a different look at how women are treated.

I remember the idea of an app matching me up with other people didn’t attract me at all, at first. However, just like for other people, my curiosity got the best of me. It was like speed dating, but better — because it took away face-to-face interaction and the fear of rejection. It’s an innovative and efficient way to meet people in the modern age, and many college students are the main participants. Some critics of the app included the fact that it was taking away face-to-face interaction in their complaints, citing romantic connections as just another thing replaced by social media. Some people worry that it creates a more dehumanizing approach to dating people, others that it morphs our first impressions. I agree with this, however I have come to realize that even in real life people are dehumanized when hit on — especially women.

When I first started to experiment with the dating app, I tried to think of it as an empowering thing. For both males and females, it allowed an easy way for people to participate in a very stigmatized activity: hooking up. Over time, though, I was forced to remember that this activity was much more stigmatized for the female gender.

In real life, women are shamed for going on one night stands, and in the digital world they’re shamed for using Tinder.

Additionally, as innovative and seemingly harmless the app seems, it can become just another platform for men to be oppressive towards women over the world wide web. Some people don’t usually think about the kind of abuse, or as I like to call it: online cat calling, that women go through. As nearly every social interaction we have is converted to an online medium, this has become easier to see.

I remember right as Tinder was blowing up, there were many stories and satirical videos coming out about “sexist men on tinder” and how countless women felt uncomfortable with the responses. It seems that misogyny is magnified tenfold on social media, because the abusers know they are anonymous so they feel safe to say whatever they please in whatever manner they choose.

I‘ve heard some pretty disturbing examples of girls who are completely disrespected for no valid reason. It seems that since it’s such a quickly connecting interface, it gives the guy even more incentive to say whatever he wants, because he knows he can get away with it. Just because it’s online, doesn’t mean the harassment or the sexism is diluted, instead it is magnified. Many responses from guys become aggressive and overly confident, to the point where they are furious when they do not receive the reaction they want from a girl. One of the worst things I have experienced as a female when trying to interact with guys, online or even in real life, is that far too many times guys get the idea in their head that we owe them something. I reached out to the girls I know in my circles on Twitter, and quite a few experienced some sort of unnecsary harrassment over dating apps. The stories went on and on; we are forced to joke about it because it’s just a part of reality.

They get the idea that because they tried so hard to muster up the courage to talk to us, we somehow need to immediately return the favor. Some men really need to understand the girl they are pursuing does not have to accept every lame pick up line they throw at her. One girl told me how she especially gets unwanted vulgarity since she is a black woman.

It’s particularly difficult for a black woman, because Tinder is such a white male dominated medium, the experiences can vary. She told me she got many messages like these that were “violently inappropriate” and almost always centered around her race. It just goes to show that some things never change, and that sexism and racist sexism is only further preserved through online dating rather than decreased. In a way, what these dating apps are doing is showing the true sides of mysogyny and sexism that people are too afraid to show in real life. The online world gives them courage but at the same time, it exposes them.

Of course, online it becomes easier for us to have a good response and maybe fight back in a more aggressive way. We feel safer tos ay something, but at the same time, the harasser feels safer saying something in the first place. So the medium of social media, in a way, gets us stuck in a meaningless cycle, where it’s not even worth explaining to a man why we feel uncomfortable by their comments.

Even so, it is possible to find good people that you can have a real connection with through this app — I’m not saying every person you match up with will immediately ask you your bra size.

However, most of the time women are forced get used to the fact that there will be guys immediately messaging them with certain expectations, with a specific tone. It is unfair that women need to be ready for these kind of responses. It is troubling to hear the countless stories of men approaching women in a distasteful way, because this directly reflects how they treat women in real life.

A part of me was hoping that Tinder would be an opportunity to modernize the culture of hooking up, and destroy the stigma that women hold on their shoulders. I was hoping it would give women an opportunity to enjoy casual dating and hooking up without the normal shaming, however, the sad reality is that the heteronormative and sexist trends in our society still cross over into the digital age, and women feel it at a greater rate than before.

The good thing about the internet, in this case, is that we can just choose to block the person who is harassing us and we never have to really deal with them again. It bothers me though, that this person is still out there, likely harassing the next girl, either online or in real life.

(article I wrote for the February print issue of The Vindicator)