As an Indian woman, Tinder fascinates me. The dating app’s shopping-meets-hook-up-experience premise is a strong departure from the traditional Indian mindset toward finding a partner — a pursuit that is only ever meant to end in marriage, and which does not typically encourage women to play an active role in making decisions.
So when I stumbled upon #100IndianTinderTales on Facebook — a project by Indian artist and illustrator Indu Harikumar that documents the stories and experiences of Tinder users in India and Indians using Tinder abroad — one of the first things that stood out to me was that most stories featured clearly articulated likes and dislikes, sexual preferences, fantasies, and experiences . . . many of which would be considered scandalous by typical Indian standards.
Indu embarked on this project to find inspiring new content for her daily art practice. Having herself used the app overseas, while on an artist’s residency in Europe, she found it was a novel way to meet interesting people. Since then, her project has evolved into something that’s challenged Indian relationship ideals in powerful ways.
I asked Indu what it means to women contributing to the project, to have the liberty to choose partners for love, sex, and for some, marriage. “In a world where women have always been judged and dismissed based on their looks, a lot of women have told me they feel powerful left-swiping when they see pictures of Tinder users,” she says. “Tinder helps weed out the men you’re definitely not interested in and focus on those who you think may be interesting. It puts us on a level playing field.”
While the West may have a love/hate relationship with Tinder, in India it’s a tool that enables choice for women as they navigate one of society’s greatest obsessions — relationships and marriage. About 95% of contributors to Indu’s project are women, many of whom have shared stories about how using Tinder gives them the upper hand.
Indu says that Tinder has made her question her own social conditioning as well, presenting opportunities to push her boundaries and challenge her inhibitions. This liberation is particularly potent in a country often focused on the Ideal Indian Woman, whose primary role is to look after and preen herself, and…