I Was Supposed to Feel Empowered, Right?

When "The Feminist Tinder" Isn't Feminist

Eric, 21—Nice smile and has a cute dog, totally right swipe material, oh he’s in.

Jersey—left swipe. Josh, 20—EW he’s drunk in every one of his pictures... left swipe. Chris, 22—oh hello, handsome, right swipe. Oh this is awkward it wasn’t a match; maybe he just hasn’t found my profile yet? That’s what I’m going to choose to believe. Lance, 21—he seems okay enough...right swipe. DING DING DING! It’s a match! Okay his profile is boring and I have nothing witty to say about him so, I’m just going to go with a classic. A little while later, I realized maybe that was a mistake.

The fairly new dating app, Bumble has been described as “The Feminist Tinder” by reversing typical gender roles and being a break from the oftentimes sexist encounters many girls face when they enter the world of mobile dating. But in reality, the feminism Bumble embraces is all talk.

What sets Bumble apart from other dating apps such as Tinder, Plenty of Fish, or OKCupid, is that the women have to start every conversation as well as a twenty-four hour expiration date on matches unless both parties answer.

The company markets the app by making it look like women have all the control, but in reality it just makes women believe they are empowered. Women messaging guys first is not a concept Bumble created. I’ve personally messaged dozens of guys first on Tinder, and when asked most of my female friends said the same thing. But being forced to initiate every conversation was tiresome and because of the expiration, I would spend what felt like forever messaging guys in chunks so I would not miss out on the potential love of my life.

And after what felt like an eternity trying to craft these wonderful messages, most of my matches expired because I would message them and never get a response. Now, if I match with a guy on Tinder and he never messages me, I can brush it off as maybe he found the love of his life or maybe he swiped right on me a while ago and deleted the app. But being new to Bumble, I know all these guys are active users. I probably messaged over two dozens guys and only got responses from a handful and only went on a bad first date with one. The whole experience just made me feel bad about myself and think that I was not good enough for these Bumble guys. I sincerely missed the ego boost Tinder gave me.

I secretly love when Tinder’s little fire icon pops up in my notifications saying some new guy messaged me. It makes me smile and instantly boosts my mood. And that’s what I missed when I started using Bumble, where I felt like I was doing a job, not trying to find a date. And really what is so wrong about a guy messaging first? I’ve never felt less-than because some guy messaged “Hey” before I could.

Yes, it did get rid of guy having some weird opening line that includes something about their genitalia. But it did not stop them from being completely a douche and assuming all I wanted out of life was to sleep with them.

Unless Bumble were to require all new member to fill out a “Are You a Creep?” application before giving them access to the app, there is no fool proof way of getting rid of the creeps that troll dating apps.

Bumble was created by the Tinder co-founder, Whitney Wolfe to allow women to shed the societal norms that say that men have to make the first move and control everything. In theory that does sound like Wolfe really does want to empower women, but she cannot personally monitor every message sent to make sure women are controlling the conversation. I think I may have controlled like one conversation for like two minutes and then it was all him.

During an interview with Buzzfeed she stated that the app helps both parties “The man, because he simply does not have to feel the pressure to ‘pick someone up,’ feels flattered.” And later went on to say “The woman essentially steers the path of the conversation, making the man less nervous about saying the right thing, being

too forward, or not forward enough.” Now, to me that just seems like she is focused on male satisfaction more than female empowerment.

I get that dating is a two-way streak and both parties have to like each other for it to work. But why is Wolfe’s main focus on making dating easier for men if she wants to empower women? Like I’m sorry that men feel so pressured to “pick up” women, but should women not dress up for their date? I know I would love to go on a first date in leggings and tennis shoes. If Wolfe wants to relieve all this pressure associated with dating, why is she not commenting on all the pressures women are under?

I realize that one app will not completely revolutionize dating overnight, and she needs to attract both men and women to the app, but still. She’s making it sound like empowering women is only good if men are getting something out of it. Like haven’t they gotten enough in life, can’t women just have one thing?

Those using Bumble to find a same sex relationship find that either person can message first. But doesn’t that take all the “empowerment” Bumble promises out of it? I see that it could be a problem since there are either two women or no women involved and you certainly cannot ask “Who is the more feminine of the match?” But Bumble is also kind of saying that only straight women can be empowered. Or at least they can be empowered first.

If Bumble really was feminist and focused on empowering women, they should try to be inclusive to all sexual orientations. Now, I am neither a lesbian nor a gay man so I cannot speak for them. But it seems like they would have no real reason to join this app. Bumble has not recently released exactly how many users they have, but just by personal experience, there are a lot less straight guys using this app compared to the others I have used. And if the app is mostly aimed towards heterosexuals; I can only imagine how tiny the gay presence is.

But why should gay men and lesbians join Bumble when there are so many other dating apps available for them? Primarily gay apps like Grindr with over ten million active users and a more neutral app like Tinder with over fifty million accounts sound like the better choice to me.

The app also lacked space for other people who do not identify as traditionally male or female and though that is a problem on most mainstream dating apps and websites, one might think the “feminist” one would be the first to be all-inclusive. If Bumble is really all about empowerment, they need to think of ways to empower all women, not just straight ones.

The only thing remotely empowering about my experience with this app, was their unique feature called BumbleBFF. This setting took you out of the card deck of the dating world and gave you all girls just looking for friends. It was so refreshing to be surrounded by other strong women that literally just wanted to expand their girl squad. The girls I met there were genuine and we actually had some great conversations. I was never someone who surrounded herself with loads of other females, but this app was the first time I saw myself doing so.

I finally found that girl power empowerment I had been hearing about. I even made some new strong female friends that I’ve hung out consistently with in real life — more than I can say for the dating aspect of the app.

I do not foresee myself finding my next boyfriend on Bumble; there is just nothing special about it and not as many guys as other more established apps. Maybe if they change some things and gain more users I’ll reconsider, but even then I would have to think about it. Too many bad memories associated with it. And though I will not find my next beau on the cutesy yellow app, I can find some new best friends to eat pizza with while watching The Notebook, and I am perfectly fine with that.

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I Was Supposed to Feel Empowered, Right?