The men on the Bumble dating app aren’t ready for the queen bee
When love, lust, and all the things in between comes, dating apps seem like the only way to meet new people and have a romance in 2019. That is not the case of course, but the Social media and popular culture flood us with messages about the importance of these seemingly simple and effective approaches to digital dating. Drawing on my personal experiences and academic knowledge about sexuality, gender, and power, this article explores what happens when dating apps don’t deliver on their promises.
Be a technician Luddite, I never dreamed of using a dating app. However, when the other options were exhausted, I found myself selecting photos and summing myself up in a user profile. I chose Bumble because it was rumored that there were more professional men than other apps and I was intrigued by its signature design where women invite men out. Self described as “100% feminist” Bumble’s unique approach has generated significant social buzz and has over 50 million users.
As a medical anthropologist, I explore the experiences of sexuality, gender, and health among sex workers, Indigenous communities, and those affected by HIV / AIDS. I had no intention of writing about my socio-sexual experiences, but as soon as I started my Bumble journey, words started to flow. Writing helped me cope with the bizarre things I encountered, and my anthropological knowledge told me that my observations were both unique and timely.
But what is Bumble? What does this reveal about feminism and gender in the culture of contemporary encounters?
The worker bee does all the work
Founded in 2014, Bumble is considered a feminist dating app that puts women in the driver’s seat and relieves men of the pressure to engage in dating conversations. In a 2015 Squire maintenance, Whitney Wolfe Herd, CEO and Co-Founder of Bumble, Explained Bee Inspiration:
“A beekeeping society where there is a queen bee, the woman is in charge, and it’s a really respectful community. Everything revolves around the queen bee and everyone who works together. It was very fortuitous. “
However, a bee hive is less about brotherhood and more about gender inequality. Just as worker bees do the heavy lifting of caring for the larvae and their hexagonal lair, Bumble females do the initial dating work by throwing invitation after invitation to potential matches. Male bumblebees, just like male bees, mostly sit and wait for their invitations to arrive.
In my five months on Bumble, I created 113 unique first lines, each involving not only work, but a leap of faith as well. Here are just two examples:
Hi X! I love your photos, they are attractive and interesting. You are a personal trainer, it must be rewarding to work with people to achieve their goals …
Hey, X. Your photos are hot… do you want to log in?
will he answer? Will this one love me? Exposing myself repeatedly made me feel vulnerable, not empowered.
Of course, there was a short-lived excitement, but I spent a lot of my time wondering if they were going to respond. Only 60 percent of my first lines were answered and I’ve only met ten men in five months, which is a nine percent “success” rate.
Of my 10 encounters, four were rated very good to excellent, three fairly bad, and three fluctuated in the middle: not great, but not something I want to repeat. Like the handsome guy with prickly arms (because he shaved them) who spun me around my dining room but could barely tie his shoes because his pants were so tight. Or, the guy who obsessively talked about being 5’6 “but really, really not.
A female power bubble
My digital dating journey has not been the effective and stimulating experience I was hoping for. The gap between Bumble’s sunny tale and my more stormy encounters stems from the app’s outdated brand of feminism. The women’s empowerment model assumes that we live in a girl’s power bubble. He ignores men’s feelings about taking on a more passive dating role. This creates tension between users. I’ve learned the hard way that despite our feminist advances, many men still don’t feel comfortable waiting to be invited out.
Some Bumble men see the app’s design as a way for women to steal their legitimate dating power. Many openly criticized us for acting “like men” and I was ghosted, sexually degraded and subjected to violent language from men who resented me or what I represented as a feminist. This was confirmed by several of my matches, which discussed women’s acquisition of socio-economic and sexual power as an issue. These ideas didn’t just shock me; they hindered my ability to have meaningful dating experiences on Bumble.
The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements continue to highlight all the unfinished business that lies ahead before gender equality becomes a reality. My Bumble experiences reflect the same unfortunate truth, just like other studies about complex relationship between gender and power relations on dating apps.
Using a feminist dating app in a patriarchal world is messy, but also fascinating for what it reveals about sexuality, gender, and power in the digital dating world. Bumble needs a serious upgrade if it is to truly empower women and make room for men on their way to more meaningful dating experiences.
One suggestion would be to delete the “she asks” and “he is waiting” reasons so that the two partners can contact each other as soon as a match is established. Bumble could also consider asking users to answer questions about gender equality and feminism before matches are generated. This could make digital dating experiences less of a bell and more of a fair mess.
Another idea is to have Bumble brush up on his narrative to support the desires of women and help the various dating roles be more easily accepted by men. The app could add a forum where users can share their various Bumble experiences in a way that encourages safe and engaged dating-related communication.
My personal feeling is that instead of relying exclusively on dating apps, it is better to use multiple dating methods. It means having the courage to act on our desires when they surface in the history of the grocery store, the art gallery or at the subway station. It can be terrifying but also a lot more exciting than sliding right. Dark!
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