Battle Of The Apps: How Some Online Dating Companies Are Breaking Gender Stereotypes

Originally posted on Thirty on Tap, March 7, 2016.

When online dating first appeared on the scene, people sneered at it in overtly loud tones while simultaneously whispering, as they were curious about whether or not it would provide them with a new avenue to find a life partner. And as more and more millennials have embraced online dating as just another facet of social media’s daily comings and goings for meeting new people, dating mobile apps and websites have similarly evolved to meet this growing demand. That said, it’s continued to be difficult to break the stereotypical mold and expectation that “men must make the first move.” How many times have we quoted that Clueless line to our friends? “Christian said he would call tomorrow, but in boy time, that meant Thursday.”

However, one app is changing the rules.

Let’s be honest, online dating has made it easier for us to “ghost” one another and skip out on dates when we’ve decided we’re no longer interested or have moved on to greener pastures. It also has allowed some men to act more aggressively, resulting in increased online harassment and even threats of sexual violence if they find themselves rebuffed or outright rejected – or “friend zoned.” (But it’s important to acknowledge that women are not the only ones who are victims of sexual assault.) And while the majority of dating apps allow for someone to block a profile as a response to online harassment, it’s not enough.

It shouldn’t be a shock then that the new app Bumble has become one of the more widely used apps among women. Similar to Tinder, Hinge, and Zoosk, Bumble allows people to quickly swipe through profiles within a specific age range and geographical location. If two people like each other, then they receive a notification and a message box pops open. The one distinguishing feature is that when using Bumble, only women must first initiate the conversation within 24 hours  – or else lose the match. Bumble has also added a new requirement that men must respond within 24 hours. If they don’t, then the match disappears on their end as well.

For founder Whitney Wolfe, this was a no-brainer. She wanted to make Bumble an “even keel” experience. According to Wolfe, when talking about the expectation of women to initiate the conversation and men to respond, “She was held to 24 hours to reach out to you. We feel it’s only fair you’re confined to the same rules.”

As women grow out of their early and mid-twenties into their thirties, their standards change. Women look for substance, wit, humor, kindness, and a sense of stability and start to avoid profiles with well-known red flags. Quality over quantity takes precedence and swiping “right” might not provide the same thrill it once did, fresh out of college.

While popular “swiping” apps, such as Tinder, have continuously logged record number of users, or older sites, such as OKCupid and Match, continue to advertise that their algorithms provide the best chance for a possible match, neither have tackled the consistent problem of a seemingly male-dominated dating culture. One side effect of online dating is the fact that the search for love has segued into a system for quick hookups and marathon chat sessions – or, “talking.”

Thankfully, by flipping the traditional gender dating dynamics on its head, Bumble takes the time-honored pressure off of men to make the first move, while at the same time drastically decreasing the number of cheesy and often sexually-explicit pickup lines that women are forced to deal with on a daily basis. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise then that Bumble was started by Wolfe, who was a former co-founder at Tinder and left the company in the midst of a sexual harassment suit.

Bumble isn’t the only dating app that’s redefining the way millennials approach online dating, especially as we consider the fact that not all women are interested in dating men. Her, an app specifically geared towards women who are interested in dating other women, is becoming a household name for online dating in the LGBTQ community. Of course, women could use Tinder or other similar apps in search of another woman to date, but many women in one survey expressed a strong dislike of having to base their decisions around a single photo. Her makes use of a Pinterest-like pin board for users’ profiles, allowing women to create a profile that’s more like a collage – and more reflective of who they actually are.

Regardless if you swipe or not, those who do have found these apps to be a fresh and welcoming change to the creepiness of apps, such as Tinder and Zoosk. Hopefully this trend will keep up and online dating can start to move beyond the creepiness that has started to define it – and continue to smash gender stereotypes along the way.

One comment

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