A confession: I had a brief stint on Tinder. This isn’t to say that anyone should be ashamed for using the popular dating app, but as someone who’d never dabbled in online dating, I was certainly apprehensive about joining and didn’t want the world to know. I’ll also admit that I didn’t go to much effort to come across as a typical gent, preferring to start conversations with laughably daft lines like “Do you like sunsets?”.
While I may have successfully weirded out a few women who failed to see the humour (if any) in my lines, at least I can rest assured that I didn’t freak them out with dick pics or a one-word messages reading “Top?”. Just because a woman isn’t close enough to slap me in the face, doesn’t mean she deserves to be demeaned. Unfortunately, that’s what a few new women-centric dating apps are inadvertently doing to men.
Wyldfire positions itself as an app that makes online dating safer for women, and obviously, that’s a very good thing. Considering that, in Australia, 46 percent of violent acts against women are perpetrated by their male partners, current or past, there is a serious problem to be addressed. The way Wyldfire aims to achieve this is by making the app readily available to women, but only open to men who are ‘approved’ by other women. But when the app’s website is sporting the slogan “Ditch the creeps” and is only imposing bans on men, it’s not hard to read between the lines and guess who the creeps are.
The suggestion that all men are creeps has potential to negatively impact the women using the app. We as a society spend a lot of time telling girls and women not to have sex and to be suspicious of men (and then criticize them for being victims of sexual assault). We don’t, however, spend a lot of time telling women they can exercise their discretion in deciding to interact with men and are free to sleep with whoever they want, provided it’s consensual. Wyldfire’s slogan seems to push the idea that all men are predators.
It’s possible that I’m being overly-sensitive to the “creeps” remark. The intention isn’t to take a stab at men, but rather, its competitor Tinder, which has a reputation for fostering inappropriate pictures and objectifying messages. At a loss for hard stats, I’d be willing to bet that most of these inappropriate pictures and objectifying messages are sent to women by men, so I’m not saying men are without fault. Tinder might be viewed as a ‘hook-up app’ but it doesn’t excuse mens rude behaviour. Wyldfire has every reason to impose restrictions on men. Recent history, however, suggests this may not be such a great idea.
In early 2013, a similar dating app called Lulu hit the app store, built on the premise of women rating men on how date-worthy they are. It was described as “The first ever girl-talk app”, but unfortunately, lived up to this reputation in all the wrong ways, with men being branded with degrading hashtags – #NoGoals, #LoserFriends, #MomOnSpeedDial and #CheaperThanABigMac, just to name a few. If this isn’t cyber-bullying, then I don’t know what is.
These are just two apps, with more popping up, such as Siren. But considering the popularity of Lulu in the US and UK (Australia has yet to see a release), there is clearly interest in women-centric dating apps, and women have good reasons for being interested. The general idea isn’t wrong, nor sexist, but the execution is flawed.
I certainly don’t know the best way to fix the imbalances in these apps, and I absolutely do not believe the solution is to create a men-centric equivalent app (I shudder at the thought of what awful things men would spout from their fingertips). And really, the impetus shouldn’t be on women to fix the problem – if men are the ones abusing women, then men are the ones who need to change their actions.
Rude, sexist and violent behaviour of men towards women shouldn’t be tolerated and desperately needs to be addressed, but a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach isn’t the solution.
VINCENT VARNEY is a Sydney-based writer and not a creep. In fact, you can turn the tables and stalk him on Twitter.