Dating app Bumble has been in the news because it has recently banned users from uploading mirror selfies and other inappropriate pictures. But that’s not the only reason why the app is unique: Among a sea of dating apps, Bumble is the only one that requires women to initiate a conversation. Once a woman matches with someone, she has 24 hours to start the conversation, after which the match disappears.
Using dating apps is no longer a taboo for urban singles in India. The past few years have seen a host of homegrown and foreign dating services take off in the country. Tinder, Woo, Hinge, TrulyMadly are just a few apps which enable singletons to decide their romantic fate by swiping left or right on their smartphones.
And while the dating culture is transforming, dating norms like waiting for the man to initiate conversations remain fixed. Even after matching with someone, a woman will often wait for the guy to say hello and to ask her out on the first date. By forcing the woman to make the first move, Bumble aims to subvert some of these traditional dating rituals.
“With empowering women, you’re also empowering men, so this is not just a girls’ club,” founder Whitney Wolfe said in an interview to Bustle.
Safety is the chief concern among women who use these apps. Women who want to date and meet new people have to be extra vigilant of doctored photos, impersonators and stalkers. With the changing dating scene, there are sometimes funny, and sometimes horrific stories of encounters gone wrong. A friend recently erevealed that she found out that she had been talking to someone who had impersonated a model.
Bumble tries to eliminate all the unpleasantness that can come with apps like Tinder. Ironically, Wolfe was the ex co-founder of Tinder, who left the company after suing for sexual harassment. She also claimed that the company removed her ‘co-founder’ title after she broke up with fellow co-founder, Justin Mateen.
Here are some ways in which Bumble tries to create a safe space for women who want to date online:
1. It not only allows users to report and block users who have behaved badly, but also, rewards users for good behaviour by giving them ‘VIBee’ status.
2. Its Bumble Boost feature queues up people who have already liked you, which means you won’t have to face rejection.
3. Last month, it announced that it will introduce photo verification technology to stop people from using photos that aren’t theirs. The app will show users generic photos of people making gestures (for example raising your hand to your forehead) and will ask them to copy the gesture. This will make sure the user is in fact the same person as the one in his or her profile pictures.
4. Last week it announced that it would not allow users to upload mirror selfies and other inappropriate photos. “We’re over online spaces having different rules than other social spaces,” it said in a blog post.
“Imagine Bumble being a restaurant where you can introduce yourself to people who pique your interest. How would you dress, act, and conduct yourself? How would you want others to dress, act, and conduct themselves? Would you wear only your underwear? Probably not.”
5. It routinely stands up for its women users who have been subject to misogynistic treatment by male users on the app. Earlier this year, it wrote a widely publicized open letter to Connor, a male user who had had an outburst just because a female user had asked him about his work.
“It has been brought to our attention that you lost your cool on one of our female users named Ashley. She made small talk; you felt personally attacked. She mentioned her work day and asked about yours; you assumed that she was prying into your financial status. Take a seat, because this concept may blow your mind. Women nowadays work. It’s happened over time, we know, but a vast majority of women from our generation have jobs,” the letter said
I asked a male friend who had downloaded the app in Mumbai, and he said that there were fewer women on it than on the other apps. He had matched with a few, but many did not initiate conversations. He said that the women he had spoken to were very witty and smart.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Wolfe said that Bumble is “the first feminist, or first attempt at a feminist dating app”.
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