We live in the era of the instantly gratifying hook-up culture. No one really has the time to sit down and get to know a person like they did back in the old days. You either feel the spark within the first ten seconds of meeting a person or you don’t. There is no in-between and there is no time. We want the best and we want it now. It is, hence, no surprise that Tinder is such a huge success in the dating market. I’m calling it a market because that’s what it’s been reduced to anyway, right? You reap in the best and as quickly as you can.
Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License
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Tinder, with its tunnel vision perspective of prospective dating partners, really puts the focus where it ought to be- six of your best looking photographs that I’m sure must have been painstakingly selected, and a bio limited to 500 characters. Pardon me if my tone sounds sardonic or condescending here; I’m just still really old fashioned when it comes to dating.
The internet is always full of Tinder success stories; turns out six pictures and 500 characters are sometimes all you need to find The One in your life. But all of us aren’t that lucky when it comes to Tinder matches, are we? I’ve heard countless stories of my friends matching with someone on Tinder, only to realize that all the other party ever wanted were nude pictures. Or the horrifying realization that the person you matched with is literally the antithesis of who you are, and the emptiness of being alone that follows this epiphany.
But on the brighter side, though, Tinder is a great way for meeting new people; like-minded or otherwise. You end up having some enlightening and enriching conversations with people you’ve probably never met in your life; or even an acquaintance that you barely knew. Whether something concrete is going to come out of it in the future is, of course, uncertain, and it’s best to leave that to time and its mysterious ways. Alternatively, Tinder is also an ideal place if you’re looking for something casual and around the lines of a “friends with benefits” arrangement. Who knows, you might actually gain some new friends you can hang out with!
There are many things that keep me up thinking at night. But that’s probably because I tend to sleep through most of my mornings (and afternoons). On a serious note though, I can’t help but think about the millions of women on Tinder and the kind of blatant objectification they have to go through just to find a date on social media. Before any proponents of #NotAllMen strike down on me with their tirade of sorry excuses for not supporting feminism, I think I should make it clear that by choosing to focus on the women, I am in no way negating or disregarding the mistreatment that I’m sure men too have to face on a daily basis on Tinder. I’m sure their inboxes are blowing up with unsolicited pictures of female genitalia and lewd messages from women as I type on my laptop oblivious to such troubles.
Recently, a friend of mine was ranting to me about how lackluster her dating life currently is. She complained about how impossible it has become to come across decent guys in the city. So she followed her cousin’s advice and did what any sensible university student in their twenties would do- she joined Tinder. An interesting fact to note here is that this friend of mine is a staunch feminist. When I first got to know her during freshman year of college, I remember being really impressed with a Facebook post she’d made about how problematic the term “feminazi” is- she had written that this term shows that men are incapable of fathoming an egalitarian societal order for all genders and that the only way they can perceive a woman demanding equal rights is as an individual who upholds fascist ideals and is out to wipe out the entire male population of the planet.
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My friend is one of those countless women on Tinder who identify as feminists. It makes me wonder if being a part of a structure that is so obviously centered on physical attractiveness on some degree is, in a way, betraying the feminist cause. If I’m looking for someone to hook-up with on a platform that requires participants to pass judgment based on six pictures and a few words; without even having the option of getting to know them better, am I going against the feminist cause?
Even more concerning is the nature of the content that goes up on Tinder. It is expected that a person will put up their most attractive pictures on Tinder to increase their chances of having their profiles right swiped by prospective dating partners. But who decides what is attractive and what is not? You might think that the picture your friend took while you were blowing raspberries to your dog captures your personality the best. But that might just cost you to be left swiped over someone else who included a picture of them provocatively dressed at a party. Again, I am not endorsing certain kind of people over the other and neither am I passing moral judgments on either. It’s simply a reflection of how society functions.
Our perceptions and ideas of beauty and attractiveness are influenced by the society that sets the very standards for these concepts. As women, we’ve always had to conform to innumerous stereotypes of feminine beauty. These are further reinforced by the media that continuously categorizes people based on their physical appearances; with those that conform the least to society’s definitions of beauty stuck at the lowest rung. Add to this the fact that we’ve always been told that our looks play an integral role in our quest for suitable partners; and our self-esteem is flailing in an endless void of misery by the time we’re adolescents. Your success on Tinder, therefore, depends largely on crossing that barrier of which direction your profile is swiped on. And as expected, that choice people make is influenced by their standards of beauty and attractiveness.
And so my question remains. Are women on Tinder any less feminist than someone who’s not? Are they being hypocritical by setting up Tinder profiles and advocating against society’s stereotypes at the same time? We tend to overlook most of our actions in daily life, but close introspection will often lead us to the realization that sometimes our choices and actions might be hypocritical. Being a feminist, buying into the sexual objectification that Tinder users propagate, only goes on to further the shallow perceptions of physical appearances that society has set for us.
The only way to end this vicious cycle is possibly through self-monitoring. As a feminist on Tinder, it should be one’s responsibility to not subscribe to the shallow standards of beauty and projecting to be something they’re not. Instead, be honest. It’s the greatest service you can do to yourself and also to the people around you. Simple things like adding something interesting about yourself on your Tinder bio, even a funny joke that you came up with yourself, instead of your Snapchat links or random sets of emoji, can tell people a lot about you. Choose photos that reflect the kind of person you are and the kind of activities you’re into; not the ones that show how sharp your jaw-line is. Of course you should be able to feel good about yourself and share that with the world; but that’s not the only thing you’d want people to know about you, right?
When you match with someone, tell them as much about yourself and find out what kind of people they are. Don’t simply judge profiles based on how physically attractive they seem to you; don’t match with someone just because you find them good-looking. Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you. This sounds time-consuming and seems to defeat the purpose of a quick hook-up, but I can assure that your chances of finding someone you actually like will be significantly higher than your previous attempts.
I had once come across this article where a woman texted every guy she matched with asking him whether he was a feminist. She did receive a lot of unsavory responses, but a lot of them were sensible and meaningful answers. If you’re incompatible with someone, the signs will start revealing themselves no matter how hard you try to conceal them and so, the best thing for both of you would be to be honest about yourselves from the very outset. None of us are perfect, shining examples of an ideal human being, and the sooner we stop trying to live up to those unrealistic standards and expecting the same from others, the happier we will be.
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As feminists, it is especially important, that we do not fall into these traps that lure us back into society’s stereotypical structure. It is possible to make changes in the system from within too. Being on Tinder doesn’t necessarily make any woman less of a feminist. But being party to the problematic mechanisms employed by people to find a match definitely questions one’s allegiance to the feminist cause. How you conduct yourself is your choice, and that is what ultimately reflects who you truly are.
Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License