Tinder: Virtual Cat-Calling

It pains my heart to hear my friends complain about being harassed. At first I can’t find the right words to respond with. I’m always horrified that men have the audacity to approach women in such crude and offensive manners. For a second I am stuck in denial because even though I hear about harassment all the time, I never expect it to happen to my friends, or me for that matter. But then I realized something heartbreaking: I was numb to this sort of thing. Men shamelessly hit on women every day and we’ve learned how to laugh it off. The jokes get crueler, more offensive, perhaps more demeaning and sexual – and instead of calling out this inappropriate behavior that makes us uncomfortable, we instead have adapted to laugh about it because “men are so shameless it’s pathetic.”No, they are not shameless. I guarantee if women reported cases of harassment more often, men would indeed prove to have shame. And many other feelings as well. The problem is we have allowed them to get away with it for so long, it’s become the norm. Men are pitiful womanizers and think it should be defined under the term “humor,” while women choose to accept this and ignore what’s really going on which is the utter objectification of women.

Take Tinder for example. Below is a piece I have written for my Gender and Sexually course and I want to share it because I think it makes valuable points. If nothing else it gives you something to think about.

Tinder enables people to make radically sexual, offensive, and shameless comments to a stranger without feeling like they will experience true rejection. More often than not, these comments are made by men to women. In person, if a guy hits on a girl and she ignores them, the shame and embarrassment is made visible to the public eye – much more likely to impact their confidence. But who knows – some men are naturally shameless. What Tinder is able to do is give these men multiple chances (potentially infinite, if they update their location on the app often enough) at hitting on women without seeing the ugly face of rejection. Virtual cat-calling such as this contributes to a much larger problem though: the objectification of women.

Everyone who actively engages in the app plays a role in objectifying one another, however. It can go both ways. Think about it. It starts with the initial photo on your profile. Your individual success on the app relies almost entirely on that one physically attractive photo you choose to advertise. This photo has to be attractive and captivating enough to catch a person’s eye for a split second provoking them to swipe right and hope for a match with you. That’s a pretty tall order for one photo.

Our ability to categorize that picture as “swipe right” or “swipe left” material is just one example of how our society is able to conform to the idea that humans can be seen as objects of attraction.

Notice how I used the word, “picture,” not “person.” Your decision to swipe right or left is not influenced by what you think of that person’s character. It has no attachment to the personality of that person because you can’t know anything for sure about that person without speaking to them. So before you even start talking to the real human form of that photo, you’re categorizing them as acceptable or not acceptable according to your own ideals of what is attractive – or in this case, what is “hook-up material.”

To gain a deeper insight on the problem I asked 5 of my male friends who use Tinder what inspires them to swipe right. One response was: “She just has to be hot.” Another boy said: “she has to look like she’d be down.” What does that even mean? Is there some pose or facial expression that women can make that tells men they’re ready to hook up? Another boy’s response was: “I guess I kinda swipe right until someone agrees to bone, I don’t have time to sit there and be picky it’s a hook-up app, you know?” And there was a unanimous laughter from the girls in the room and I knew immediately how desensitized we’ve all become to such objectifying behavior. Girls expect this. They classify it as typical and they shrug it – no, laugh – it off. I’m not saying every girl who ever got shamelessly hit on was accepting that behavior and laughing it off or forgiving whomever it was who did it, but there are enough Tinder users out there who are willing to turn the other shoulder to the issue and refuse it’s existence.

As if the concept of categorizing women as “fuckable” or not just from a picture isn’t objectifying enough, then you get matched with someone and you have to message that person in order to seal the deal (whatever deal that may be). It’s this messaging and actual contacting of the person that invites sexual harassment and virtual cat-calling into an already objectifying app. In fact there is an entire account called Tinder Problems (@TindrProbs) which features these types of conversations.

Boy: What’s the difference between you and school tomorrow?

            Girl: What

            Boy: I’m not going to come into school tomorrow.

Hilarious right? This is one example of the derogatory language men tend to use on women in the Tinder app. As I kept reading through some of the tinder conversations people engaged in I realized that the laughter I received in the room when a boy admitted to being down to hook up with any girl he matched with was actually quite a normal response. Girls generally laughed when they encountered derogative yet clever pick-up lines. And when they weren’t laughing, they were able to quickly point out the unacceptable behavior by either being sarcastic or responding as if they knew that comment was coming.

          Boy: I’ll be in the neighborhood later I was wondering if you wanted to get some
frozen yogurt, or a whole meal, if that would be agreeable.

            … And by frozen yogurt, I mean your vagina in my face.

            Girl: And there it is.

How is it that men are able to say these things to women without causing any type of uproar? Even if one girl decided to fight back on the app, what’s to stop that guy from scrolling to the next match and trying the same lines? Our society has desensitized this type of language and behavior so much that Tinder’s near 50 million users continue to ignore that this objectification is occurring. In fact, because of the way the Tinder platform is set up, a falsely acceptable level of sexual harassment is invited. Because there is no biological information attaching anyone’s photo to a real identity, Tinder is paving the way for men to say whatever they want. But that’s okay, because if women don’t like hearing it, they can just get off the app… right?






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