Unpopular Opinion: A Critique on Bumble

Jesse Harris, Staff Writer

In February of 2021, Whitney Wolfe Herd became the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire. You might not know her name much less her story but chances are you know her company: Bumble.

Originally, Wolfe Herd started as a co-founder of Tinder, before leaving in April of 2014. That June, she filed a lawsuit against Tinder for sexual harassment by her former boss and boyfriend, Justin Mateen. Although Tinder denied the allegations and the case was quickly settled, Wolfe Herd responded by setting out to transform the entirety of dating culture. Within the same year of her resignation from Tinder and ensuing lawsuit, Wolfe Herd founded Bumble.

Contrary to Tinder and most other online dating apps, only the women can initiate the conversation on Bumble. Wolfe Herd was tired of the outdated gender norms and power dynamics surrounding dating, which required that women sit around and wait for men to pursue them. Thus, Bumble provides a platform for women to make the first move, an empowering and revolutionary alteration.

Now 31 years old, Wolfe Herd is not only an extremely successful CEO, but a name behind the construction of modern dating. Yet, while Bumble’s tactics are much more widely accepted now than they would have been a century prior, they are still seen as an alternative approach to dating. Despite not being a Bumble user myself, I’ve come to learn that the type of women that are on Bumble are presumed to be the most straightforward about dating. It’s time for us to normalize the rejection of old-fashioned dating customs and bring equality in dating to full strength.

At college amidst the pandemic, it’s not a particularly easy feat to meet people, which explains why a large portion of people I know have turned to online dating apps for the first time. But what I’ve noticed is the same gender dynamic that society likes to think we have overcome with our progressive 2021 mindset is still the same dynamic that Wolfe Herd noticed seven years ago. Women are waiting for guys that they have matched with to reach out to them, and in the case that they do initiate conversation themselves, they are praised for their boldness.

Women should not be considered “confident” for completing the same task that is “expected” of guys. While Bumble might be the first step in the redistribution of responsibility in dating, there is still a long way to go before we successfully modernize power dynamics in dating. Every year, we see pictures of a nervous yet usually relieved teenage boy holding up a corny “Prom?” poster next to an ecstatic, bright-eyed girl whom he has just acquired as his date moments prior. Typically, the girl had been waiting for weeks for her Promposal, and the boy had been dreading it. Why not take the burden off the boy and normalize the girl channeling her excitement into designing an over-the-top poster to ask the boy? It is possible that her excitement might have stemmed from her receiving the Promposal, but the pressure that is put on the boy to execute the perfect Promposal reflects the deep-rooted norms we uphold around dating.

Of course, it’s also important to consider perspectives other than of heterosexual dating. Upon first hearing of Bumble, I remember thinking of the heteronormative undertones that the app perpetuates. However, a quick Google search enlightened me about the app’s policy around those who have entered same-gender preferences. Bumble allows either person in same-gender matches the power to make the first move. While this is sensible in some aspects, it also makes me question the ultimate effectiveness of Bumble. What difference from other dating apps does Bumble offer its LGBTQ+ users? I admire Bumble for taking the first step in upheaving traditional gender roles in dating, but I am hesitant to assert that Bumble has deconstructed the patriarchy at large and granted unwavering equality to all.

After all, Wolfe Herd initially started Bumble as a response to what she experienced at Tinder. Allowing the girl to pursue the guy was expected to play a role in preventing unwanted attention and, ultimately, sexual or verbal harassment. While I do recognize the validity of this argument, unfortunately, it also perpetuates the male-perpetrator female-victim stereotype that is incredibly dangerous to survivors, as it undermines all other variations of assault. It also assumes that power dynamics in dating are established only at the beginning of a relationship. While the girl might have initiated contact with the guy, it is still possible for typical male-dominated power dynamics to develop within the relationship as the partners pursue their spark. Therefore, I’m both intrigued by and skeptical of Bumble. But one thing is certain: Wolfe Herd’s success is commendable. So while I continue to grapple with the role Bumble has played in shaping modern dating, I’ll be sure to keep in mind its service as a stepping stone.