Many women who use Tinder will be all to familiar with the suggestive aubergine/hot dog emoji or some unwelcome mansplaining. Some misogynistic users treat the app as a place to express their male domination and treat women as sex objects.
To counter this problem, the women working in Tinder along with comedian Whitney Cummings took it upon themselves to readjust the power balance, and – as they put it – deal with the douchebags.
Under the “Menprovement” project, Tinder released a series of videos/moving emojis to help female users who encounter sexist, offensive, or annoying users on its platform a month ago. These ‘Reactions’ include a round of applause, an eye roll, a volley of hearts and a martini glass to be thrown on a guy’s screen.
In the dating world, online messages are often seen as a way for safer communication sans the physical discomfort and fear of rejection faced by women in real life. The surge of dating apps has been a good way to weed out potentially creepy and hormonal men without having to waste too much time.
Still, these apps have been invitations for lewd messages and sometimes outright harassment. Even though Tinder requires both people to consent to conversation through mutual swipes it doesn’t guarantee interactions will be even moderately civil.
The reactions feature is Tinder’s way of calling out this bad behaviour. “It’s simple. It’s sassy. It’s satisfying,” the site’s blog declares.
Tinder definitely believes ‘digital’ actions speak louder than words.
But not all users are in favour.
Kingston University (KU) business student Manisha Gupta questioned the usefulness of such superficial reactions. She said: “A cute animation isn’t the best way to respond to a gross message; tossing a cartoon martini onto someone’s screen after they ask for nudes or call me an arrogant bitch doesn’t sound empowering.”
Elizabeth Maria, an illustration student, is also not convinced. She said: “It is made for the kind of men who respond to ‘Hello’ by demanding sex.
“It is already proof that they don’t have any respect for social or personal boundaries. I tried it and I don’t think they aren’t going to be shamed away from future infractions by an emoji eye-roll.”
To be fair, Tinder has had some positive reviews as well. The reactions feature seems perfectly suited to flirting in some cases. For instance, Lisa Hampton, a fine arts student, said: “I sent the martini to a guy who I thought was creepy. To which he replied – “”That’s cool. Would you like to get one sometime?”” That piqued my interest and now we are already dating.”
But Kingston students seemed readier with criticism than potential love stories. Emma Stephan, a fashion student from KU who has been using the app for more than two years, said: “I have no doubt that sending a little heart, or a ball for a not-so-subtle ‘ball’s in your court’ will be a useful tool for some girls who are scared to express themselves.
“Offering it as a solution for dealing with harassment is delusional. When I used them, I find women are taken less seriously by guys.”
According to the female students of KU, unless the reactions are accompanied by an auto-block, they still suggest women are open to talking after a grossly offensive message. Stephan also said that this feature “infantilises Tinder’s male chauvinistic problem”.
The implementation of such a feature suggests that even Tinder knows it’s important to call out to creepy users. But all women can do to get rid of this problem is definitely ‘unmatch’ and keep swiping.