Date Me, I’m A Feminist

Alice Owens match-makes two uneasy partners: Tinder and feminism 

‘I can’t believe it’s come to this.’ That was my bio on Tinder. And I really couldn’t. I was bitter, to put it mildly. But I felt like I had no other option. If I had to choose between swiping left to virtually bat off the lunatics, as opposed to physically pushing them away from me in clubs, then it was going to be the former. I was at the end of my tether. I’d tried going out with guys after drunken initial meetings in the smoking areas of clubs and I’d experienced one too many awkward dates as a result. It was time to try something different. That something different was online dating.

In my naivety I assumed Tinder was the logical place to start. It was free, easy – much like its users – and everyone was on it. But, I digress.  Once I’d got over the initial shame of joining, I got quite into it. It became almost addictive. I was swiping left so much I was on the verge of developing repetitive strain injury.

You see, I wanted to be picky. That was where I had gone wrong before. In the past I had spent too much time reciprocating dull conversations with strangers who showed an interest in me; too polite to tell them the feeling wasn’t mutual. At least there was no unnecessary small talk online. And if I ever did start talking to someone on tinder and got bored, I could just delete them and move on, simple as that. Or at least so I thought…

I was speaking to one of my matches quite regularly, we’d even exchanged other online network details. He seemed nice, and normal. But after a week or so he started getting really intense and weird. He was bordering on being possessive, which was ludicrous seeing as we hadn’t even met up at that point. I sighed and blocked him on tinder and snapchat, and deleted him off Facebook. I didn’t even think about him after that. Tinder is brutal, and I liked that.

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The following day, I received a twitter notification on my phone from the guy I thought I had deleted from my life. He had managed to find me on the site, which is alarming seeing as I hadn’t told him my username, and I imagine there a fair few people on there who have the same name as me, so he would have to had to trawl through quite a substantial list to track me down. The tweet wasn’t abusive, just rude. Something along the lines of ‘thanks for deleting from everything. I thought you were different, but I guess I was wrong’. I’m unclear what reaction he hoped to elicit by sending that message, but it made me feel…uneasy. I wasn’t as invincible online as I’d initially thought.

It became almost addictive. I was swiping left so much I was on the verge of developing repetitive strain injury.

I transitioned quickly from uneasy to angry. Why should he be upset with me? Why shouldn’t I delete him if I didn’t like what he was saying? I didn’t owe him anything. I hadn’t even met the boy! His sense of entitlement irked me, and not long after that I deleted Tinder.

Several months later I returned to the online dating world. I decided to try something a little more highbrow than Tinder this time. Though not so highbrow that I’d have to pay for it, obviously. After all I’m a poor student looking for someone to hang out with, not a 40-year old bachelorette in search of life-partner to holiday with in the South of France.

My flatmate had recently joined OKCupid, I decided to do the same. Under one of the sections on my profile I wrote that I spend a lot of time thinking about ‘feminism and how to bring down the patriarchy!’ Turns out some men see a desire for gender equality as a pretty unattractive trait! I got two particularly nasty messages from guys concerned by that brief statement. One said: ‘if you don’t realise that the patriarchy built the foundations of everything you have today then you are deluded.’ No ‘hello’, just straight in with that corker. I was stunned. I pressed block immediately and tried to wipe it from my mind.

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I might have been able to forget the incident if I hadn’t received something similar a week later. This time it was from a man explaining to me that feminism is ‘basically a cult and the patriarchy is your God’ – so wildly inaccurate that it’s not really worth commenting on. Again, he was blocked. But it got me thinking: why were these men so horrified by my interest in feminism? And how many other guys had looked at my profile and decided not to message me because of this?

Of course, any man who is not a feminist is not one I would like to be in a relationship with, but that is beside the point. Some men are so intimidated by the idea of a woman aware of her rights, that they feel the need to send a message to put her in her place. I would obviously not have gone out with them after their comments; so their only aim was to upset me. And sadly it worked. It made me upset to think there are people out there with such absurd views. Perhaps this aggression stems from a shift in the power balance. Online dating allows women to regain more control over initiating courtship.

Turns out some men see a desire for gender equality as a pretty unattractive trait!

This idea was neatly demonstrated by 18-year-old Gweneth Bateman, who responded to compliments online with agreement, much to the disgust of the males who had sent them. Other women joined in and shared screenshots of the rude, and sometimes downright nasty comments they’d received from males in response to owning their own beauty. It would seem that these men simply couldn’t handle women being aware of how great they are. They don’t understand that women do not need men; we simply just want them, if at all.

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This has seemed to come as quite a shock to a lot of them. They want to be able to catcall women and for us to not to ignore them, instead we must react in a coy way, meekly acknowledging their ogling, but God forbid we actually agree with them.  We can’t win of course. But I have no desire to play by their rules, especially not in this warped dating game.

This same subset of men feel that if they can’t flatter a female into surrendering herself to them because she already feels good about herself, then they simply have nothing else to offer.

Quite frankly, they are probably right.

Images: Denis BocquetChris GoldbergEmma Story and Charles Barilleaux

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