As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to apply pressure on the world, we are continuing to grasp for any part of reality that we can hold on to. A large portion of this revolves around getting creative with how we go about cultivating relationships and intimacy. Despite it being around for years, people are flocking to online dating with more urgency, myself included.
Although online dating seemingly makes it easier to connect, for some of us, it’s more of a curse than a blessing. Being that I identify as a fat, Black femme, the way I navigate life isn’t comparable to your average thin, able-bodied Karen. And although I and even Ray Charles can see that we aren’t the same, I still wondered if my experiences with dating really existed in a vacuum.
Most of these dating apps boast about having a diverse membership base and how they integrate new features to support “all” people who utilize their platforms. From the outside looking in, this all sounds great on paper, of course, but part of me knew that something was amiss. Putting on my Sherlock Holmes cap, I decided to do some sleuthing in order to see if these apps are “fat friendly” and inclusive as they claim to be, and what better way than to start than with the most problematic app of them all — Tinder.
An app created in 2012 from the ingenious collaboration of Sean Rad, his college bros and a woman (who shortly after left to create Bumble), Tinder’s swipe format stems from the ye olde concept of “hot or not.” Swipe right on those who are hot, and, inevitably, swipe left on those who are deemed unattractive. From the start, one can see that Tinder’s MO is very much motivated by perpetuating societal beauty norms.
But now that it’s 2021, I’ve decided to turn down my side-eye and give Tinder some grace. First by embracing the minimal improvements that they have made in their eight-year existence, and also by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Without further ado, let’s get into the specifics.
Creating a Profile
In my opinion, creating a profile on Tinder is the easiest part of the process. I picked my top nine photos, making sure to include as many full-body pictures as possible to avoid being accused of being a villainous fat girl looking to dupe men with “bodily-ambiguous” images. I also toggled “Smart Photo” on to keep track of which photo was generating the most likes.
After curating a group of photos that would even give Anna Wintour chills, I proceeded with drafting the best profile summary possible, making sure to include as many facets of my personality as possible to appear multidimensional AF. Also, let’s not forget adding that favorite Beach House song (as I am a self-proclaimed stan of this band), and I linked my Spotify and Instagram to give potential matches a brief look into my life.
Tinder Basic Vs Tinder Gold
Initially, I only used Tinder Basic because a bish is frugal and trying to conserve her funds. However, once Tinder announced that they were giving Passport, or the ability to virtually travel and swipe in other countries to all Tinder Gold members, I decided to make the transition to the paid subscription. For a whopping $14.99 a month, Tinder Gold offers the ability to see who liked you first, five daily super likes, a monthly boost, and the option to change the app icon from red to gold on your phone’s home page, which is inarguably the best and most effective feature they have.
In terms of my experience, the only true difference is that I am able to “travel” the world and see my endless likes from “BBW admirers,” “non-Black chubby-chasing wokefishers,” and your local street pharmacist who is using Tinder as a way to procure clients and promote their latest SoundCloud track while looking to enjoy “good vibes” in their spare time. While using both membership plans, I have experienced men who have sent me messages that lack salutations but cut straight to the chase of hypersexualizing and objectifying my body without my consent, only to become volatile when called out for it. On the flip side, I have initiated messages where I introduce myself, resulting in no responses or immediate unmatches. I’ve even received communication from men telling me that their sole purpose in messaging me was to inform me that I was too fat to be attractive. Big yikes.
In addition to this, I have received a lot of messages where men not only fetishize me for being a fat, Black femme but also are pushing to have sex with me, even when I have explicitly stated that I am not interested in casual encounters. Because of this, on Tinder, I feel like I cannot win and therefore have taken a step back from using this app to protect my peace and edges.
Tinder’s Reporting Process
I’m going to make this portion as brief as possible because there is literally nothing monumental about the steps this app takes to protect its constituents. I have reported several instances of sexual harassment and bullying on this app, and they subject you to reliving the trauma and aggravation of these situations by having you describe the incident only to never follow up on the matter. Additionally, there are so many profiles with sexually explicit content and even d–k pics, and they are never removed. You’re subjected to this harm regardless of how much you pay to use the app.
Based on my unsavory experiences and Tinder’s lack of regard, I’m giving the app a fat-friendliness rating of negative 2 out of 5, and that’s honestly being generous. This app is truly ratchet.edu, and it really does nothing to serve the fat community, let alone people within that space who look like me. Of course, people will argue that Tinder is a “hook-up” app, and it’s not their responsibility to rebrand themselves to promote dating and relationships. However, I know so many accounts of people finding significant others and even marriage partners on this app. I also know that most of those people happen to be thin. I’ve even consulted other fat folx to get a scope of their experiences, and they have noted that they only see that thinner people are being asked on whole dates while they are being propositioned to sit on someone’s face every five seconds.
I can somewhat agree that Tinder isn’t obligated to change its casual-friendly vibe. However, they at least need to consider how they can go about having better preventative measures in place. That way, they can actually care for the welfare of members in order to actively enforce the harm reduction that needs to take place on their platform. Tinder may provide a space to “spark” certain connections for a certain demographic, but I think it’s high time to strike a match and watch it go up in flames. This, my friends, most certainly ain’t it.