Why can’t we have a feminist dating app?

This ‘ole dating app game is becoming, all too quickly, ‘ole. Swiping through the legions of available bachelors and When becomes an exhausting parody of the Generation Game all too quickly, except somehow we’re all Jim Davidson. Picking on aesthetic attraction isn’t the worst idea in the world (surely that’s what the majority of us do in real life?) but the possibility of me sharing mutual interests with my matches is in a depressing drudgery of single numbers. I like politics. I like feminism. I like opening a packet of crisps and spilling them all over my bed. I understand that one of those statements is highly unappealing, but should the first two be so much of a problem?

When the Feminist Tinder account first came into action, the remarks didn’t surprise me — they exhausted me. The amount of times I have run into battle on the dating app for stipulating that men and women should share the same opportunities and rights is depressing territory. ‘I prefer the term equalist,’ some ‘enlightened’ participants add. ‘I’m not a feminist but I do believe in equal rights,’ say others. ‘What’s the big deal? We’re not in a developing country,’ rebukes another. I tried writing the word feminist on my profile, like these women did. My relatively steady stream of matches halted quickly to zero.

Although Bumble has tried to plug this hole in the market by allowing women to chose whether they speak to their matches, I’ve ended up with worse experiences out of the app, rather than better. I heartily welcome the app’s entrance into the dating discourse, especially concerning the mistreatment of its CEO, Whitney Wolfe, by Tinder. It was when I ended up on a date with a racist, homophobic, transphobic zealot who shouted ‘ninja!’ at some women wearing hijabs after a sweet-sounding profile that I began to edge away. Could it be my judgement? Didn’t I have good, decent people around me in real life? How could I remove myself from this circle of twazzocks?

OkCupid and match.com might have this ground covered, but I don’t think I’m saying anything new in adding that they are comprehensive, website-based systems that require more commitment than a standard app. Power to the people that use them, but a good swipe up, down, left or right suits me a little bit more. It’s quicker, and I’m lazy. Sorry.

This is why I’m here today, requesting and shouting into the void for a dating app for feminists. To be an advocate of a basic human right isn’t a source of shame. After all, in real life, have I ever gone out with anyone who hasn’t declared themselves a feminist?

To me, believing in feminism lends itself to other qualities that I would want in a partner. I want to be with someone open-minded, politicised, questioning, respectful, sensitive, (left-wing – I’m putting this in brackets for debate) and kind-hearted. I don’t want to have to filter through the people who just do not think the same way as me, no matter how much their appearance attests me to try.

Now that dating apps are a cornerstone in the way that we meet new people, they should involve with the wants and interests of its users. The fact that an account such as feminist tinder has 70.3k followers indicates that there is a gap in the market for feminist daters. To have such an app in public domain would encourage people to be proud of the label, rather than letting it nestle in their wants and needs box as something that is scary and repugnant to their potential lover. If everyone from every gender identification can be encouraged that feminism isn’t a dirty word in their love life, perhaps it will help them be more confident in placing their own wants and needs higher on the agenda too.











Roxane Gay interview: “Think big, act smart”

Originally posted at: http://www.thegryphon.co.uk/2015/03/roxane-gay/

What is the definition of a feminist to you? 

Feminism is pluralistic. There are multiple definitions and ways of approaching feminism. That said, we have to start somewhere. A feminist believes women are equal to men, and should be able to move through the world in the same way men do. Our bodies should be free from legislation. We have to care not only about women whose life experiences are similar to ours, but also, those women whose experiences are different.

When did you first realise that you were a feminist?

I’ve probably always been a feminist but there was definitely a time when I was not comfortable claiming the identity because I worried about what it said about me. I began openly embracing feminism in my thirties when I began to understand what feminism is and how much it has made possible for me.

Why do you think people struggle to identify themselves as feminists?

There is, unfortunately, a great stigma attached to the word “feminist.” People hear that word and think of anger and separatism and lots of other nonsense that’s not accurate. It’s also strange because given the ways in which women are marginalized, anger is a perfectly appropriate response.

What is the biggest concern of inequality for women today?

It really depends but one of the most critical concerns is reproductive freedom and unfettered access to affordable means of birth control. Subsidized childcare is also critical, as are maternity and paternity leave.

As an Haitian-American feminist, you have to deal with the double-edged sword of race and gender inequality. How can the feminist community rally around to better understand intersectionality?

Feminists need to realize that we’re not only women, we also inhabit other identities at the same time and we need to consider this breadth of identity and how it affects women’s lives.

I wouldn’t call being a Haitian American woman a double-edged sword, though. Who I am is not a liability.

Your bestselling book, Bad Feminist, acknowledges that human beings can be contradictory in their actions whilst still being a champion of gender equality. What do you think is your most significant patriarchal achilles heel?

I love romantic comedies, way too much.

Who is your hero?

My heroes are many but my first and longest lasting heroes have been my parents.

What advice would you offer to student feminists in regards to how they can effect change on campus?

Think big, act smart.

What is your highest Scrabble score? 

My highest score is probably around 580.

What do you hope for women’s rights in 2015?

I hope we spend less time discussing the word feminist or who can claim it and spend more time acting upon our feminism.


Blogging for The Guardian: Before I had even left university I was told I may be infertile

Originally posted at http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2015/may/11/before-i-had-even-left-university-i-was-told-i-may-be-infertile

I was 15 when I had my first period, just like my mother, my aunties and my grandma. Although the red arrival was meant to mark a watershed moment of diary-marking and tins stuffed with pads, my 28-day count soon fell by the wayside, as my periods became nothing more than an annual event. I shrugged. Noticing the cramps and moans of my peers, my absent period appeared to be a blessing of genetics.

In my final year at the University of Leeds I went to the doctor about my acne and thought I might as well ask about my lack of periods. “We’re going to get you tested for polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly known as PCOS,” my doctor explained.

“PCOS is very common. It could be the explanation for your acne and your periods,” my doctor told me. “They’re common signs and some women notice excess hair and weight gain. The cysts on the ovaries can affect fertility – but don’t panic just yet.”

I tried to decipher the medical jargon with an NHS pamphlet that explained the condition. Although seven in 100 women in the UK have PCOS, up to 70% of people who have it are undiagnosed. The condition has several variants, but it commonly involves testosterone and cysts.

The over-production of insulin in a sufferer’s body can lead to an increased level of testosterone. This can result in excessive body hair, a risk of type 2 diabetes, and increased levels of cholesterol later in life. Cysts tend to appear on the eggs of women with the condition, meaning that there is a greater risk of infertility for the women who have it.

Periods and skin complaints were irritating yet expected worries at 21, but the mention of infertility sent me into a panic. The idea of childbearing was one I had always taken for granted. Although I had always challenged my parents to correct “when” to “if” when they spoke about my having a family, the possibility, however distant, was important to me. Was I meant to tell my new partner that I might struggle to conceive? It seemed a big challenge when I was just about nailing the art of paying my rent on time.

Jenny Brown (not her real name), an English student at the University of Leeds, also discovered that she had the condition while at university. “I stopped taking the pill in first year as I wasn’t having regular sex,” she says. “My period didn’t turn up after six months so I went to the doctor who gave me a blood test. A month later I received a letter saying I’d been booked in for a hospital appointment.

“This was a shock. I went to the appointment, which was uncomfortable, as he inserted a camera up my vagina. The doctor pointed out lumps on my ovaries which he said were cysts. This was confirmed weeks later, but there was a distressing time in between where I didn’t understand the diagnosis or what it meant.”

Although the majority of PCOS symptoms are treatable, a lack of awareness surrounding the illness means that plenty of women who are diagnosed are still unaware of the implications. Anna Trotter, a Spanish and history of art student at the University of Leeds, says: “When I was diagnosed with PCOS, I panicked because I’d never heard of it, so I got upset and worried it was something more serious. I was put on the pill to regulate it and have been on it since. Apart from that I haven’t been back to the doctor and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to do anything about it.

“Occasionally I panic that it could affect my fertility but then I tell myself that it might not. Also there are other treatments with regards to fertility, so hopefully it won’t be a massive problem.”

Jan Tilley, a final-year English student at the University of Leeds, struggled with excessive hair and acne due to the condition, and found that the visible signs disrupted her day-to-day life: “I felt insecure when I first found out, and it affected my confidence. It took some time, but I came to the conclusion that the majority of it was in my head. Nobody could tell or even cared what I looked like. It’s good to know that you can exercise a certain amount of control over PCOS through lifestyle.”

For me, as I graduate this summer, I will do so with more uncertainties than the average twenty-something. At first, that thought terrified me. But it is good to know that I am not the only one with the condition and that I am not alone.