Bumble’s CEO On Why ‘Misogyny Is As Dangerous As Smoking’

Bumble

by Grazia |

Whitney Wolfe herd talks big. Over a two-hour lunch, the woman who co-founded Tinder, brought a sexual harassment law suit against them, then went on to found the world’s first feminist dating app Bumble, all before the age of 25, passionately peppers conversation with talk of a revolution; how she is changing society and the world. And the thing is, she really is. With 24 million Bumble users globally and over 10,000 Bumble marriages and babies in just three years, she has the goods to back it up. Earlier this year, Forbes reported Bumble had rejected a $450m acquisition o er from Match.com.

Whitney is in London for the launch of her latest enterprise, the Bumble Bizz app. Applying the same ‘women make the first move’ practice to the world of business networking, Bumble now is on a mission to transform the confidence of the female workforce to generate empowerment, assertiveness and stamp out sexism.
‘I have heard from so many women how they feel like current networking apps can feel predatory,’ says the 28-year-old. ‘So, we wanted to change that.’

On Bumble Bizz, women – and men – upload their profiles with their career history and what they are seeking and through the familiar swipe function they match with interested other users. As with the dating app, at the point of match, it is then only the woman who can make the first move. (If a man urgently wishes to connect with a woman he can ‘super swipe’ her to indicate interest.)

‘It is all about re-educating men on how to not be aggressors,’ says Whitney.

We are joined by Whitney’s business partner, Andrey Andreev, 43, the Russian tycoon and founder of the world’s biggest dating app, Badoo. The pair recount how Andrey reached out to Whitney in the summer of 2014 when she was at her lowest ebb following her departure from Tinder and the storm that ensued.

‘She was totally depressed and her idea was to launch an app called Merci that would encourage women to compliment each other,’ says Andrey. ‘But I knew she had to go back to dating. And I had to beg her,’ he says laughing.

Whitney is vocal about the widespread misogynistic abuse she suffered at that time – and still suffers today – and how combatting such abuse is what drives her. ‘I see misogyny as our generation’s cigarettes, it is making us so sick and it is everywhere,’ she proclaims. ‘We’ve been ignoring it. And I hope there is going to be this moment in time where everyone will say “it’s banned”, that’s my vision and it is going to take women and men to change that. And my business partner is a feminist man.’

We agree that all this comes at an auspicious time, given the explosion of revelations of sexual abuse across all industries in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

And while Whitney is not legally allowed to speak about her experience at Tinder (she settled out of court), it goes without saying that her own experience was pioneering in the notoriously misogynistic tech industry, paving the way for recent cases at Uber and Amazon.

‘This moment right now with Harvey,’ she say. ‘Well, there was a media moment that I was very personally attached to and I created Bumble as a solution to that, to take the aggressive nature away from the man. I don’t even know why we ever need to be put in a position where men are expected to be aggressive and where women have to wait for men to express interest in them, it is so fucking backwards.’

Whitney acknowledges that the ‘women go first’ rule is not necessarily a long-term solution, but more an essential, temporary requirement to redress gender inequality.

‘This is just a process that needs to happen before things can stabilise. If we forever say women have to go first that’s clearly not fair. This is just a step, in order for the revolution of bringing women to a level equal to men. It’s going to take some time, but if I have a daughter one day, by the time she starts dating, that is when I would love to see the change.’

But being in Whitney Wolfe’s position now comes with danger. In August the company had to call in police protection and the FBI to their Austin HQ after they were targeted by a neo-Nazi group with death threats. Whitney now has to travel with security. She seems unphased, but equally furious. ‘Having security is not a vanity thing,’ she says. ‘It is because I am advised by the police to and there are men in the world who hate that I am trying to give women a voice. But it’s OK, we are making a difference.’

She wishes other tech companies would do more to make a difference. ‘Facebook follows the first amendment, they pretty much allow every freedom of speech and
I say no. If someone is using their freedom of speech to abuse or harm then they don’t deserve a place on our platform. The Facebooks and the Googles of the world in many ways are now more powerful than the law, so do something good with it.’

As we finish our lunch, a woman sitting at the table next to us interrupts to enquire who Whitney is. She has tears in her eyes as she explains how she has been listening to our conversation and been inspired by all Whitney is saying as she is going through a very tough time herself. Whitney offers her email address and tells her to get in touch. It is a fitting ending to our meeting. As I said, Whitney Wolfe Herd talks big but she walks big too.

READ MORE: How To Find ‘The One’ Online: Dating Advice From Bumble’s Whitney Wolfe

READ MORE: Whitney Wolfe: The Woman Who Took Tinder To Court – And Came Back Fighting

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