Why do so many progressive companies have trouble practicing what they preach?
If you haven’t heard, #femvertising is expected to be a big moneymaker in 2017. And by most accounts, Bumble, the dating app pitched as the "feminist" alternative to Tinder, has had a good run since it was launched by ex-Tinder exec Whitney Wolfe three years ago. Though the company's value hasn't been made public, Bumble claims to have amassed at least 12.5 million users while Wolfe's net worth is reported to be a decent chunk of change: $250 million.
So unless it's a nonprofit, it's wise to view any organization employing the language of social justice in its marketing literature with some skepticism. Still, BuzzFeed’s investigation into complaints made against employees of Bumble by people living in the building was a particularly egregious example of a company not living up to its stated values.
Speaking to BuzzFeed under anonymity, the tenants of the Austin luxury high-rise where Bumble (ostensibly against code) housed part of its business say that Bumble's employees have made life difficult not only for them but for service staff. One resident recounted a moment where a Bumble employee tried to kiss them for Bumble's live "kiss cam."
[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]Bumble may position itself as pro-woman, but its leaders appear to exclude the women of their janitorial staffs.[/quote]
“I said, 'that’s assault,'” the tenant told BuzzFeed. “That’s completely inappropriate. I’m in a private residence.”
“The Bumble folks are generally obnoxious, entitled, and treat the Bowie like their corporate office,” another resident said to BuzzFeed.
Bumble may position itself as the pro-woman way to date online — on the app, heterosexual women message first, Sadie Hawkins-style — but its leaders appear to exclude the women of the janitorial staffs of their luxury building from their definition of feminism. There are no structural advantages to working at a “feminist” company outside of free tampons in the bathroom and access to empowerment seminars (which I wouldn't exactly call a perk).
Of course, Bumble isn't the first company to exploit an empowering term to sell women's products without demonstrating any real commitment to feminism, or anti-racism, or any form of equality. Thinx — founded by self-proclaimed "She-EO" Miki Agrawal — peddled its period-panty enterprise to the press in a cynical attempt to "redefine feminism" for the purposes of raising venture capital. This past March, Agrawal was ousted from her own company amid allegations that she sexually harassed her employees as well as subjected them to low pay and a hostile work environment. Then there are those corporations that just straight-up speak down to women while alleging to serve them.
In her review of Jessa Crispin’s “Why I Am Not a Feminist,” New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino noted that “America might be ready for a major shift — inclined, suddenly, toward a belief system that does not hallow the ‘markers of success in patriarchal capitalism ... money and power,’ as Crispin puts it. There is, it seems, a growing hunger for a feminism concerned more with the lives of low-income women than with the number of female C.E.O.s.”
You won’t, however, find that feminism roaming the halls of Bumble’s luxury high-rise offices (especially now they have since abandoned them).