'Feminism' is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, and it means different things to different people. Sometimes it's used to indicate a radical shift in how we think about the world and the way different people experience our place in it. Other times, it's a buzzword to market products that may or may not have anything to do with empowering women.
Here at Siren, we like to consider ourselves feminists, and on the surface, it might be easy for us to claim to be a 'feminist dating app.' After all—we're a tech company founded by fierce, empowered women of color, aimed at fostering intimacy and undermining the culture of objectification that runs through so many dating apps. But is this enough?
In light of current national and global political circumstances, we feel it is incumbent on us to declare that no, this isn't enough. Feminism is an ongoing process, not a special club or a badge to wear with pride. So here are a few of the ways we are challenging ourselves to earn the title "feminist dating app," and as always, we welcome your feedback on how we can better fulfill this mission.
Feminism is an ongoing process, not a special club or a badge to wear with pride. [Tweet this]
1. Go Intersectional or Go Home
Too often, the history of feminism that gets shared and remembered is the history of white feminism—white suffragettes, for instance, actively distanced themselves from the struggle for Black liberation when they found that having women of color in their ranks made it more challenging for them to achieve their goals. But in order to work for everyone, feminism must center the needs of women of color, transgender women, disabled women, queer women, and working class women—not just affluent cisgendered white women.
Intersectionality is a term coined in 1989 by the Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe how oppression can occur along multiple axes depending on who we are and what our circumstances happen to be. For us, intersectionality means actively seeking out the voices of trans women, women of color, and other individuals whose experiences might differ from our own about the specific challenges they face while online dating. As a result of this process, we were one of the first dating apps to offer a nonbinary gender option, and we will will continue to seek out ways to better serve a diverse community of feminists and allies in the future.
Intersectional feminism must center the needs of everyone—not just affluent cisgendered white women. [Tweet this]
2. Recognize the Value of Vulnerability
Researcher Brené Brown has said that "Vulnerability is the core of shame, and fear, and our struggle for worthiness, but it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love."
Siren's goal has always been to help strangers feel less strange to one another, and that sort of intimacy requires vulnerability. In order to achieve vulnerability, we must have trust, and that's why we've spent so much time and attention making Siren into the sort of community we would want to use ourselves—comfortable, welcoming, and harassment-free.
3. Sex Positivity and Consent Culture Go Hand In Hand
Let's be honest: our culture has some pretty messed up ideas about sexuality. Women are often punished for not being sexy enough, and also punished if we enjoy our sexuality too much. Sex is constantly used in advertising to sell products, and yet sexuality is one of the most difficult subjects for many of us to discuss. Deep shame around our own sexuality and desires makes it difficult for many of us to achieve the vulnerability necessary to connect with others. And so we settle for superficial connections, use alcohol and other drugs to overcome our inhibitions, or—in too many cases—employ less-than-frank communication about what we want—and where our personal limits or boundaries might be.
Rape culture and misogyny thrive in a society where people do not feel empowered to be open and honest about their desires. This is why first and foremost, Siren would like to foster a culture of conversation. The better we are able to articulate who we are and what we want, the more we will be able to ask for it—and get it.
The better we are able to articulate what we want, the more we will be able to ask for it—and get it. [Tweet this]
4. Empowering Women Transforms the World
In 2015, Kevin O'Leary, star of the investing reality show Shark Tank, made headlines with the claim that the most profitable companies in his portfolio were the companies run by women. A study from the Anita Borg Institute of Women in Computing confirms that on average, Fortune 500 companies that have at least one woman in a leadership position outperform companies that lack female leadership.
We know that having women in leadership roles is not just a good thing from a diversity perspective; it's also good for business. And yet implicit biases in hiring and ingrained cultural indifference to diversity are still keeping women still keep women largely invisible at the highest levels of tech leadership.
We believe that a healthy culture consists of ideas that serve everyone, and that the only way to generate those ideas is to have diverse opinions at the table to begin with.
What does all of this have to do with a dating app? Well, as Unbound CEO Polly Rodriguez told us in our recent interview, "If a woman can ask for what she wants in the bedroom, she can ask for what she wants in the boardroom." Doesn't that sound like a fun way to change the world? ;)
5. Men Can Be Feminists, Too
We get it—all this talk about empowering women can be intimidating for men. Does our emphasis on the struggle for women's liberation mean that we hate men, or respect them any less than our female, or nonbinary members?
On the contrary. We'll be frank: men, we need you, too. There are conversations that will never catch on with the culture at large without male allies amplifying our voices, and let's be honest—sometimes you guys are sexy as hell, to boot!
So if you are a man who dates women—or would like to—we're glad you're here, and we have created resources especially with you in mind.
Can an artist-founded, feminist dating app singlehandedly change the world? Maybe not, but we can help you make the connections to make your own revolution possible. Through an emphasis on intersectionality, vulnerability, honesty, empowerment, and inclusivity, we are creating an culture that reflects the ideals of our community, as well as our commitment to leave the online dating space better than we found it.
Thank you for being a part of this strong, inspiring community!