Girl On Girl: On Tinder & Women Objectifying Other Women
I have 876 matches on Tinder. I love Tinder. I’ve met some of my favorite people via Tinder, but sometimes, Tinder feels cheap. That feeling creeps up on me when it’s late at night and I’ve just swiped left on 20 people. That feeling also creeps up on me when five people send me the same message complimenting a picture of me and my dog. Don’t get me wrong — Tinder is a great pick-me up for when you’re searching for a little validation. My teenage years were a giant awkward phase that left me with some remnants of “ugly duckling syndrome” so when someone messages me on Tinder with the “raised hand” emoji, I’m feeling myself. At the same time, there is something unsettling about being able to quantify our objective appeal based on five recent photos and a short bio (mine’s “Thug means never having to say you’re sorry” and, ladies, that should never work for you).
I never got into HotOrNot.com. Probably because I was 12 and too young to be putting my photos up for a bunch of strangers to rank. I also thought it was lame and sexist. I didn’t need to figure out how I ranked in attraction from a bunch of dudes whose ages ranged from 15 to 60. The tween me would be rolling her eyes at the fact that I basically signed up to the modern day equivalent through Tinder (though probably a little pleased to learn that the braces were totally worth it and thick eyebrows are finally in). But objectification doesn’t feel good, even when it’s from other women. It’s still perpetuating that patriarchal view that women are property or that they need to subscribe to a certain standard of beauty. Just because you’re the same gender doesn’t make you exempt from being an asshole when you think like this.
I dated a girl for a couple years who had modeled in her late teens and early twenties. She spent her adolescence in Tokyo and Milan being marketed as someone else’s product. She took a break to get her degree and when she went back to her agency to get booked for more job, they told her to lose 15 pounds and to dye her hair back to blonde. My reaction was a mix of feeling pissed at an industry that treats people like objects and feeling guilty for all of the times I tried to convince my girlfriend to go back to blonde. I’m a feminist, I could never imagine pushing my ideal of beauty onto any one of my female friends, but here I was doing exactly that to my significant other.
Women fight these beauty ideals all the time. We constantly compare ourselves to our friends. We spend hundreds of dollars on the right hair products or fad workouts. Even Beyonce photoshops her Instagram pictures! It starts with self-projection. Those standards make us critical of ourselves. Mix that with sex and our good intentions get blurred. At my most honest, I have passed on girls because their eyebrows were too thin, their foundation didn’t match their skin, or their hair was better than mine. I know so many women with strong opinions on their girlfriend’s aesthetic, from laser hair removal to workout regimens. If guys tried that, it would never fly.
We’re all aware of the problem. We all hate the double standard of beauty and the pressure that comes with it, but we still buy into it. Of the 876 matches that I have on Tinder, only a fraction of those have ever resulted in actual conversations. An even smaller fraction have actually gotten dates. Casual hookups aren’t a core feature of lesbian dating. Most gay women favor long-term dating and having a lot of feelings. So what are we doing on Tinder? Despite being a community of women who have to feel all the pressures of institutionalized beauty standards, we still can’t shake the temptation to judge and be judged.
Morgan Cohn is a recent LA transplant to NY, splitting her time between working in digital publishing, writing, and discovering what seasons are. Follow her on Twitter!