'Female Friendly' Dating App Tinder Exec Faces Sexual Harassment Suit


Tinder enjoys a reputation as a female-friendly dating app, in part because it allows women to weed out the creeps and harassers who skulk around most other dating sites. But it seems that that’s a luxury Tinder’s female employees don’t enjoy.

Whitney Wolfe, Tinder’s former VP of marketing, has just filed a lawsuit against her former colleagues for rampant sexual harassment and misogyny. Among her allegations: she was called a “slut” and a “whore” by Tinder CMO Justin Mateen, denied credit and demeaned because she’s “a girl,” among other atrociously sexist treatment.

According to the suit, Wolfe began dating Mateen after he joined the company as her boss; after they broke up, he became extremely jealous and controlling and subjected her to a barrage of sexist verbal abuse, including calling her a “whore” in front of Tinder CEO Sean Rad and sending aggressive text messages, in which he repeatedly badgered her and accused her of “social climb[ing] middle aged Muslim pigs.” Sexist AND racist! What a catch. Wolfe eventually quit after Mateen called her a “whore,” a “gold digger,” a “disease” and “disgusting” at a work event.

From the court documents, it seems that the misogyny Wolfe faced wasn’t just from one unhinged ex-boyfriend: it was built into the business model. When Tinder-related articles appeared in traditional business outlets, Wolfe’s name was left out entirely. When she asked her colleagues why only she was omitted, she was told that the fact that she’s “a girl” would make the company “look like it was an accident.” In November 2013, Mr. Mateen and Mr. Rad informed her that they were removing her “co-founder” designation entirely because having her, a 24-year old woman, as a co-founder “makes the company look like a joke” and “devalues the company.”

In the suit, Wolfe says she was a “driving force of Tinder from the beginning” and integral to its success. In August 2012, the suit alleges, it was Wolfe who pushed the team towards Matchbox, a proto-Tinder of sorts, and away from a customer loyalty app called Cardify. She also came up with the name Tinder (Rad wanted to call it “Tender,” which would have been creepy and bad) and says she was “routinely held out as the face of the company” to garner “positive press” for the app — as Molly McHugh points out at the Daily Dot, “Wolfe has been called the ‘woman behind Tinder,’ doing promotional interviews with women’s publications like Harpers, Elle, and Marie Clarie to plug the app.” So, guess it doesn’t make the company look like “a joke” when she’s shilling to women? Or — sorry — I guess at the Tinder offices they’re called “girls.”

But how surprised can we be? At Forbes, Jeff Bercovi points out that the frat-house atmosphere of the company is fairly evident from their social media trails — in 2013, Mateen tweeted a Barstool Sports review of the app that read, “Listen chicks are sluts. They love getting stuffed as much as we love stuffing them.” On LinkedIn, co-founder Jonathan Badeen lists his title as “Vice President of Engineering, Co-founder & Digital Pimp @ Tinder.” (You have to hand it to him, though, being inappropriate on LinkedIn is quite the social media feat.)

And, of course, Mateen himself gave an interview to the Huffington Post in December in which he said that women are “fundamentally not wired” for hooking up. Hey, Justin Mateen: if you hate women exercising sexual agency with impunity so goddamn much, why don’t you get into another line of business? Just a suggestion. There are tons of startups with a sexist-bro-friendly working culture that would be happy to hire you, I bet.

Image via Getty.

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