Following yesterday’s rather serious post and the heated discussions that followed (thanks everybody), here’s something a little lighter:
Is online dating racist?
A question that keeps my readers awake at night, I am sure.
It’s hard out there on hook-up apps — but it’s even more of a challenge when you have an ethnic name, says Radhika Sanghani
I have more than 100 messages in my Tinder inbox from men of all different races, and a quick count suggests that a quarter of those mention my race/ethnicity/name in some capacity — even the fellow Indians.
She’s on a hookup app where one’s interest is signaled based on looks alone. Tinder’s use varies between countries, but in London it’s main function is to find a simple, uncomplicated date for the same evening followed by meaningless sex. She pretty much admits this in the next sentence:
There are questions about where I’m from, whether I’m religious
If you’re online looking for a serious relationship, asking where a potential partner is from and their religious beliefs seems somewhat sensible. Of course, if all you’re looking for is a crude shag with some random bloke, I can understand why such questions feel like an intrusion. Better just skip the small talk and get down to business. Women are empowered these days, don’t you know?
It’s exhausting having to field questions constantly about your ethnicity but the real problem is the racial bias that underlies it.
A Tinder profile comes with a set of pictures and your name. Insofar as talking points go, there’s not really much to go on so anything remotely unusual gets picked up on, e.g. a tattoo, or a funny hair colour, an exotic setting – or a foreign name. And yes, you’re in the UK not India. If I were to set up a Tinder profile in Delhi with the name John Smith I’d be fielding a lot of questions as to where I’m from compared to someone going by the name of Harbhajan Singh.
I wouldn’t mind talking to people about the meaning of my name (I’m named after a goddess, naturally) if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve been unmatched when people realise I’m originally Indian.
Not everyone in the UK wants to date an Indian. And I wonder how many of these unmatchings occurred when the question “Are you Indian?” was followed by three screens worth of feminist harangue.
I’ve been asked about cooking curry, and I’ve been fetished for my skin colour.
Exotic foreign woman on hook-up app complains about men liking her skin colour? Start burning those bras sisters, there is much work yet to be done!
Research from OkCupid shows that black and Asian women are less popular on the dating app than white and Latina women — with black women ranking as the least popular.
Dating apps seem to be the last bastion of the internet where one can actually state ones preferences without fear of being branded racist and hounded off the platform. I expect this won’t last long.
“On an individual level, a person can’t really control who turns them on — and almost everyone has a ‘type’, one way or another,” says app co-founder Christian Rudder. “But I do think the trend — the fact that race is a sexual factor for so many individuals, and in such a consistent way — says something about race’s role in our society.”
Oh, it does. It says that, in general, people prefer dating partners of their own race, and that a minority find other races exotic. But we didn’t need data from dating apps to learn this.
Another app, The Grade, ranks the “hottest” names for men and women in terms of receiving the most matches online. There is not a single obviously ethnic name in the top 50 for either sex, with the most popular including Erika, Lexi, Brianna for women
To me, this suggests men are attracted to women who share their names with porn stars.
In a bid to prove this racial bias on apps I once changed my name from Radhika to Rachel. I kept my photos and bio the same and swiped left on 100 men for both avatars. In an hour, Rachel had 28 matches — double the amount as Radhika — and not one of hers asked about race. Radhika wasn’t so lucky.
So men prefer dating women who, based on the extremely limited information available, are more likely to share their language and culture. Also, note that earlier in the piece she was complaining people were asking her about her name and “fetishing her skin colour”. Now she’s complaining people are put off by her name. So if you like her name and ask about it, it’s a problem. But so too is not liking her name. She sounds a bit confused, the sort of person best avoided on a dating app – or anywhere else.
The hope is that things are starting to change. In a study this year, Tinder found that 68 per cent of its users are “very open” to the idea of interracial dating or marriage
Tinder? Marriage? Gulp.
When I was with my (white) ex, I did notice our lack of emoji representation, and in true #FirstWorldProblem style, was forced to use separate emojis to symbolise our relationship.
I can’t imagine why this lady is still single.
Interracial emojis will fix this problem,
Ranking alongside penicillin, the transistor, and the internal combustion engine as a contributor to the betterment of mankind.
and may even join the royals in spreading awareness of the very real issues couples of different races still face today.
Few people are better placed to communicate the difficulties everyday mixed race couples face than a prince and a TV celebrity (whose blackness I am only aware of because people won’t stop going on about it; I certainly couldn’t tell by looking at her).
As a journalist and author with a public profile, I have added struggles.
Yes, I’m getting that impression.
Apps such as Tinder and Bumble automatically link to your Facebook account, so potential dates know my first name and profession.
I thought you were a journalist?
For Radhikas who are journalists, this is enough to pull up everything about me on Google, including articles that touch on past relationships and political views.
This would explain those sudden unmatchings. How do women with Indian names who aren’t insane fare on Tinder?
It means I’ve been on far too many first dates where men have admitted they’ve Googled me.
Everyone does this, including her. And she seems to have been on a lot of dates, but she’s still single. I can’t think why.
In a bid to escape the weight of my ethnic name, I have resorted to drastic measures. I have created a new Facebook account with my nickname “Rad” to link up to my dating profiles
I do feel guilty about it — am I denying my roots just to get a date? — and it brings with it the awkwardness of realising you’re on a third date with someone who still doesn’t know your full name.
Word’s probably got around that anyone who mentions your name, or asks anything about it, or makes a passing reference to your roots will find themselves on the receiving end of a lengthy diatribe on racism. And if they met you on Tinder, they’re likely more interested in the name of your nearest Underground station than your surname.
Plus, it works. Not a single man has managed to ambush me with my life history on a first date since I became Rad.
So the measure of success of her dating efforts is not actually finding a partner, but avoiding anyone talking about her background, culture, job, political views, and articles she’s written when on a date.
I fear it will take more than interracial emojis to help this woman.