When you think of Tinder, you usually think of one night stands and awkward coffee dates, not trying to make positive change in the world. But nevertheless, there is now a anti-domestic violence campaign on Tinder. It's called Tinder Beater, and there's no denying that its platform gives it a substantial reach — something which is much needed for issues like this. But is the campaign really spreading its message in the best way? Or does it miss the mark a bit?
The campaign, which is spearheaded by the nonprofit organization Women in Distress, features Tinder profiles of seemingly normal guys. As you scroll through the photos on their profile, however, they go from smiling to angry and eventually aim a punch at the camera. The final image provides resources for victims of domestic violence. The campaign is meant to drive home the fact that even guys who seem nice at first can turn violent, according to the ad agency the helped create the campaign, Bravo/Y&R.
If the goal of the Tinder Beater campaign is to make women more alert to the dangers of domestic violence, it certainly gets the job done. And according to the short video they've put together, plenty of women have already responded well to the campaign, sharing their experiences with domestic violence or saying they would pass along the resources to a friend who needs it. All of this is good, and hopefully the campaign will have a positive impact in the world. Still, though — I'll admit that I'm not completely sold that this is truly a positive way to combat domestic violence.
There is no doubt that something needs to be done about domestic violence. Every year in the United States, 1.3 million women and over 800,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner. It's an appallingly common crime, and victims often face immense obstacles — not mention great personal risk — in trying to leave.
Still, an effective solution isn't going to come from encouraging women to be afraid. The Tinder Beater campaign is certainly attention grabbing, especially in the way that it in some ways mirrors the process of finding yourself in an abusive relationship — you start off with someone seemingly nice, but once you dig deeper, suddenly you find out the situation is totally different. But although it's good that the campaign provides information and resources, the basic message of the photos seems to be that women should worry about this — that the next guy they swipe right on might turn out to be abusive. And while it's unfortunately true that we do have to be careful and consider these posibilities, trying to make us worry more about them may not accomplish the campaigns ultimate goal.
The thing is that women already worry about men. Speaking from personal experience, I know that every time I hear a story about someone who was assaulted, or stalked, or killed, I wonder to myself, "How can I avoid that?" And so I worry. We all worry. We worry if we're leading someone on, or if we're attracting too much attention, or it's the wrong kind of attention, or if we're making someone too upset. We worry that maybe this person is the one who will hurt us. In fact, I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I am always scanning for warning signs that someone might secretly be violent. It's a self-preservation tool, instilled after years of news stories about women being stalked, kidnapped, raped, or killed — and there's no "off" switch for it, either.
And all of that fear? It sucks — which is why I'm not a big fan of using scare tactics against women, even when what we're dealing with really is freaking scary. We are already scared enough, so I'm not sure what's to be gained by making us more afraid.
Ultimately, the only thing that would ever truly stop crimes like domestic violence would be if people stopped abusing their partners, and there are definitely steps we can and should be taking to try to achieve that goal. But in the short term, there are ways to prevent domestic violence that don't amount to telling women it's our job to be afraid all the time.
And in fact, Tinder could actually be a good place for such a campaign. For instance, someone could use Tinder to raise awareness among men about domestic violence, as one group did to raise awareness about sex trafficking. Tinder could also be used as a kind of warning system, where instead of posting fake profiles of fake abusers, an anti-domestic violence group could collect information about known abusers who look for women on Tinder and create profiles that contain real warnings — thus allowing women to avoid certain individuals, rather than encouraging us to be afraid of everyone.
The rise of dating apps and online dating sites has given potential abusers new and expanded means of finding victims. But it can also provide us with new opportunities to shut down abuse before it happens, not by using the same old scare tactics of telling us we have to be afraid at all times, but by new and improved means of shutting down domestic violence in a much more productive way.