You'll now have to be racist in private! Dating app Grindr today launched its new ‘Kindr’ initiative. The project arrives in response to complaints from some users after experiencing racist, body-shaming or stigmatizing language.
Grindr announced Kindr a few weeks ago, but provided scant details as to what the project would entail.
Today, it released the first of a series of videos in which it addresses the debate around online behaviour. It also unveiled new user community guidelines. These state profiles face moderation if they list what they disliked based on racial group or gender expression
The first video features app users explaining why stating what you’re not looking for – in relation to racial groups – is problematic.
It starts by stating some blatantly racist language users have heard online (‘Go back to Mexico’, ‘People like you are the reason Ebola exist’), before moving on to the ‘covert racism’ of profile preferences.
One man explains how reading exclusionary messages online feels like walking down a street and seeing shop signs welcoming only one kind of customer.
‘Racism is you thinking I’m not going to be smarter than you when you first meet me,’ says one black contributor, Rakeem Cunningham.
‘Or when black people are articulate and other people go, “Oh, you’re so well spoken!” Like, that’s the stuff that bothers me, and that’s the stuff I think needs to be addressed. I think the racism that’s not overt but that’s covert is the main problem.’
An Asian contributor, Joel Kim Booster, says that he began to wonder if there was something wrong with him, or if there was something he should be ashamed about when interacting with guys online. ‘It opened my eyes to a hierarchy that I wasn’t participating in before.’
‘If you don’t put “No Asians” in your profile, that doesn’t mean you have to fuck Asians now. It just means I don’t have to see it,’ he says.
‘It is not racist to not be attracted to me personally,’ he adds. ‘But for you to say “I know what every Asian guy looks like and I know for a fact that I would not be attracted to any of them…” Like that comes from a racist place because you don’t know what we all look like. That’s ugly.
‘We have only so much in our profiles to get across whatever the fuck we want to get across to all the other guys on this app, and you’re going to take space to narrow it by what you don’t want. Just tell me what you do like. If you tell me you like the fucking Jonas Brothers, I know I’m not for you.’
Former Queer Eye alum Jai Rodriguez also takes part. He points out, ‘You don’t know what the person on the other side of the phone is going through. You have no idea what they’re experience is or what else they have going on. Or what that comment might do to them.’
Many talk about the impact of language.
‘No matter what battle you’re going through, you don’t have to break other people in order to feel good,’ says contributor Jasmine Aksornkij. ‘You don’t have to hurt other people in order to make you feel uplifted.
The video ends with the campaign’s tagline: ‘It’s time to play nice.’
‘Sexual racism, transphobia, fat and femme shaming and further forms of othering such as stigmatization of HIV positive individuals are pervasive problems in the LGBTQ community,’ said Landen Zumwalt, head of communications at Grindr, in a press statement.
‘These community issues get brought onto our platform, and as a leader in the gay dating space, Grindr has a responsibility to not only protect our users, but also to set the standard for the broader community that we serve.
‘Online discrimination has reached epidemic proportions affecting not only Grindr but other social networks. Our ‘Kindr’ initiative is a rallying call for Grindr and our community to take a stand against sexual racism and all forms of othering.
‘Together, we will work to maintain a welcoming and inclusive environment and end the need for people to include exclusionary statements on profiles.’
Grindr says it will be rolling out more videos over the next five weeks. It has also updated its community guidelines. In these, it says that moderators will act if they see people making statements such as ‘No Asians’ in their profile descriptions.
‘We have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination, harassment, and abusive behavior. We want you to be yourself, but not at the expense of someone else. Anyone found bullying, threatening, or defaming another user will be banned.
‘We will also remove any discriminatory statements displayed on profiles. You’re free to express your preferences, but we’d rather hear about what you’re into, not what you aren’t.
‘Profile language that is used to openly discriminate against other users’ traits and characteristics (“No fats, no fems, no Asians”) will no longer be tolerated and will be subject to review by our moderation team.’