It’s official, one of the Tinder co-founders is being sued for being a misogynist. Shocking, I know. A man who built an app infamous for its meaningless hookups, where users swipe yes or no at other people’s faces, and it turns out he’s not a very nice person. Whitney Wolfe, former vice president of marketing at Tinder, has filed a lawsuit against the company’s chief marketing officer Justin Mateen under the grounds of “atrocious sexual harassment and sexual discrimination”, before she was apparently forced out the company in April.
Reportedly calling her a “whore”, “slut” and “gold-digger”, Mateen has been accused of harassing her for information about her personal life that he could use against her. In fact, Mateen’s disgusting insults are so inventive its almost admirable, with terms such as “middle aged muslim pigs” and “that homo” being referenced in the lawsuit. Wolfe describes Tinder as a “frat-like” atmosphere, inundated with racist and sexist terms. After her breakup with Mateen in the Autumn of 2013, he allegedly removed her co-founder title due to her being a “young female” and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders, it just makes it look like Tinder was some accident”. How this man even manages to buy a coffee we don’t know, let alone run a successful company. CEO Sean Rad also gets dragged into the spectacle, as the lawsuit accuses him of both witnessing and condoning Mateen’s abuse, as well as ignoring Wolfe’s constant complaints. Although she was among the five people that begun the casual dating app, in her repeated appeals to Rad she was told she was simply being “dramatic”.
Tinder’s parent company IAC is also involved in the lawsuit, and has suspended Mateen pending an ongoing internal investigation. In a statement they released after the allegations, the IAC states that “through that process, it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content. We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”
Wolfe claims that not only was she mistreated during her time at Tinder, but that she was bullied into resigning by Rad, who threatened to otherwise fire her in a way that would damage her future job prospects. At the time of Wolfe’s departure in April after an incident at a company party, Tinder was estimated to have 10 million daily active users, which does make us question humanity a little.
The episode follows other recent incidents of sexism in Silicon Valley, such as the release of Snapchat’s CEO Evan Speigal’s chauvinistic emails, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byer lawsuit last year over intense sexual harassment and gender bias as well as the discriminating GitHub “boys-party”. In fact, even Twitter hasn’t escaped the concerns of the role of women in a seemingly marginalized, unsafe tech sector today, having no women on its board until December 2013 - a month after its IPO. An overwhelming minority in the industry, the revelations of recent months have caused startups to come under a lot of scrutiny for their mass male population and “frat” atmosphere. In an attempt to bring more women into the sector, Google recently pledged $50million to an initiative that aims to expose a million girls to computer science by 2020.
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