In yet another example of men's comfort being prioritized over women's safety, Tinder banned the woman behind the Instagram account @WhyDidYouSwipeRightTho, Bianca Lentini.
On Instagram, Lentini showcases the daily threats of rape, deportation, and death she receives from male Tinder users. Posting screenshots from her Tinder, she shows how she comes back at these threats with humor, knowledge, and a cutting wit. Recently, she also has been reporting the men for violating Tinder's terms of service. Unsurprisingly, Tinder has banned none of these men.
To be a woman online is to be threatened. It's not exactly surprising anymore. In response, there have been a proliferation of accounts on social media dedicated to showing just what women deal with. Increasingly, these accounts also end up illustrating the double standard involved with removed posts and account bans. Men who threaten rape or death are unpunished, while women are banned.
Lentini, a 23-year-old Latina activist in NYC, swipes right on everybody, and has strict rules about what she wants in her matches. Her profile reads:
Intersectional feminist. Activist. Nothin' to fuck with. Lover of all things art. Live for where art and activism meet. Wine. Whiskey. Hip hop. Music that makes you want to dance/Music that heals your soul. TV, not movies. Dancing all night. Staying in and talking all night. The way the lights glitter as the sun sets over NYC.
Swipe left if:
You open with 'hey' 'you're beautiful' or a GIF
You've never protested
All lives matter/Blue lives matter
You support Trump & co
Young Metro don't trust you
Inspired by @DoYouConsiderYourselfFeminist, another Instagram account showcasing the responses of men asked about feminism on dating sites, Lentini began documenting some of the conversations she had on Tinder and submitting them. Eventually @DoYouConsiderYourselfFeminist's owner, Sarah, encouraged her to start her own account.
"The world deserved to see the vile things men say to me because I have very mild political points in my Tinder bio," Lentini explains.
The @WhyDidYouSwipeRightTho community has grown since December 2016, and currently has around 6,500 followers, with a core group of supporters who use the comment section to commiserate, educate, and support each other.
"New York can be a lonely place, but the hilarious, witty, ruthless women who follow me and message me make me feel like I'm not alone in how I feel about the world," Lentini explained. "It's a beautiful little family that I am so humbled to have attracted."
Her followers, the majority of whom are women ages 18-24, get more out of the account than amusement at her handling of angry or fragile men. They get a course in the importance of knowing one's value and not lowering standards. By refusing to laugh at unfunny, racist, or sexist jokes, not responding to men who don't put in any effort, and demanding that the men be up to her standards, Lentini sets an important example.
During the course of the conversations Lentini has had on Tinder, routinely she'd be on the receiving end of threats. Around the time that Tinder made the news for banning a racist user, Lentini decided to start reporting the racism and sexism she received to see if Tinder would actually do anything about it. Her theory was that if it wasn't reported by a man or publicized, nothing would happen.
The first, a man named Jordan, told her 'everything would be fine once she was deported.' She reported him and emailed screenshots to Tinder. She didn't unmatch him, so she could see if there was any action taken. There was not. Other men she reported were similarly not removed, despite proof that they violated the terms of service.
Each time she reported, she replied to her original email to keep all the reports in the same thread. Tinder never responded to her emails beyond automated responses, but did eventually use that thread to notify her that her account had been banned. When she asked for justification, their response was to cut and paste parts of the Terms of Service to her, specifically their prohibitions against racist or harassing behavior, asking for money, or distributing 'screen scrapes.'
The inclusion of the prohibition against asking for money, Lentini believes, is because on two occasions she glibly told men to Paypal her money when they asked her to do unpaid labor. Once she refused to teach a man what intersectional feminism is, the other time she declined to act as a NYC tour guide.
As for the other charges, Lentini thinks that she has been banned for two reasons. The first being that she was reporting men too often, and following up with Tinder to ask why profiles were not being removed.
"Before I started complaining, I said way worse shit and nothing happened," Lentini says. "They used all of these things as a scapegoat to ban me so I could stop showing the negative side of Tinder and fucking up their PR."
The second is that she's not a paid user. A friend of Lentini's, Casey, a paid user, has been suspended but never banned, despite "calling someone literal human garbage and suggesting another put his dick in a blender. (It) sounds like you gotta be considered revenue to avoid going under review," Casey says.
Casey has reported dozens of people and confirms that no action has been taken by Tinder. In some cases, the person reported was still able to message her. Each time, they have stayed matched to the man so they can know if any action is taken. It's the only way they have to find out, as Tinder will not let the complainant know what happens.
On International Woman's Day, Casey sent the following to Tinder support:
"A week ago a man called an Asian girl a 'chink' and you blocked him. But when I've been threatened with sexual assault you didn't block that guy. What you actually did was block me for a few days because men reported me for not tolerating their harassment. Yet the ones I reported still seem to match with my friends. How is it that I lost access when men reported me and they still seem to get the opportunity to swipe away."
It is further proof to Lentini that reporting this behavior accomplishes nothing more than alerting Tinder to women who might cause them issues by complaining too much.
Lentini elaborates, "They allow men to say disgusting things to women to keep them on the app. Is it because men pay more than women? Obviously that's not a question I have the answer to, but as a business major, it only makes sense that Tinder would allow this to continue if they're profiting from misogyny or if they are morally on the same side as these men."
Lentini tested this theory with a second account. Using the same profile as the first, she waited for one of her matches to violate the Terms of Service.
"I've been waiting to test the waters and report a dude. I was sure it was someone who is unquestionably violating their terms, to see if it would flag me," she said. Within a day, her account was under review.
As she waits to see if Tinder will ban her again, Lentini has begun a project to showcase the double standard of account bans and post removal. She's accepting submissions of screenshots at firstname.lastname@example.org that show a post or account that has been reported and not removed, or one that has been removed for an unfair reason. She's planning to turn these into large scale installations.
It doesn't come as a surprise to Lentini, or her followers, that Tinder would penalize women who don't accept harassment. The outrage spurred by her ban has inspired hundreds to take to Tinder's account on Instagram, using the hashtags #justiceforbianca and #holdtinderaccountable, among others, to show express their displeasure.
Lentini, when asked what she hopes to happen next, had this to say.
"I started my account to show people that women aren't exaggerating when they talk about the harassment they receive online, specifically through Tinder. I keep my account going to give women a place to commiserate, laugh, drag, and talk. Women have trusted me with such personal experiences while thanking me for giving them the confidence to stand up for themselves. That is not something I will turn my back on. Tinder, give me back my account so I can continue to empower women, help them feel less alone, and educate men on deep rooted misogyny. Stop protecting scum."
Update: Since writing this story, Lentini reached out with further information. Tinder, she believes, has used their rating algorithm to make sure she matches with fewer men. Her account reinstated, she was matching less often, 3 times rather than her average of 80 per session. She thinks that Tinder is trying to dissuade her from using the service, is hoping she gets disinterested, or is unable to get new screen shots to post online.
All photos via @WhyDidYouSwipeRightTho
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Claire Gordon is a journalist, activist, and artist. Originally from England, she has lived in America for the last few decades and is currently moving to Valencia, Spain. There, she hopes to use a mix of art and activism to create a community space where all are welcome. She loves bicycles, every dog in the world, and glitter. Follow her on Twitter @clairevenom and on Instagram @clarista.