Tinder CoFounder Alleges VP Called Her “Slut”

tinder

A co-founder of Tinder, the popular dating application, alleges that a company vice president (VP) repeatedly and publicly defamed her with terms such as “desperate slut,” “whore,” and “gold digger.” Whitney Wolfe claims in her lawsuit that some of the remarks from Justin Mateen, the company’s vice president of marketing, were made in front of Tinder Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sean Rad. She contends that Mateen’s behavior is emblematic of the “frat-like” culture which pervades the company.

Wolfe, who worked below Mateen within Tinder’s organizational structure, contends that Mateen’s behavior typifies the “misogynist, alpha-male stereotype” that pervades the company. She was bestowed with the official title of Co-Founder in November 2012, yet Mateen and Rad took the title away a year later. Records submitted with the lawsuit report that Mateen believed it was “like a joke” to have a “24‐year-old girl” identified as a co-founder.

The location-based Tinder application enables singles, and perhaps others, to meet by expressing simple yes or no preferences based on photos and short verbal introductions. Wolfe reportedly was the person to come up with the Tinder name after the original name, Matchbox, was judged to be too much like another dating site, Match.

Tinder co-founder Wolfe dated Mateen for an unspecified period and it is not known if his allegedly repetitive “slut” name calling happened before, during or after this period. The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that it was only after Wolfe complained to Tinder CEO Rad about the personal degradations that she was forced out of the company. Rad is said to have ignored her complaints.

One of the text messages submitted with the lawsuit has Justin Mateen calling Wolfe a “liberal lying desperate slut.” The suit further alleges that, in a Tinder marketing meeting, Mateen called Wolfe “a desperate loser” and also informed Rad and others in the company that she was an alcoholic. When Wolfe complained about this to Rad, he either ignored her or called her “a dramatic or emotional girl.” During one meeting, Rad told Wolfe that her job was to “keep Justin calm.” Wolfe finally resigned from Tinder after a party in April, in which Mateen called her a whore in front of others.

Whitney Wolfe’s suit seeks unspecified damages from Tinder and two other companies: IAC/InterActive, which is the majority owner of Tinder, and yet another property in the IAC portfolio, Match, the enormous dating website. An IAC spokesperson called the messages from Mateen to Wolfe “inappropriate” and disclosed that Mateen was immediately suspended from his position with Tinder pending the results of an internal investigation. The spokesperson condemned the messages “unequivocally” yet also refused to accept Wolfe’s allegations wholesale, insisting that they are “unfounded.” Neither Tinder nor Match replied to CNBC email requests seeking comment.

Tinder is not the only tech company to be accused of sexual harassment. The industry in general – and its large subset of startup companies – has been scrutinized for hosting workplaces hostile to women and also for a lack of women in executive-level ranks. A recent example is the accusations against a social gaming platform named Github. A company investigation was triggered after a female employee accused the San Francisco startup of harassment. The probe did not find evidence of such but did recognize “mistakes and errors of judgment.” In another situation, Evan Spiegel, the CEO of a photo messaging app called Snapchat, sent explicit email messages to a Stanford University student. Spiegel apologized for the emails, which contained statements that have been judged by some as demeaning to women.

Specific cases aside, private conversations have existed without public examination for thousands of years. Some express concern that the very new phenomena of public judgment of private conversation puts language itself at risk and, critically, influences human expression into a narrower slot. Citing Los Angeles Clippers’ Donald Sterling as an example, investigative journalist Joe Rappoport questions whether private conversation should be examined in public at all. Others debate the ethical responsibilities incumbent upon the venture capitalists who provide billions of dollars to nurture and grow some of the startup companies mentioned here.

Tinder co-founder Wolfe says that she deferred her lawsuit against Tinder, its VP, and the others for some time, attempting instead to privately resolve the situation where she was being called “slut” and other terms. In a statement, however, she said that “after months of failed attempts, I have decided to pursue this suit.”

By Gregory Baskin

Sources:
USA Today
CNBC
Daily News
Red Ice Creations

Your Thoughts?