Prof slams OkCupid for privileging ‘white, heterosexual’ men

Toni Airaksinen
New York Campus Correspondent

  • A Trinity College professor says popular dating site OkCupid "invisibilizes" LGBTQ people through an attractiveness algorithm that favors "white, heterosexual, cisgender, Western males who are able-bodied, healthy, and aged appropriately."
  • A spokesperson for OkCupid vehemently denied the claim, pointing out that it has 22 gender options and 12 orientations to choose from, and even lets users select up to five descriptions at once.
  • A Trinity College professor recently criticized the popular dating site OKCupid for marginalizing LBGTQ people, a claim that company officials vehemently dispute.

    In an article for the Journal of Feminist Geography, professor Jen Jack Gieseking—who “identifies as a woman” but uses “he/him/his pronouns”—bemoans the difficulty that gay and transgender people encounter when trying to find other LGBTQ people on the site.

    "LGBTQ people still remain ignored and invisibilized on OkCupid."   

    [RELATED: UMN safe space only for ‘same-gender-loving people of color’]

    “LGBTQ people still remain ignored and invisibilized on OkCupid,” Gieseking laments, citing the fact that they, like all other users of the website, might “have to run multiple searches to see everyone they may find of interest.”

    He also claims that the website’s “attractiveness algorithm” unfairly works against LBGTQ people of color, claiming that it is biased towards “white, heterosexual, cisgender, Western males who are able-bodied, healthy, and aged appropriately as the norm.”

    This isn’t unusual, Gieseking argues, asking, “How else would an ‘attractiveness algorithm’ be defined by corporate America but on these measures?”

    [RELATED: Harvard tells students gender can ‘change from day to day’]

    OkCupid Chief Marketing Officer Melissa Hobley, however, told Campus Reform that she was “surprised” by Gieseking’s allegations, considering the website’s long history of LGBTQ inclusive policies.

    “We take a lot of pride in creating a dating app that works for individuals of all sexual orientations, including the LGBTQ, and we have a strong track record that supports this,” she said.

    “In fact, OkCupid was the first dating app to expand genders and orientations, adding much-needed nuance like queer and lesbian along with many others. We have 22 genders options and 12 orientations to choose from,” Hobley pointed out.

    The site’s gender options include male, female, transgender, non-binary, Two-Spirit, pangender, agender, transmasculine, intersex, and many more, and users can even select up to 5 different genders, depending on their preferences.

    [RELATED: WVU equity office calls improper pronoun use a Title IX violation]

    Pushing back against Gieseking’s derision toward the website’s “attractiveness algorithm,” Hobley explained that the algorithm is “calculated on a per-gender, per-orientation basis,” leaving little room for bias.

    “Assuming Jen Jack Gieseking signed up as a gay woman, her attractiveness is based on votes from gay/bi women who are seeing her,” she explained. “There is minimal space for bias from ‘white, heterosexual, cisgender, Western males’ affecting her experience.”

    Moreover, Hobley asserted that attractiveness is not even a dominant factor in determining which profiles a user encounters, saying the process also accounts for things like “age, distance, and most importantly match percent.”

    Nonetheless, Gieseking concludes his article by arguing that “racism, homophobia, transphobia, colonialism, and patriarchy are made visible in our data, software platforms, and interfaces,” and that more “queering [of] code” is needed to fight this.

    Campus Reform reached out to Gieseking multiple times for comment, but did not receive a response.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen





    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Campus Correspondent
    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, where she reports on free speech issues and social justice research. She is a senior at Barnard College, majoring in Urban Studies and Environmental Science. She is also a columnist for PJ Media, and formerly held a post with USA TODAY College, The Columbia Spectator, and Quillette.
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