Bumble as a model for managing online gendered conflict

Using Bumble as an exemplar of how gendered conflict is managed in a counter-technocultural online space, we have demonstrated how gendered conflict is managed in online spaces. The connection between the individual members of the Bumble community and the organization of Bumble help to create a safer, online technoculture that challenges online misogyny. Because of Bumbles efforts, the organization boasts a 0.008 percent abuse report rate.7* Although the threat of conflict in online spaces is ever-present, organizations like Bumble have adopted and enacted both organizational commitments and individual-level policies and practices that both challenge traditional forms of gendered organizing and promote gender equity and healthy relationships. Throughout this chapter, we have offered a number of conflict management strategies and use this section to pull them together with commentary.

We begin with individual-oriented conflict management strategies. Opening with the fictional but all-too-common case of Jan and Greg, one bit of advice is to ignore those people who initiate and perpetuate problematic interactions online, as Jan s friends advised (“Oh no! We forgot to tell you that there are those types of guys out there—you just learn to ignore them!”). Another strategy (albeit riskier) is counter-disciplining by “calling out” or “naming and shaming” individuals who send lewd and sexist content online.80 Counter-disciplining also occurs through publicizing or sharing screenshots of the awkward, lewd, and perverted interactions (as evidenced in Figure 25.2).81 Screenshots like the one in Figure 25.2 are shared through various social media platforms and, at times, can go viral through sites like TinderNightmares. An integral part of viral photos on sites like TinderNightmares is the use of humor. Humor can serve as an additional facet of counter-disciplining for women as it “provides women with a form of discursive agency through the showcasing of witty replies.”82

Counter-disciplining also has the potential to challenge men’s hypermasculine and sexist behaviors with the potential for illuminating and identifying men’s misogynistic content online. The specter of awkward moments shared in online spaces does serve as a reminder that one’s presentation and performance online can always be seen, made visible, and shared throughout networks.83 That is, there are consequences and social ramifications for behaving like a jerk through viral shaming. Dating applications like Tinder often see these forms of “digilantism” because the technocultural values and norms promote “hook-up culture” as a key part of why users are on the application.84 Whereas in feminist technocultures like Bumble, the promotion and enactment of values like respect and kindness create expectations that communicate how users should interact with one another.

Counter-disciplining practices can also be extended to users’ profiles. Although scholarship has explored how individuals construct, perform, and communicate their identities online, it is possible that conflict can be proactively addressed by communicating expectations on individual’s

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Figure 25.2 A screenshot of one woman’s humorous response on Tinder that garnered 48,559 likes on Instagram profiles.8’ For instance, a user could enact guidelines on their profile for (1) why one should initiate communication (e.g.,“swipe right if you’re into feminism”); (2) how to communicate (e.g., ground rules for messaging); and (3) what can be communicated (e.g., what topics are and are not off-limits; expectations for continuing conversation on other social media platforms or offline, etc.). Although such responses might be more easily accomplished on some internet sites, the individual response does not engage the gendered cultural context that promotes such offensive displays. While these strategies might feel immediately satisfying, conflict research indicates that such strategies are not effective in the long run and might escalate to stalking and other forms of harassment.

Less individual-oriented strategies involve engaging the larger technocultural spaces in which the users engage. In the instance of Bumble, these relational and structural tactics can include confrontation of problematic relationships and resource allocations through use of and change in organizational policies, standard operating procedures, reward structures, and other means that align with our expanded version of the Bumble Hive’s reactive and proactive responses to gendered conflict, as noted earlier. At the heart of these strategies lies the recognition that gendered conflict is complex, complicated, and sometimes normative in situations saturated with masculine values and behaviors. Simple remedies would be inadequate. Instead, multifaceted actions designed to address the varied and deep-seated bases of human action can attend to the tensions and contradictions that individual through organizational change would require.86

Other recommendations for engaging in organizational change adopt an action orientation.8' Action orientations can encourage organizations to balance proactivity and reactivity regarding issues of harassment and gender-based conflict on online platforms.That is, organizations’leaders and leadership teams (i.e., Wolfe Herd, Williamson el-Effendi, and members of the Bumble Hive) can brainstorm potential responses to gender-based conflict and harassment if there are no local or federal policies or guidelines for online harassment (often, there are not), and “look for productive alignment among ideas and regulations, and craft policy and protocol from there.”88 Adopting an action-oriented approach situates the organization as a key partner in mitigating conflict, thus potentially materializing the organization (and its actors) as an entity involved in the conflict management process.8" Furthermore, this conceptualization of the material organization challenges traditional organizational structures that are structured and institutionalized as masculine. As Harris argued, traditional communicative approaches to conflict tend to ignore the complicity of organizations in promotion and maintenance of conflict; however, when viewed from a gendered, action-orientation perspective, the organization becomes a central actor and part of the broader communicative conflict process. ”1 In this sense, it is imperative that organizations take an active part in managing and solving conflict when it occurs.

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