Grindr removes its “ethnic filter”. But racism is still rampant in online dating


Dating and hook-up service Grindr has announced plans to remove the “ethnic filter” of its popular application.

The controversial feature allowed paid users to filter potential mates based on ethnic labels such as “Asian”, “Black” and “Latino”. Long criticized as racist, the filter also helped create a culture where users were encouraged to express their racism.

Sexual racism

Alongside others dating apps, Grindr has a reputation for sexual racism – the exclusion of potential mates based on race.

In 2017, Grindr attempted to change this perception with the “Kindr Grindr“initiative. This ruling banned the use of exclusionary terms such as” No Asians “and” No Blacks “in user biographies, and attempted to explain to users why such statements are harmful and unacceptable .

However, the “ethnic filter” remained until last week, when Grindr announcement it would be deleted as support demonstration for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Grindr’s actions were catalyzed by recent protests in the United States, but sexual racism is also a serious problem in Australia.



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“Not in Asians”

One of us (Gene Lim) studies the impact of sexual racism on gay and bisexual Asian men in Australia. Grindr was repeatedly referred to by research participants as a site where they routinely faced sexual racism, both in user biographies and in interactions with others.

He says “send me a picture of your face”. I send him a picture of my face, and he says “oh you’re an Indian. I’m sorry. ”He then quickly blocked me.

James, 28, Indian

Apps like Grindr are also where many Asian men first encounter such cases of discrimination.

So many profiles had “not in Asians”, “not in this [or that]”… I was so confused as to why that was. I was skinny, young, cute, and I thought that would be enough …

Rob, 27, Cambodian

For many people of color, this sends the message that the color of their skin makes them unkind and unwanted – something that negatively impacts self-image and self-esteem. One participant summarized how he was affected by these messages.

I feel like the bad fruit that no one wants.

Ted, 32, Vietnamese

The psychological impact of these experiences adds up in a way that these men carry with them outside of sex and dating. Even though some Asian men withdraw from the gay community to avoid sexual racism, the impacts of these experiences endure.

It scares you in a way that affects you in [situations] beyond the Gay community… it affects your whole life.

Wayne, 25, Malaysian

These exclusionary practices are particularly shocking in LGBTQ communities who often present themselves as “found families”. Yet the above experiences represent only one dimension of how sexual racism affects the lives of people of color.

Indistinguishable from general racism

One of us (Bronwyn Carlson) studied sexual racism lived by indigenous Australians on apps like Tinder and Grindr. She found that for many Indigenous users, vitriol often only comes when they disclose their Indigenous heritage, as their appearance is not always an initial basis for exclusion.

An interaction can evolve into chatting, flirting, and often the intention to ‘hook up’, but once an Indigenous user reveals their ethnicity, abuse occurs. For Indigenous peoples, “sexual racism” is often indistinguishable from general racism.

The threat of these experiences still lurks in the background for Indigenous people browsing social media and dating apps. They reveal a deep-seated hatred of Indigenous people that has little to do with physical characteristics, and much more to do with racist ideologies.

For gay Aboriginal men, the potential for love, intimacy, and pleasure on Grindr is always outweighed by the potential violence of racism.



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Putting anti-racism at the forefront

People who use dating apps develop their own ways of risk and security management, but platforms should also owe a duty of care to users. Digital spaces and applications like Grindr are important sites connection, community and friendship for LGBTIQ + people, but they are also channels of hatred and fanaticism.

Removing the ethnic filter on Grindr is not a silver bullet that will end racism on the app – here in Australia or elsewhere. It is a symbolic gesture, but a step in the right direction.

Removing this feature alerts users that filtering partners based on ethnicity is not “just a preference», But a form of marginalization and exclusion. As research has shown, sexual racism is clearly linked to more general racist attitudes and beliefs.

While Grindr’s action is belated and token, it’s still a good move. But if Grindr and other online dating platforms are to become spaces where people of color can express themselves and seek intimacy and companionship, they must put anti-racism at the heart of their moderation policies and practices. contents.



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