Bumble removing controversial celibacy ads following online backlash

Innovation

Dating app Bumble said it’s removing billboards seemingly targeted at women that discourage celibacy after receiving backlash online from women who feel the messaging delegitimises women’s freedom of choice.
In this photo illustration the Bumble logo seen displayed on...

In this photo illustration the Bumble logo seen displayed on a smartphone and in the background.

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Key Takeaways
  • After deleting all of its old posts on Instagram, Bumble teased a rebrand on its social media platforms, which launched April 30 by saying dating needs a “wake-up call,” and featuring historic images of women “exhausted from the dating scene.”
  • However, pictures of some of Bumble’s new billboards went viral on social media due to their suggestion that celibacy isn’t the answer to dating; the ads, which feature images of women, include messaging like “Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun,” and “You know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer.”
  • A Sunday Instagram post from Bumble celebrating Mother’s Day was flooded with comments from users encouraging women to “stay celibate,” while others declared they will delete their Bumble accounts because the company’s “main interest is not women, but the patriarchy.”
  • Some social media users feel like Bumble’s new anti-celibacy campaign is “counterintuitive to its origin story,” which was a dating app “where women set the tone,” and can find romantic relationships or new platonic friends.
  • One TikTok creator—whose viral video has almost 450,000 views—said Bumble is “delegitimising our celibacy because you want males to have more access to our bodies,” captioning the video “4B 4LLLLLL,” a reference to the Korean feminist 4B movement, which is the refusal of childbirth, heterosexual marriage, dating and heterosexual sexual relationships.
  • Bumble told Forbes Monday it included the celibacy ads “as a response to the frustrations of dating,” but it’s in the process of removing the ads due to the concerns it’s received from customers.
Crucial Quote

“We have heard the concerns shared about the ad’s language and understand that rather than highlighting a current sentiment towards dating, it may have had a negative impact on some of our community,” Bumble told Forbes. “This was not our intention and we are in the process of removing it from our marketing campaign, and will continue to listen to the feedback from our members.”

Key Background

Bumble was released in December 2014, and received over 100,000 downloads within its first month, according to Forbes’ reporting. It set itself apart from other dating apps because it relied on women making the first move and sending the first message after a match.

The point of this was to “feel more polite and walled-off” than other dating apps like Tinder—which is infamously known for its hookup culture.

However, as a part of Bumble’s rebrand, the company launched the “Opening Moves” feature in April, which lets women put questions on their dating profiles, allowing men to send the first message after a match. Whitney Wolfe Herd—Bumble’s co-founder and former CEOtold The New York Times the new feature was introduced after receiving feedback from women who felt like sending the first message was a burden.

Related

Tangent

The rise of celibacy among women has grown in recent years. Though it’s popular among religious groups, many young women have said they’re not celibate because of religion, but instead to reevaluate their relationships with men. Actress Julia Fox even weighed in on the celibacy conversation, commenting “2.5 years of celibacy and never better tbh” on a viral TikTok video that featured pictures of Bumble’s celibacy ads.

Big Number

4 million. That’s how many paying users Bumble had in 2023, according to a February announcement. Its app revenue increased by 22% to $884.8 million last year.

Forbes Valuation

Forbes estimates Wolfe Herd’s net worth at $400 million.

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