Tinder had a rough Tuesday. Being the subject of some of the most horrendous sexual harassment and sexual discrimination allegations in recent history can really wear on employee morale. So, stalwart CEO Sean Rad sent out an internal memo to employees—which naturally leaked late Tuesday—to let them know that everything is going to be okay.
I know it’s been a difficult 24 hours for all of us…
I’ve learned a lot through this process and I wish I had done more in terms of managing what was clearly a complex situation. The communications between Justin and Whitney that have come to my attention through this process are just unacceptable. However, as many of you know, Whitney’s legal complaint is full of factual inaccuracies and omissions. We did not discriminate against Whitney because of her age or gender, and her complaint paints an inaccurate picture of my actions and what went on here. We take gender equality very seriously and none of this reflects the Tinder and culture that we have worked so hard to create.
I truly appreciate your dedication.
Founder & CEO, Tinder
Clearly. Clearly a complex situation. Because when one of your co-founders is aggressively harassing your other co-founder, calling her a “whore” and “slut” in front of other team members, and freaking out on her on the street to the point where a neighbor from the apartment building nextdoor feels the need to intervene, WHAT’RE YA GONNA DO, AMIRITE?
Unsurprisingly, Tinder is not responding to requests for comment, but the memo sheds some light on how the company is approaching the suit. Sure, Marketing VP Whitney Wolfe was pretty atrociously harassed and emotionally abused by CMO Justin Mateen, but she was not discriminated against because she was a woman.
This is important because the court documents show quite clearly that at some point in the company’s early history, Wolfe was considered a co-founder. The docs even include a copy of a text message from Sean Rad explicitly telling Wolfe that she is a co-founder--even acknowledging that her name was left out of one publication as a co-founder while including VP of Product Jon Badeen and then-head of design Chris Gulczynski as co-founders "because they're emotional." (I love the "are you too?" bit. Bitches be crazy!) There are also business cards and media articles referring to Wolfe as a co-founder.
Later on, Wolfe clearly had her co-founder status stripped from her. She alleges that Sean Rad and Justin Mateen claimed that it was because having a young, female co-founder made the company look “like a joke,” and that Facebook and Snapchat didn’t have female co-founders, so having one on Tinder’s team would make Tinder look like “it was an accident.”
But it’s clear from Rad’s memo that the company is going to take the position that Wolfe was not stripped of her co-founder status and subsequently fired without severance pay because of her gender, but because of her performance. Because meritocracy. And passion. And wakka wakka wakka…
The thing is, in light of the lawsuit, Tinder finally makes sense. NOW it’s clear why the app managed to draw a solid female user base—it’s because there was a woman behind the curtain the whole time.
One of the biggest hurdles that dating apps inevitably fail at jumping is the fact that dating apps are almost always awful for female users. It’s a bunch of skeezy dudes and gross pick-up lines. So inevitably, the dating platform ends up being overrun with men, with just a handful of female users.
Wolfe was out pushing the app to sororities and women’s publications like Elle, Marie Claire, and Harpers. She was invaluable in that role—but of course, when the startup wanted to be taken seriously, that’s when she was strategically excised from the company’s success story (she alleges).
Image source: flickr