Priyanka Chopra's dating app Bumble

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “bumble” as “move or act in an awkward or confused manner”, “speak in a confused or indistinct way” and “buzz or hum”. Some of the synonyms are blunder, shamble, muddle, mumble, stumble, and mutter.

29 year-old Whitney Wolfe, the founder of Bumble, a dating and social networking app, explained in an interview with Esquire how a board member suggested the name and they locked in on that. “There’s a queen bee, the woman is in charge, and it’s a really respectful community. It’s all about the queen bee and everyone working together,” she said.

With Priyanka Chopra investing in and endorsing it in television commercials with Lizzo’s song Good As Hell in the background, which goes like: “I do my hair toss, check my nails, baby how you feelin’? Feeling good as hell”, Bumble could be any girl’s dream.

Touting it as an app for the 21st century woman, in several interviews Chopra has said it puts the power back in the hands of women and allows them to choose who they want to date (Bumble Date), be friends with (Bumble BFF), and network for businesses with (Bumble Bizz), for which I am reserving my comments until the pool increases since not many people use it and the few who do say it hasn’t worked for them “yet”.

To be clear, Bumble is pretty much like Tinder where you swipe right on the people you are interested in and left on those you’re not. Only that once a woman and a man match, the man cannot message the woman unless she does so first herself because of which the app has popularly been labelled the “feminist Tinder”.

Touting it as an app for the 21st century woman, in several interviews Chopra has said it puts the power back in the hands of women and allows them to choose who they want to date (Bumble Date), be friends with (Bumble BFF), and network for businesses with (Bumble Bizz).

28 year-old Mallika Kaur, an Entrepreneurial Lead in Mumbai, who has been using Bumble for 10 months says, “It helps remove the social stigma that is associated with women making the ‘first move’. Women have no choice but to make the first move so they don’t have to feel ‘guilty’ or ‘too forward’ about it or ‘loose’,” responding to the recent controversy surrounding Bumble’s ad campaign #EqualNotLoose. However, she also noted that the “quality of men” was better when the app was available on just iOS. “After it opened to Android users, the quantity of people increased and the quality dropped. It’s become like Tinder now,” she says.

But for 35 year-old Kalpana Nair, a media professional in Mumbai, Bumble has been a breath of fresh air. She likes the fact that the app allows the user to answer a bunch of interesting questions that can be used to start conversations.

“Bumble is not geared towards romance as Tinder is. Bumble is geared towards casual dating, which is a concept that hasn’t really evolved in India. It’s more chill. It helps me find interesting people I can have great conversations with versus judging a person to see if he is boyfriend/husband material. Plus I haven’t had as many stupid conversations with matches on Bumble as I’ve had with those on Tinder!”

While Bumble Date might be championing liberal thought-processes, Bumble BFF is far less democratic. It allows women to be friends only with other women and men with other men. Reminds me of Mohnish Behl’s infamous quote from Maine Pyar Kiya (1989): Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte.

Krithika Krishnamurthy, a former journalist from Bangalore, tried to use Bumble BFF and said it felt like going on an awkward date with a girl. “I hate saying no to women ok. Like OMG. It sucks. And then to judge them based on what they look like, where they work. Argh. No,” she says. She uninstalled the app after two right swipes.

When I swiped through Bumble BFF, I found myself being prejudiced against women who were in marketing and IT-related jobs (the app is full of them) and I was more on the hunt for creative people, who were few and far between.

I matched with three women (phew!): two never replied and the third has agreed to meet me for tea next week (yay)! I’m trying to make more BFFs but Bumble keeps telling me, “Look at you! You’ve gone through all the bees in your area. Widen your ‘settings’ or check back soon.” According to my settings, I’m open to meeting people who live as far as 80 kms from me and I live in Indiranagar – one of the most hip/cool/urban and full-of-young-people neighbourhoods in Bangalore. Basically, the Bandra of Mumbai.

Bumble also does not have an option for third gender persons to be on the app. One can either be male or female. This lack of inclusivity is rather hypocritical considering how Priyanka Chopra has openly supported the LGBTQIA community. I mean, even my 107 year-old convent girls-only college added ‘third gender’ as an option on their application form a few years ago.

So far, it looks like the other synonyms for bumble: ‘wobble’, ‘stagger’, ‘muddle’ and ‘stumble’ are the best words to describe the app. But thankfully they haven’t reached ‘blunder’ yet.

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