Girls-Only Lulu App Wants You To Think It’s Feminist

It was the great Louis C.K. who recently asked, “How do women still go out with guys, when you consider the fact that there is no greater threat to women than men?” A hyperbolic statement to be sure (the greatest threat is actually heart disease), but he makes a fair point: the rise of violent “revenge porn” and Internet anonymity have made an entire generation of women more vulnerable to unwanted attention than ever before. That’s what a female economics student had in mind when she developed Lulu, an app which allows its female-only users to rate and assign men a score based on a multiple choice quiz.

The process is very cloak-and-dagger: Lulu assures you that it will “NEVER post to Facebook” on your behalf, though it seems to have access to so much of your personal information that such reassurance seems superfluous, considering the privacy you’re already giving up. Locate the guy you’re looking to rate, and the experience becomes some sort of like a warped crossover between Yelp and Twitter. Daniel Stern, a Northwestern sophomore and my friend, asked me to download the app so he could see the hashtag-based evaluations and numerical rankings that girls had evidently been assigning him.

“In some ways, it’s cool – it’s nice to know what girls are thinking about me,” he said when I asked him how the rankings made him feel (he’s got a good average score, an 8.4). “But a lot of it is just subjective, and it’s scary that others could be judging me for something that is mostly out of my control.”

In fact, the app is a tornado of biased subjectivity, starting with with the concept of the app as a girls-only club where the wronged get the chance to lash out against those who did the wronging. Allowing girls a space to commit the same kind of passive social crimes committed by decades of hollering men in lawn chairs isn’t even footing, it’s the problem mirrored back on itself. “I guess it’s empowering women, which is good,” continued Stern. “But on the other hand, if men had an app like this for women, it would be a huge controversy. I think the point of feminism is equality, and the app doesn’t necessarily promote that.”

Plus, hello, this is 2013 — most of us have grasped by now that people don’t fit snugly into traditionally heterosexual male and female boxes, they never have and they never will. Giving a straight girl the chance to scroll through old hookups on her iPhone is social reduction under the guise of universality; that notion of “we’re all fighting the same battle.”

Need another example? The choices of “good” and “bad” hashtags range from goofy to just plain sexist. Highlight a guy’s best qualities with gems such as #PlaysHouse, #AlwaysPays and (my personal favorite) #MrDarcy, or condemn him to a bad rating with #NotTheSharpestKnife or #CheaperThanABigMac. How is this any better than gossipping boys admiring a girl’s ass? It isn’t. It’s sneakier, in that it’s wrapped up in a velvet bow of female “solidarity.”

With the arrival of the 21st century Burn Book, it appears that some of us could do with a second (okay, fifteenth) viewing of Tina Fey’s timeless classic: “Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. Ruining someone’s life won’t make yours any better.” The only thing that we can try to do is to solve the problem in front of us, but when the problem is the alluring pull of technology, it’s going to become harder and harder for us to resist.

[image via]



7 Comments

  • Sandra Miller
    December 3, 2013

    No one said Lulu was feminist. An app only girls can access doesn’t empower anyone, it’s just selective membership. Would you call a sorority empowering? (Think that through before you answer it…)
    You’re inciting a non-existent claim (that Lulu is feminist) and then affirming that the claim is false. You can’t insert sexism and feminism into every situation that remotely restricts a gender, especially something as trivial as an app.

  • Maegan Vazquez
    December 3, 2013

    Just because your one source, your friend, suggests that the app’s goal is to make you think it is feminist doesn’t mean you have enough content for an argument. You’re right–it’s extremely biased and extremely sexist and plays off of heteronormative stereotypes. But to base your entire article off of one person? C’mon girl. That’s one heck of a claim.

  • Helen Holmes
    December 3, 2013

    I wanted to use my friend’s comment to reflect the general myth surrounding the app and popular misconceptions about feminism — that it’s a “feminist” move to flip the scrip back on guys and do unto them as they have done unto us; that it’s “feminist” to bash on all men. Many women might be using the app thinking they’re asserting their feminine might, when really they’re playing right back into the same type of objectification that oppressed them in the first place.

  • Ken Jones
    December 3, 2013

    Ladies the part that all should be concerned with is the taking of someone’s profile unbeknownst to them and posting anonymous comments about them that may/may not be true and barring that person from even seeing them or defending themselves. This is a form of cyber bullying that nobody should accept as harmless fun. Again it violates Facebook’s policy and can’t understand why Facebook has allowed this to continue for almost a year now.

  • Carolyn Christman
    December 3, 2013

    Whoever thinks that feminism is about bashing men clearly doesn’t understand the focus of the movement. This app is in no way feminist, it’s a physical manifestation of petty gossip that isn’t acceptable regardless of gender. If this were a space used to discuss men or women who displayed abusive tendencies in relationships or something with equal weight I might find it acceptable. But the fact that it is classifying men by dumb, ambiguous hashtags shows the lack of purpose in the whole thing. We should all just grow up.

  • Gail Swanson
    December 3, 2013

    Not sure how women can justify using friends profiles against Facebook policies and making comments, judgments about them then not allowing them access to see or defend themselves. Sounds like cyber bullying in the name of female empowerment. Also not a nice way to treat a friend. Seems sort of like a bathroom wall mentality.

  • Tyler Coe
    December 31, 2013

    I agree that the faux-feminist pitch of this app is disgusting. I’ve written my own article on Lulu, in which I raise several of the points addressed here in addition to some others: http://babyblackwidows.blogspot.com/2013/12/lulu-crashing-your-shares-of-love.html

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