Earlier this month, David Cameron visited Shoreditch to mark the anniversary of his Tech City initiative, which seeks to turn east London into the digital capital of Europe. The Prime Minister met with several new online companies, amongst which was Luluvise, the new women-only networking site.
The site aims to recreate the online experience of private chats with your girlfriends. Already alarm bells are ringing. If men were doing this everyone would assume it was a hotbed for misogyny: a landscape of tits and arse and toilet humour.
However because it is a site for women, nobody has raised the issue of sexism. Somewhere for the fairer sex to gossip and compare dating experiences seems harmless, you might argue, if not rather 1950s housewife in the 21st century.
The main problem, though, is that Luluvise is not a completely private platform. The hair-tearingly sexist part is that you can review dates you go on, where the “final scores are public”, and contribute to Luluvise’s “database of dudes”. Oh, please.
Firstly: imagine if men were rating women in this way. A database of babes would have everyone from the Daily Mail to radical feminists chomping at the bit, and rightly so. What makes this any different? A couple of women get to dictate a man’s online record. What’s to stop one girl getting her friends to write some fake reviews supporting her opinion? What if a potential employer decides to check Luluvise, as so many check Facebook and Twitter, to get a sense of job applicants?
Secondly: Supposing the date goes well, why on earth would anybody want to go on public record saying how great the man is? Surely, they will want to keep the details to themselves, thanks very much. Thus, Luluvise may be privately used to chat about amazing dates, but its public manifestation will become a one-sided slanging match, aka defamation with no right to reply on the man’s part.
Apparently, just your friends get the gory details, such as whether or not your date was a ‘tight-wad’ (shock horror). Who are these friends, though? Lulivise say you can choose exactly who sees your messages, but consider the social networking sites that exist already… are our online friends all close confidantes that we would trust not to spread rumours and pass on information? Do you want a public written record of things said in anger? We have text messages and private Facebook messages for that reason.
Although, judging by the fact Luluvise allows you to upload texts to its site, nothing is sacred anymore. Naturally, one could argue that Luluvise is just a platform for pre-existent behaviours: we show friends texts from men, and discuss them. Commodifying this seems pretty mercenary though, it implies women have nothing better to do than sit around, pretending to work whilst gossiping and analyzing men all day long.
Yes, in theory, the ratings system could save other women from future grief. That said, domestic violence, both emotional and physical, is a matter for the police. On the other hand, a bad relationship break up is a matter for close friends, who you can group call on Skype, or, I don’t know, actually see in real life. None of those scenarios necessitate doling out personal information online.
In an age when we are supposed to be moving towards absolute equality (sometimes overly so, unisex toilets, anyone?) it is depressing to see modern technology being used to divide, rather than unite. It’s only a matter of time before a men-only social networking site springs up, and if they also get the $1 million in funding from various investors that Luluvise has managed, will people start to take more of an interest in social network segregation?