A few months ago, I called up Tinder co-founder and chief marketing officer Justin Mateen to talk about women. I wanted to figure out how Tinder—birthed by a group of tech dudes and incubated in a startup accelerator—had grown to become the first hookup app to gain widespread acceptance and even excitement among women. “We didn’t look at men and women as different,” Mateen told me. “We looked at humans in general.” Most hetero dating sites, suffering from a surplus of male users, have bent over backward to telegraph their appeal to women. Not Mateen, who wasn’t interested in engaging in a discussion of gender at all. Tinder is “a social discovery platform for facilitating a connection between two people,” he told me. Tinder doesn’t “discriminate against anyone,” he said. It’s not about “male versus female.” It “just allows you to be you.”
Tell that to Whitney Wolfe, Tinder’s former VP of marketing. Wolfe filed a lawsuit on Monday against Tinder and its majority owner, IAC, alleging that Mateen and Tinder’s other executives engaged in “atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination” against her. Wolfe says that they belittled her contributions, boxed her out of her status as Tinder co-founder, subjected her to public and private sexual harassment, ignored her complaints about the abuse, and then fired her.