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The Real Reason Behind Bumble’s Recent Campaign Disaster

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Bumble’s recent ad campaign is a prime example of how not to advertise. The billboard ads, rather than empowering women, seem to belittle those who choose celibacy over casual sex, Netflix’ hangouts,’ or bare minimum behavior. A few of the ads read:


‘Thou shalt not give up on dating and become a nun.’

‘We’ve changed, so you don’t have to.’

There is pouring outrage on TikTok over Bumble’s decision to condemn women for expecting more from men instead of addressing men’s unsatisfactory behavior. The campaign shifts all accountability onto women for their dating struggles and urges them to “face reality” when considering different relationship dynamics.

It inherently invalidates the communal trauma that has affected us at the hands of men disrespecting women to the point where they feel so dehumanized that they’d rather be single, born-again virgins than listen to one more man play ‘devil’s advocate.’ 

Plus, Bumble’s tactic was far from unique. Miranda Priestly would have a field day.

Shaming women? Over their sex lives? Groundbreaking.

Bumble released an official apology on Instagram, stating, “We made a mistake. Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating, and instead of bringing joy and humor, we unintentionally did the opposite.”

Public Opinion: vow of celibacy/thou shalt not become a nun

MJ Gray, a model and online personality, expressed her outrage in a TikTok post that received over 100,000 likes. Capitalistically speaking, she emphasizes the value women hold in a sexual and dating marketplace since women are the products being sold. Dating apps suffer from a woman’s absence.

In other words, we have the power to make or break a company’s success.

Additionally, commenting on an individual’s personal sex life can be disrespectful and hurtful, particularly for those who have experienced sexual trauma. What people choose to do to express their sexuality, lust, affection, or lack thereof warrants zero judgment of any kind. Unfortunately, women often face criticism regardless of their choices in this regard.

Gray also mentions that with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and other nationwide changes to abortion laws, Bumble’s campaign couldn’t be further from the truth.

Choosing to refrain from sex is more profound than rioting against the misogynistic Vineyard Vines lacrosse player, the Quinton Tarantino film major, or that indie guy named River you went out with once who made you pay for your own bar tab because he believes in ‘equal rights for women.’ It’s a matter of weighing out the options available to you in the event you unexpectedly become pregnant. Now, River is the father of your child.

“Celibacy is the answer. Where we’re at now, with the rights being rolled back with everything, celibacy is the answer.”

-MJ Gray, @texasgardenfairyx

Public Opinion: We’ve Changed

Another TikTok user, @kissing_whiskey, elaborates on Bumble’s other billboard ad that hasn’t received quite as much attention. She believes the ad says the quiet part out loud: “We’ve changed so you don’t have to.”

Bumble creator and founder Whitney Wolfe Herd is a woman in the highly ‘male-dominated tech space. When she released her app in Dec. 2014 (after opening a sexual harassment lawsuit against the co-founder of Tinder), she had an edge her competitors didn’t. Women message first

Her goal in this revolutionary differentiation was to regain power in women’s hands. This feature, without question, helped shape online dating culture as we know it today. 

However, Kissing Whiskey, who goes by Kristen, argues that women messaging first is the opposite of empowering. Instead, it’s a red herring. She believes this feature is similar to what a ‘nice guy’ would think women like. 

Although Kristen acknowledges Herd’s experience as a woman, the ‘women-message-first’ feature has morphed into something performative. There’s a specific type of guy who believes he’s doing the ‘right’ feminist thing by using Bumble over other apps. They’re called the ‘good guys,’ ‘incels,’ or Cole Sprouse.

To both Gray and Kristen’s point, the issue Bumble faces is that women determine whether or not the dating app is booming. When women opt out of the game, they need a plan B, hence the rebrand launching Opening Moves

So what’s their move amidst the panic of their rapidly declining women base? Good, old-fashioned women shaming, of course!

Not only did they shame women for deciding to become temporarily celibate, but they also adhered to and rewarded men through the ‘lessly referenced’ billboard about change.

The billboard features a man and woman hugging, and although you can not see any identifiable features on the man, you’re met with a gorgeous brunette’s mid-laughter smile. Her arms are wrapped around his neck, her nails a neat, muted French tip. She is wearing sunglasses. She’s a cool girl who whispers in your ear, “I’ve changed, so you don’t have to.”

“What man would not love to hear that from every single beautiful woman who has ever scorned him? Who has ever told him to fix himself?”

-Kristen, @kissing_whiskey

While men get to perpetuate this delusion fantasy that it’s not at all a problem that they occasionally punch holes in their walls or feel like their inherent value comes from their body count or bench press weight, women are scolded and ridiculed for thinking they could one day have a partner that doesn’t invalidate their emotions and actually makes them finish—every time. Women are punished for loving themselves enough to know they deserve better and not entertaining yet another 2-month situationship that only replied to the very last question in your text and ignored everything else even though it was literally the least important part of the message. 

Women-centered dating apps

TikTok user @oooooat commented under Kristen’s (@kissing_whiskey) video and agreed with her point that women messaging first was not the move Bumble founder Herd thought it was. Instead, the user states, “A dating app for women would be like men completing levels of shadow work to incrementally unlock a finite number of matches, and each man has a public rating system that they can’t see.”

A rating system, only viewable by interested women, could put the infamous Facebook ‘Am I dating your man?’ groups out of business. It would provide an anonymous, safe space for women to look after each other and warn others if a specific user has dangerous or toxic tendencies. 

As women, we all know that our biggest worry isn’t about who messages whom first but rather about whether we can safely make it back to our apartments at the end of the night.

Kristen replied to her comment, saying, “If I invented a dating app for women, it would include a five-star rating system from any ex that he dated for longer than three months and a voice memo with her side of the story as to why they broke up.”

Where do we go from here?

The root cause of Bumble’s failed campaign, the decline in the success of dating apps, and the rising number of single women can be attributed to a common truth: women are no longer willing to tolerate the behavior exhibited by certain individuals.

The 4B Movement, a rebellion against traditional heterosexual relationships, is gaining momentum with every disastrous dating experience shared online. Whenever an incident reminds women that they are considered second-class citizens, social media platforms, particularly TikTok, are inundated with references to the 4B Movement.

Regrettably, men often use these comments as ammunition in a metaphorical battle of pride within themselves. As a heterosexual woman, the thought of not having a long-term romantic partner is incredibly disheartening. However, like many other women, I believe that my life would be more vibrant and fulfilling on my own, rather than with a partner who diminishes and disrespects me.

For now, unless men are willing to set aside their egos and truly listen to what we are saying, it’s just me, my girls, and my dog, Princess. And that’s okay.

Caysea Stone, a proud Orlando native, is a journalism major with a minor in women's studies at the University of Central Florida expected to graduate Fall of 2025. Her dedication to these fields is evident in her academic pursuits and personal interests, which include following a vegan lifestyle and a deep love for yoga, meditation, and feminism. She enjoys dissecting society and culture, from discussing trends to completing in-depth film analysis. Her ability to delve deep into these topics and provide insightful perspectives is a testament to her analytical skills and intellectual curiosity. Her ultimate aspiration is to become a writer for a renowned women's magazine such as Cosmopolitan or Bustle. But beyond this, Stone's true passion lies in empowering and inspiring younger women. She encourages them to prioritize self-kindness and actively work towards overcoming any internalized misogyny they may encounter, a mission that is both admirable and inspiring.