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40kpd dating app: how an obsession with “money” overtook “class”

2015 February 20
by Zoe Strimpel
"Validated": this man £60k.

“Validated”: this man earns £60k.

Academia does not generally have a laxative effect on writing. Conscious that I have not written anything glibly flowing and (naturally) concise for ages, I am worried that I am becoming constipated by a dawning awareness/fear of the millions of things already written about every thought I have. A chorus of scholars in my head now suggests thousands of different ways to evaluate/contextualise/frame any given topic, sentiment, observation, urge to write. Sentences are now perilous. Thoughts are heretic if they bear close resemblance to unsupported claims.

Still, can’t let that sort of thing slow one down. The GOOD thing about my PhD about history of modern courtship is that it’s putting all sorts of absolute treasures my way. As I slowly work my way through the likes of City Limits, Singles and newspapers of the 1970s, I pay close attention to class and gender. Naturally, when you go back to its newspapers, the past seems hilariously other. On a basic level there’s ratio of print to pictures, the shite quality of the pictures when they did appear, and the utter minuteness of the print. More substantially, terrible gender stereotypes are unabashedly present in all discussions of success, career, sex, marriage, dating, money. For example, a very typical piece in Singles Magazine, the mag put out by Dateline, the computer dating business, runs thus: “This is the sad story of a middle aged divorcee who is desperately lonely: Unwanted women understanding men”. A profile of pop singer Lynsey De Paul is headlined: “Even gorgeous and talented girls can be lonely”. Numerous stories talk of gold digging women; women themselves talk about using male money to get ahead/live well. Classified ads routinely begin with “male company director, owner of Jaguar, educated, seeks similar”. Money, education and class – these things are not considered embarrassing criteria for a mate in 1977. They are spelled out with hilarious clarity.

But here’s the thing. Nothing has changed. If anything it’s got worse. The mediated dating scene still relies on masculinist, classist (although it’s not really class anymore, but rather some ersatz amalgam of branded education and salary – sorry scholars, bit of a wild unsupported claim that I nonetheless stand by) branding. It’s so blatant it’s embarrassing but what is extraordinary is that even though the product is a mobile app responding to Tinder, it feels more 1970s than the 2015.

Behold 40kpd: an app where men have to earn 40k per year minimum but women don’t have any salary required. It may be that women want men to support them or pay their way. I think it’s that men still want to be richer than women. Just like they have to be older, taller, stronger and in front. For instance, in a new Lovestruck ad on the Tube showing a couple laughingly cycling, man firmly in front. I asked Simon if he could imagine the woman being in front in the picture and he said no. Nor could I. The nature of the past, and of past-ness, begs fascinating questions. Change and continuinty and even regression are so co-embedded that despite such seemingly enormous changes in form as provided by the rise of digital and mobile, function appears to have been fossilised. We are different and we are the same. In fact we’re older than we used to be – the wording and tone of a 40kpd type of service ventriloquises the matrimonial ads of the 1870s more than it does the 1970s.

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