Elitism? There's an app for that
I almost can’t believe I’m actually writing about this. As little as one week ago, if you had told me I’d be putting out over 1,300 words about a dating app, I would’ve called you a liar. But life is weird like that sometimes. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to The League — apologies in advance.
Founder and CEO Amanda Bradford conceived of the app in response to her frustration with more traditional dating apps. After receiving one too many advances from the untouchables, this noble crusader saw fit to forge her own path. She knew she needed a dating app that trimmed the proverbial fat; one that circumvented having to interact with the lowly peasants.
Bradford — as a result of years of soul-searching and introspection — was highly attuned to the fact that the vast majority of folks out there just simply aren’t good enough for her. So, this self-proclaimed “alpha female” put her endless wealth of wisdom, knowledge, and practical skills to good use and created a service that could assist her and her fellow crème de la crème sift through the dregs so as to more easily be able to find one another. Genius!
You can now see where The League get its very dumb name from. It is a play off of the false idea, in dating, some are “too good” for you and others are “not good enough” for you. As far as what those two even mean, your guess is as good as mine. It is my firm conviction that the idea of someone being out of one’s “league” is just another example of capitalism commoditizing EVERYTHING — in this case, relationships. I hesitate to say “romantic relationships” because there is nothing romantic about this. On the contrary! It is sickening.
Now is probably a good time to mention that the app is also not free to anyone. There is a stringent background check in which The League scours your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles (if you don’t happen to have a LinkedIn, you’re out of luck) for proof of “worthy” employment and a post-secondary education at an allegedly-prestigious institution. I guess no one ever told the social darwinists over at The League that — as said by American hero Martin Luther King Jr. — “all labor… has dignity,” and that most people who go to university leave knowing less about how the world works than when they came in.
As you can imagine, very few people make it through this ridiculous vetting process. According to The League’s own numbers, only about 10% of applicants get accepted. Those not accepted are placed on a waiting list that can number hundreds of thousands of profiles long. But don’t fret if this ends up being your fate! If you have $349 to throw around on a stuck-up phone application, you can bypass the wait-list altogether by purchasing a year membership. It’s fitting that the only way to circumvent the arbitrary and cliquish value-judgments of this online community of insufferable yuppies is to have more money than you know what to do with. How nice.
What is perhaps most striking about The League, though, is the candidness with which CEO and founder Amanda Bradford talks about it. In her own words, The League is “a dating app exclusively for good-looking rich kids.” The fact that she allowed those words to leave her mouth without wincing is astounding. There is so much wrongness packed into just those seven words.
For starters, Bradford is seemingly basking in how exclusionary her app is. Weird flex but ok. She also uses the term “good-looking” when any thinking person knows that this does not really exist. Who one happens to find themselves physically attracted to is, of course, a wholly subjective affair. Someone can be so-called “good-looking” to you, but attempting to assign that adjective to someone as a signifier with any sort of objectivity associated with it is completely fallacious.
And, lastly, we get to what is perhaps the worst part of all. Bradford talks about The League excluding those who are not “rich,” as if having means is some sort of inherently positive thing; as if having money is, in and of itself, a virtue. This assertion seems doubly absurd when you consider the tremendous influence of inter-generational wealth. That is, the money that The League members take so much pride in having was probably passed down to them by their rich mommies and daddies. In other words, they didn’t earn it. Indeed, being a trust-fund baby is nothing to be proud of.
If I have not been clear enough up until this point, allow me to do so now: you are not in some sort of upper stratum because you have money and/or have a piece of paper with your name on it framed and hung above your desk at work. Insofar as there is any delineation of value between individuals, it is that of character, and not any of these shallow, material gains. The “power couples” The League seeks to create resemble business transactions far more than they do true love. Love is not about material wealth, so-called “social status,” or phony degrees. Love is about a deep, fulfilling, human connection. Love is the ability to cut through all the noise and look deep into someone’s soul, appreciating them for who they are rather than what they have.
The kind of sick, twisted thinking that undergirds this app directly lends itself to worsening the existing catastrophes of ballooning income inequality and societal stratification. What Bradford clearly intended to be a sort of “cool kids club” begins to look more and more like a version of eugenics upon closer examination. Her yearning desire to create a master race of “aspiring power couples” should certainly cause alarm bells to sound in all of our heads. The standards The League expects people to meet to join their exclusive cult reveals a deep-seated contempt for the working class that, tragically, is all too common in today’s world.
If an app as grotesque as The League is able to exist and operate totally unimpeded, then I am to have no qualms about what I am about to say. Rather than promote a dating culture that only serves to reinforce class hierarchies and backward social stigmas, we should — if anything — be encouraging cross-class relationships in an attempt to deconstruct the very systems of power that hold so many of us down. Partnering the rich and the poor would do wonders for developing solidarity. I would much rather live in a society where that was the norm, rather than the nightmarish hellscape of iron-fisted aristocratic rule The League would like to subject us all to.
The League is a microcosm of just about everything that’s wrong with society. It checks the racism box by requiring users to declare their ethnicity, and by allowing users to filter out “non-whites.” The app checks the elitism box by, well, everything. It also reinforces capitalist conceptions of virtue by caring more about users’ incomes than their character. Workers at The League are made to do research on a given applicant's occupation and educational history but not, for example, whether or not they have a criminal record.
I can’t put all of the blame solely on The League, though. That would not be fair. They are just another party blindly buying in to corporatized conceptions of virtue and success. However, The League can and should be held responsible for perpetuating a thought regime that imprisons so many behind its rusted bars.
Noam Chomsky — voted the world’s most important intellectual — noted that the best predictors of “success” under capitalism are “some combination of greed, cynicism, obsequiousness and subordination, lack of curiosity and independence of mind, self-serving disregard for others, and who knows what else.” Are these characterological flaws worthy of our admiration? Are these things we should be celebrating, are seeking to relegate to the dustbin of history? The League has made their answer very clear.
So, in summation, don’t download this very bad app.
Elias Khoury is the president of the University of Michigan’s YDSA chapter, a member of HVDSA, and an intern at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. You can follow him on Twitter @EliasKhoury00.