By Natalie Duleba
A few weeks ago, a housemate told me about a new smartphone app called Lulu, and we both downloaded it onto our phones.
The concept is relatively simple: sign into your Facebook account to confirm that you are listed as “female” on your account, share your location and start anonymously rating your male Facebook friends. You can also find men from different areas to look at.
You search through men in your area, and you can favorite them as well as rate them. You can rate as a friend, a family member, a crush, a partner, an ex or a hookup.
Depending on what your relationship is to the person you’re rating, you can comment on different aspects of them. No matter what, you rate on appearance, manners, humor, commitment and ambition. If the nature of your relationship has sexual potential, first kiss and sex get added into the mix.
Your answers all boil down into a numerical value on a scale of 1-10, and any user can see a person’s average rating next to their Facebook profile picture on the dashboard screen and then can look at individual reviews and ratings by selecting them specifically.
As I was going through it, those who I rated I did so honestly, with good intentions and in a light-hearted manner. I wanted my guy friends to have high scores because they are good people.
What my housemate I spent the most time laughing about was the positive and negative hashtags you can give to each person you review. Positives include “#OpensDoors,” “#Giving…,” “#WillSeeRomComs” and “#LadiesFirst.” Some negatives are “#AlmostTooPerfect,” “#CheaperThanABigMac.” “#ADD,” “#WearsEdHardy” and “#PlaysDidgeridoo.”
They range from the sexual to funny to rude, but it’s possible to ignore the negatives of the app, especially when there are hashtags like “#CantBuildIkeaFurniture” and “#BurnsCornflakes” as a bad review. I certainly did at the beginning.
I soon grew bored of it, and the more I heard people talking about it (“Have you heard of Lulu? Yeah, I have a good score!”), the more I started to think critically about it and the message it was sending.
Most people seem to think it’s fine, that that’s there’s nothing really wrong with it besides the fact that it may be bordering on creepy. But if a similar app was going around that allowed men to anonymously rate women on their looks and sexual prowess, it wouldn’t be tolerated. It would immediately be called sexist, objectifying and morally wrong.
The thing is, Lulu is no different.
I thought it was funny and wouldn’t really hurt someone. But it’s anonymous, and we all know what anonymity does on the Internet: people get fearless and, more importantly, ruthlessly cruel. Look at any YouTube comment thread and you’ll see proof of it.
Not only that, but the options for rating men are disgusting. For the sex and first kiss sections, the answers that will result in a lower rating are mean and vulgar (“I think about sex with this person when…I don’t want to cum too fast.”).
Not only that, women can submit men problems they have in the “Dear Dude” section, and someone, supposedly a man, replies. Some of the responses are surprisingly supportable, with an attitude of sexual acceptance, honesty and bit of humor thrown in. But every one that I’ve read starts off really well and then ends on a sour note in some way: a stereotype, over-sexualization, aggressive language or a condescending tone.
It’s supposed to be “by women, for women,” but it’s hardly empowering. Yes, there is the initial rush of “I can say what I want to say about this person” in order to benefit other women who may encounter them at a bar, work or somewhere else. But it’s not evening the playing field, so to speak; it’s allowing women to belittle men with no accountability.
That’s not something anyone should be supporting. It’s not something even to be laughed at, as easy as that is given some of the response options (“The first kiss gave me…a lady boner/a mouth-gasm.”).
If you look at Lulu, really look at what the message is behind everything, that a person, in all their complexity, can be reduced to a number, is unacceptable.