Former Tinder Exec Files a Bombshell Sexual Harassment Suit

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July 1 2014 11:08 AM

Former Tinder Exec Files a Bombshell Sexual Harassment Suit

488317745-tinders-justin-mateen-attends-varietys-spring-2014
Tinder's chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, stands accused of all sorts of gobsmacking sexist behavior.

Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Variety

The annals of virulent tech-world misogyny have a new chapter this week, thanks to everybody’s favorite hookup app, Tinder. Whitney Wolfe, the company’s former vice president of marketing, filed a sexual harassment and discrimination suit against her former employer on Monday, and it’s a stunner. “Tinder’s Chief Marketing Officer Justin Mateen repeatedly called Ms. Wolfe a ‘whore,’ including in front of CEO Sean Rad, and he told Ms. Wolfe that he was taking away her 'Co-Founder' title because having a young female co-founder makes the company seem like a ‘joke’ and ‘devalues’ the company,” the complaint alleges. And all that’s just in the first paragraph! (Check out the complaint here.) 

Jordan Weissmann Jordan Weissmann

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

Valleywag’s Sam Biddle has already excerpted some choice bits of sexism, racism, and apparent sociopathy from the suit. But the story seems to have two major threads. First, there’s a romance gone horribly wrong. According to the suit, Wolfe began dating Mateen after he joined the company as her boss. But once their relationship soured, Mateen (allegedly) became jealous and sexually controlling, and picked up a habit of spewing sexist vitriol at her in public, all while Rad sat by and watched. This instance from the complaint is illustrative:

At a company party in Malibu on April 6, 2014, Ms. Wolfe noticed that Mr. Mateen was unwilling to say “hello” to her, while he eagerly greeted Ms. Wolfe’s friend, Kate Wilson, who accompanied her to the event. When she eventually asked him what was wrong, Mr. Mateen responded: “You’re a whore.” He accused her of being with a boy and insisted he knew all about what her “disgusting self had been up to.” He said this in front of Mr. Rad. He went on call her “a gold digger,” and “a disease” and “disgusting.” As Ms. Wolfe began to head toward the exit, she was accosted by Mr. Rad’s guest at the party who spat in her face. This was witnessed by Ms. Wilson. Mr. Mateen went on to ask Ms. Wilson if it were true, referring to Ms. Wolfe and her possible involvement with another man. Mr. Mateen’s younger brother repeatedly accused Ms. Wolfe of not being “a good girl.”
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The suit also contains a whole bunch of abusive text messages Mateen allegedly sent to Wolfe, including one in which he accuses her of trying to “social climb with middle age Muslim pigs.”

Aside from the emotional violence, Wolfe alleges she was stripped of her status as a company co-founder explicitly because of her gender. First, she was kept out of the media.

When Tinder-related articles appeared in more traditional business outlets, Wolfe’s name was often nowhere to be seen. When she would ask why only her name of the five founders was absent they would tell her “you’re a girl.” They stated that they couldn’t include her name in the business press, because it “makes the company look like it was an accident.” According to Mr. Mateen “a girl founder,” who at the time was 24, devalued the company.

Then she was demoted officially.  

[I]n early November of 2013, Mr. Mateen and Mr. Rad informed Ms. Wolfe that they were removing her “co-founder” designation. Mr. Mateen told Ms. Wolfe that the reason she could no longer hold herself out as a co-founder was that she was a 24-year-old “girl” with little experience. Once again he said that holding her out as a co-founder “makes the company look like a joke” and “devalues the company.” Mr. Mateen tried to justify the situation by saying “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders, it just makes it look like Tinder was some accident.” Further, as Mr. Rad informed Ms. Wolfe, IAC would not let her be publicly recognized as a co-founder.

According to the suit, Wolfe resigned after the night Mateen called her a “whore” at the company party.

A spokesman for media conglomerate IAC, which owns a majority stake in Tinder, told Reuters that Mateen had been suspended “pending an ongoing internal investigation.” However, they said the company believed “that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.” Surely that will comfort all of Tinder's female users.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

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