New Lulu app turns men into hashtags

Cultural Cadence

Thanks to the surging popularity of a new social networking app, Lulu, every fact about me can be permanently, digitally attached to my online identity for all to see. So yes, I do wear a burgundy robe sometimes. And yes, my mom does still do my laundry for me whenever I’m home from school. What are you going to do about it? Laugh at me all you want, but I am as snug as a bug in a rug, loving life, in my robe — my cleanly laundered robe at that.

No, in the real world, you might make a slight comment, such as, “You’re a useless Hugh Hefner wannabe,” but that’s about it, and then those spoken words already will be forgotten by the time you’re crying at the feet of your mom while exclaiming that you have so many dirty clothes and that your normal pajamas are a bit harsh to the touch. Lulu, however, goes much further than this.

Lulu was started in April of this year but is now reportedly boasting more than a million users and is gaining widespread attention. It is an app that women can use to anonymously rate guys that they know based on various standards, such as looks, ambitions, manners, etc. It links to your Facebook so that you can easily access the profiles of your friends and consists of a scale from four to 10, as well as the ability to attribute hashtags such as “#TotalF—ingDickhead” to guys.

In other news, there’s also this other app that  dudes go on and check out girls and smack a number on them while boiling down their sexual escapades with said girl into crude hashtags for all their bros to giggle their little socks off at. Oh, wait, no, that sounds so disgusting and immoral. Completely ridiculous, inexcusable, patronizing, sexist. No way does that actually exists. Well, it doesn’t. Yet, Lulu does indeed exist. Looks like we got ourselves a classic Justin Bieber double standard going on. As in, why is it chill for the Biebs to wear drop-crotch leather pants but I can’t?

Plus, it turns men into walking, talking hashtags. Lulu promotes the simplification of the many complexities of an individual into blunt phrases preceded by a “#” symbol. Full sentences and proper English aren’t even needed. A man isn’t charming, sensitive and thoughtful, with various facets within his personality. He is a #MommasBoy or #CheaperThanABigMac. People say men are easy creatures to understand, but come on, give us some credit; we’re not merely “hashtaggable” beings that are so nonchalantly categorized.

Founders of Lulu have claimed that aims of the app are to empower women and to give them a space where they can watch out for one another when it comes to selecting a proper suitor. A recent New York Times article tries hard to highlight these positive impacts from Lulu. It points out that the app is a means for women to support and advise each other in a hookup-ridden world that often leaves women in a powerless position. It serves as a guideline for determining which men are acceptable to pursue and warns women about what they are getting into. According to the article, since the arrival of Lulu, some men have even admitted to changing their behaviors to treat women better in fear of being ridiculed online.

But empowerment shouldn’t come through the ability to publicly humiliate, degrade and expose men in a lip-gloss-smacking, sassy manner. Forbes claims it “has enabled female millennials to think that digital revenge is acceptable … and provided them a sleek platform to slander men.” Women can plaster any harmful phrase they want on the profile of some guy — it doesn’t even have to be accurate — and it has the potential to actually impact the man’s life. It can ruin his reputation, his relationships and even his job. They can say anything without any responsibility, for the ratings are anonymous, after all.

Or perhaps a novel idea would be for women to talk to and get to know the guy first over the course of several dates or exposures before determining whether they want to get more involved — especially sexually. And perhaps this all could be done in real life, rather than virtually. Instead of women relying on online reviews as a source of empowerment, true empowerment could come through women respecting themselves enough not to jump into anything before actually knowing a guy.

Lulu makes it seem like men are the enemy — the disrespectful, belligerent ones who need to be monitored — and leaves women as merely helpless and angelic. But a threat to be malicious against a man if he doesn’t meet a woman’s standards is not a proper motivation for men to act respectfully toward their female counterparts.

If this is meant as a way of “getting back” at men, it is encouraging the same behavior women are apparently trying to “get back” at them for. Instead of taking steps toward empowering women, this is a step backward. Just as it condenses men into numbers and phrases, it also condenses women into gossiping and superficial followers.

We need to have a mass screening of “The Notebook” or something. Lulu is one more step toward reducing romance from dresses and formalities and dates and courtesy and chivalry into something of mere screens and facades. Women like to say chivalry is dead in men, yet Lulu promotes a serious lack of respect toward the men who are expected to be respectful. If women seriously take into account which hashtags are attributed to specific men on this app, there is a possibility of potentially fruitful relationships being prevented simply because some random user slapped a 6.5 on some guys’ profile. Where’s the romance? Where’s the hand-built houses with blue shutters and the porch that wraps all the way around?

Lulu is taking social networking in a dangerous direction. Whereas there are countless cases of emotional distress and cyberbullying due to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Lulu not only encourages such behavior — it’s based on it. If women feel they need to empower themselves, they should put their best foot forward instead of being #objectifying and #meanspirited.

Contact Taran Moriates at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @taranmoriates.