The Bumble Survey Is Not Proof Indian Women Are Free.

The Survey by Bumble that claims that 81% of Indian women would choose to be single and independent fails to acknowledge its privilege. It surveys less than a microscopic percentage of the population that is in no way a microcosm for anything except privilege.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

If you have been paying attention to the blogosphere you may have noticed a surge of articles about a Bumble survey that claims 81% of Indian women are consciously single, claiming that they prefer to be alone and independent. The survey has been covered by Vogue, Women’s Web, Wion and YourStory among many others. It is heartening to see women rejecting the reality of a marriage market that has favoured men for generations but there is some data that is conspicuously absent in most of the coverage.

81% of what?

Bumble boasts 40 lakh users in India, as a section of the population, that is 0.28% of the Indian population, of this section 36% of users are allegedly women, and of these women a minuscule segment have been polled. Aside from considering the numbers at face-value, let’s also think about the demographics of these users. Dating apps are largely used in big cities, with the bulk of their users coming from metropolitan areas. These users also tend to be English-speakers, which is a mere 10% of the Indian population and indicative of sociological experience that contains some level of exposure to education. It is not solely the sample size that is relevant to drawing conclusions about statistical results, it is also vital that we analyse the people who make up the sample. And this sample, with its conclusion that 81% of women choose liberty, is based on polling by a dating app used by less than 0.3% of the population, most of which is comprised of the most privileged sections of society.

That says a lot more about Indian feminism than the results.

India is a land of two feminisms. It is the land where Instagram pages are filled with heartwarming celebrations of a baby born to a transgender couple and Twitter pages are filled with accusations that women who get into “live-in” relationships before marriage are bound to end up murdered by their partners. It is a country where we exalt women as goddesses but 81% of men surveyed by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in Karnataka report that it is justifiable for husbands to beat wives in certain circumstances. It is a country where my friends, who on Reddit, write threads about sexual liberation, are forced by their husbands to wear leggings that clearly demonstrate that they are wearing underwear underneath lest strange men get the wrong idea. It is the country where groundbreaking standup comedians talk about their exploits on dating apps in public and the country where women are expelled from the marriage market and cyber bullied for posting a picture of their face on social media. It is the country where liquored up suburban intellectuals ask me, “But what about men’s rights?” but also the country where less than 30% of rape cases lead to conviction of the 30% that are reported in the first place. It is the country where on the same day one woman asks me how to get her company to pay her more while another asks if there are any medicines she can give to her husband to get him to stop raping her. It is the country where only slightly over 1% of marriages end in divorce but every single neighbourhood aunty you meet in Delhi will tell you the careers of modern working Indian women (19% labour force participation, by the way) are destroying marriage as an institution.

India is not the country where 81% of women have the option to choose independence or singledom.

Aside from the fact that this Bumble survey is heavily-skewed in the favour of the progressive, English-speaking, privileged section of society, it is also important to note the details of this choice. Most Indian women do not enjoy digital freedom. In urban areas only 33% of women have *ever* accessed the internet and in rural areas this number is 25%. Even outside of numbers, the online activities of women are far more controlled and policed than that of men, implying the majority of Indian women would never make it to a dating app, let alone date to goal of remaining single using one. It is also important to study the nature of this claim. The choice is in the form of an expression of desire, 81% of women want to be independent and single, but the question that is not being asked is: Do they really have the option to do this?

One of the peculiarities of internet usage in India, especially for the youth, is that the sections of the internet used by us, the ones where we are our “real” selves still exist outside the purview of our families. The Indian family unit is the bedrock of cultural enforcement in India. It is not a judge who will come into your house to ensure you marry at the right time and within your caste, your family will do that. There are many Indian women for whom the internet is an outlet of freedom away from the eyes of family but that does not mean we are exempt from the conditions placed on us by that family.

In my early years of writing about liberal ideas of female sexual liberation, I did it under a pseudonym and most of my audience was not Indian, once I started to write things more openly under my real name, the backlash from culturally sensitive enforcers was swift and dismissive. As a result only of my privilege, it wasn’t particularly violent. In an era where the internet is where you go to be seen, it is also in India, a space where women go to hide, and considering this factor when we celebrate a statistic is important because when we don’t, we pretend things are much better than they are, and while they are better for a segment of society, for most of it, it is not. The elite should not have the loudest voice.

Because, you think 81% of Indian women have the freedom not to marry? There are 30000 weddings that take place in India every day, where are these women who aren’t getting married? They exist but they are a very small percentage of the population and when you pretend like that’s not the case you dismiss not only the immense struggle that exists for them to make this choice, but also, and perhaps most importantly, you wish away the societal constraints that plague the majority of Indian women. Feminism in India is not yet about the freedom of singledom, I would love for it be to, but the struggles of the remaining 99.7% of the population need to be more relevant.

India is the land of two feminisms.

And the louder, more articulate feminism is drowning out the majority.

One thought on “The Bumble Survey Is Not Proof Indian Women Are Free.

  1. Posts like this that are backed up with solid data are like a well deserved kick in the teeth to the propoganda machine that pushes false narratives. Excellent piece of journalistic brilliance!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: