JDate and the pitfalls of Jewish, feminist online dating
Just last week, your grandmother was at Dr. Finklestein's office for her regular teeth cleaning and Sarah, the dental hygenist, told her all about her nephew who just met the nicest Jewish girl on JDate. Can you believe it? JDate! You know, you should really try JDate. You're not getting any younger, you know.
Enter the modern-day Jewish fairytale: Nice Jewish boy meets nice Jewish girl on JDate. They have a beautiful Jewish wedding, a couple beautiful Jewish babies and live happily ever after. And now that JDate is going mobile, we can carry the fable around in our pockets.
Well, take it from someone with more online dating experience than she is comfortable admitting, JDate is not the magical matchmaking entity it appears to be in these contemporary fables. In fact, there are quite a few pitfalls of JDating that your grandmother probably doesn't know about. I know this because I am a JDater and I feel like the time has come to add a more realistic voice to burgeoning myth.
One of the biggest draws to dating Jewish (besides the pressure to make your parents happy) is that Jewish people are thought to have similar values, which is generally thought to mean that dating, marriage and child-rearing will be easier. And while there is some truth to the idea that there are some commonly held Jewish values (Tikun Olam, education, etc), others are not always a given. Like feminism, for example.
As more and more of us are using dating websites, more and more of us are being honest about using dating websites, and that has led to some interesting conversation. In the feminist blogosphere, there has been lots of discussion about the challenges of dating as a feminist. Jaclyn Friedman's interview with Amanda Hess seemed to be the catalyst that got everyone talking. Most of the conversation centers around heterosexual dating (though I would love to hear some thoughts on the subject from a non-hetero perspective) and the general consensus seems to be that it can be difficult to bring the "f word" to the table.
A few weeks ago I was having a lovely instant message conversation about values with a guy I met on JDate. We were excited to find that we did share quite a few values and seemed to be on the same page about many things.
Then he asked me if I wanted children, to which I replied, "Eventually."
"Eventually? Like when?"
"Once I've established my career."
"Would you work once you have kids?"
"Yes. I might try to work part time when they are young, but I do plan to work."
I figured this would be the right time to say the four magic words and see if I could make him disappear. "I am a feminist."
It only took a minute or so of awkward cyber-silence for him to excuse himself and close the chat window. (How much sooner would he have left if I had said that I did not want kids?) I have learned that just because someone is on JDate does not mean they are going to share my values, especially as a Jewish feminist.
Another pitfall of JDate is the dirty truth that not all users are "nice Jewish girls and boys." First of all, just because someone is on JDate does not mean they are necessarily Jewish. But just like any other dating site, JDate has its fair share of weirdos and perverts, which speaks to a point I made earlier about the misconception that all Jews are good or trustworthy. Just because Jewish grandmas love JDate doesn't mean its users are on their best bubbe behavior. I've come across stalkers, flashers and fetishizers. (Even fairytales have trolls.) I'm not saying everyone on JDate is a creep, but it would be foolish to assume that JDate would be safer or more wholesome than any other dating site.
Now, I don't mean to be too down on JDate. As your mother, grandmother, aunts, and dental hygenists have told you, there are quite a few success stories. At this point, many of us know a friend, or a friend of a friend, who met their bashert on JDate. I'm not trying to kill the dream, but perhaps remind everyone that JDate is not a magical matchmaker. It's an online dating site like any other, populated by regular people and all their flaws. You may very well meet your future wife or husband there, but you will probably have to wade through quite a few schmucks to get there.
As for me, I try to maintain a realistic optimism. After all, there ARE feminist Jewish men out there. Last week I met one on JDate.