I grew up in Muncie, Indiana – a small town somewhere in the middle of the country – which in many ways fits the Midwest stereotype that may be coming to mind.
Indiana is a red state, where traditional gender roles are readily on display and often celebrated. It’s a state influenced by manufacturing, farming and a slower pace of life. I was lucky to have a mom who made me and my sister aware that our path as women wasn’t as narrow as what we saw every day.
My mom, Marge, is from Seneca Falls, NY, the birthplace of women’s rights, and she was able, despite the influences of our geographical location, to raise a couple of outspoken women. Her influence taught me to treasure and practise an empowered female voice, something that often felt rare.
And today, it’s this voice of confident women that has the biggest impact on how I think, work and love. I’m empowered by the strength of this voice, its recent growth and, most importantly, how this collective voice of women all over the world is leading to real change.
From the Ohio Girl Scout troop that petitioned for free feminine products in their school to Deja Foxx (pictured, above), who fought for sex education after seeing how an abstinence-based curriculum at the time put lower-income women at an even greater disadvantage, the female voice is coming to the forefront.
I see this every day at OkCupid, where I’m the global chief marketing officer. Let me point out a few cool examples.
- Women increasingly want to know a potential match’s opinions on political issues before they even connect. And they can on OkCupid, which I’m proud to note is one of the only dating apps with political filters. Want to filter out someone who doesn’t vote? No problem. How about using a pro-choice filter? OkCupid has that, too. Our data shows that we’re in an unprecedented moment of how much these things matter.
- Gone are the days of glorified "duckface" selfies. Instead, daters are posting pics reflecting real substance and important moments in time. (Check out daters on OkCupid who have only a few photos to post, and how many have shared an image voting, or at a protest or canvassing.)
- We’ve seen a massive outpouring of support for our no-tolerance policy on bad behaviour. Offensive messages, rude comments – do that shit elsewhere, because it’s not OK here. Well, actually, don’t do that shit at all.
You can’t open Instagam or Twitter without witnessing a growing demand for more. More representation. More opportunities. More accountability. Victoria’s Secret has been on the end of the punishing effect of refusing to reflect real women in its campaigns. And, on the flipside, I love the fact that I can now say it’s commonplace to see a beauty brand run marketing featuring women who represent all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, backgrounds and beliefs.
At OkCupid, we have this cool opportunity to reflect back what people care about – from politics to gender roles to their preferred pizza toppings – and celebrate it as a part of their story. We then use their story to find them people who might be a great partner for them, and we’re one of the leaders in the dating app industry because of this.
I feel so fortunate to be able to see this growing and uniting of the female voice, something that my mother and other brave women of her generation, and beyond, helped foster. We still have a long way to go. But this collective voice is getting louder and louder – and that motivates me every day.
Melissa Hobley is global chief marketing officer at OkCupid, New York