A screencap of troublemaking app's website.
The first time I heard about Lulu, I thought it was one of those hyper-feminine apps meant to help women track their menstrual cycles. A few weeks and a New York Times mention later, I finally became curious (and bored) enough to download this secretive iPhone app.
Lulu is the latest in nightclubbish-sounding apps targeted at Sexually Liberated Twenty-Somethings (see also: Tinder, Pure, Grouper, Swoon). Designed by two Canadians—Alexandra Chong and Alison Schwartz—the app's function is simple: Lulu allows women to anonymously rate and review their male Facebook friends based on past personal experience. It gets women to divulge the good, the bad, and the ugly (emphasis on the ugly) about current or former relationships, hookups and encounters, to build a veritable catalogue of penis reviews.
Users are prompted to sign in through their Facebook account, which allows the app to filter out any guys who may be trying to sneak onto the network. All reviews are anonymous, but comments have to be selected from a set of pre-determined, discerning hashtags such as #CleanBathroom, #Manscaped, #LiarLiarPantsOnFire and my personal favourite: #CrayCray.
The app claims it empowers women by providing them with the information they need to make smarter relationship choices. Lulu's Director of Public Relations, Deborah Singer, even went so far as to label the app empowering and "feminist." And while I was highly skeptical of Lulu's apparent role in dismantling the patriarchy, I wanted to dig deeper into the culture that has allowed this voyeuristic, sex-focused platform to gain traction and popularity in Canada.
And so, I bravely decided to commit the ultimate Lulu sacrilege and confront four dudes who were reviewed on this morally questionable "ladies only" network.
Adam, 26 (Montreal)
Lulu rating: 8.4
Number of Reviews: 2
What do you think of Lulu, first off?
I thought the idea of an app like Lulu was pretty ridiculous. It's meant to help women choose their partners more accurately but doesn't seem like a trustworthy source. Its target demographic (students) may find it useful, but I think the most you really get from it is a momentary chuckle from seeing a friend rated with a ridiculous hashtag.
How about the hashtags women have left for you: #DoesDishes, #SleepsInTheWetSpot, #MeanToMyDog?
I'd say "#DoesDishes" and "#SleepsInTheWetSpot" are both pretty accurate [laughs]. I'm proud of those… "#MeanToMyDog"… I don't like animals.
Do you feel violated being on this app without your consent?
If the app was actually effective and allowed women to give ratings that recalled certain actions or scenarios, I would care more. I could care less because right now because it's just these jokey hashtags.
What need do you think this app fulfills for women?
I think it wants to fulfill the same need as speed dating: easier filtering. But what I actually believe is that it fills people's need to gossip behind one another's backs. Let's be honest, the positive reviews aren't the point of the app.
Could it be considered feminist?
Men are still the focus. It's an immature and infantile way at looking at dating and romance. It's college-level shit.
Would you consider downloading the new dude's version of Lulu that allows guys to contribute to their own ratings?
No. I would never feel the need to log in and fight my own corner on an iPhone app I never even consented to be on. I'd literally rather be doing anything else with my time.
Gianni, 23 (Montreal)
Lulu rating: 8.4
Number of reviews: 5
What do you think about Lulu?
I thought the idea behind Lulu was funny and interesting. After I interacted with the app myself, I realized it was less about being judgmental and more about having a good time. The hashtags seem harmless and are pretty non-threatening.
Do you think your ratings (#GrowsHisOwnVegetables, #ObsessedWithHisMom, and #NoEdge) are accurate?
"#GrowsHisOwnVegetables is kind of accurate because I'm an extremely healthy eater. "#ObsessedWithHisMom" is, too, because I'm a self-identified mama's boy. My Facebook profile picture is with my mom.
I don't think "#NoEdge" is particularly fair—just because I have my shit together and am on track and not some bad boy. I'm sorry I'm not some struggling Montreal artist.
Do you feel violated being on this app without your consent?
Not really. My personal information is available online anyways. And I highly doubt girls are making major life decisions based on Lulu.
Zach, 24 (Montreal)
Lulu rating: 7.4
Number of reviews: 4
Have you heard of Lulu before?
I heard about Lulu one day while I was sitting around with the boys. My girlfriend wasn't too happy that I was getting recent reviews on the app. The first thing that popped into my mind honestly though was I hope my rating isn't going to be as bad as I think it's going to be.
Do you think your ratings on Lulu (#TotalFuckingDickHead, #RudeToWaiters, #Doesn'tKnowIExist, #SelfMadeMan) are fair?
"#RudeToWaiters" makes no sense. I'm in the restaurant/nightlife business and I think I go out of my way to be kind to wait staff. That one made my heart drop a bit.
"#Doesn'tKnowIExist" is funny. Sorry.
I like "#SelfMadeMan." I think that one's pretty accurate.
"#TotalFuckingDickhead…" What, did I not call you back?
How effective do you think the hashtag rating system is?
People need to calm down. They're all tongue and cheek and pretty general. Maybe they even force guys to take a hard look at themselves, I don't know.
Could this app be considered empowering for women or even feminist?
People use the "F' word far too much—I don't think many feminists would think this app is empowering. It's pigeonholing—it's ditzy. I don't think of women who sit around analyzing men as model feminists.
Do you think this app has the potential to harm or hurt anyone?
I had a friend who lost his mind for a month over his ratings. He was so upset and talked to everyone about it because he was worried it would impact his reputation as a very ambitious, together guy. He didn't like being labeled lazy and unmotivated when he was actually in law school. Any guy who tells you he truly doesn't care about his ratings is lying.
Any other thoughts about the app?
It's important to know the things you say about people will affect them. My message to women is: go out and meet a man. Go say "hi" to him at a bar, talk to him and accept the drink he sends you. If I found out a girl was using to Lulu to make relationship choices, she can walk.
Andrew, 23 (Toronto)
Lulu rating: 8.0
Number of reviews: 6
Have you heard of this Lulu thing before?
I first heard about the app when a friend of mine came up from NYC a few weeks ago—the first thing she says when she walks in the door: have you heard of that app Lulu? I thought it would be just pictures of my face with ratings from women. It wasn't. I was so pissed—to be rated on things like kissing and humour—it's so weird and immature.
What do you think about your own Lulu ratings (#GlassHalfFull, #SnuggleMachine, #ShouldComeWithAWarning)?
"#GlassHalfFull"—Absolutely accurate, I'm always really positive. Your attitude is your life.
"#ShouldComeWithAWarning"—I don't really appreciate this one. I'm a totally decent guy—I'm not a freak who requires a warning. No one is a saint.
SnuggleMachine—I am totally a snuggle machine. If there's someone lying on the couch, man or woman, I slither towards them all like: "I WANNA HANGOUT." Especially with women. Especially.
Ok… How do you feel about being catalogued on the app without your consent?
It's totally concerning, but if they had to change their business model, the app wouldn't exist… It is pretty atrocious though: "Here's Andrew's hookup history that he hasn't consented to, now use this to go stalk and contact Andrew!" I get sick to my stomach thinking about it.
Could Lulu be empowering for women?
No. If that was their ultimate goal—it could be done better. "Provide us with your your vague, non-specific humour rating please." Not effective.
It's just too much of a breach of privacy. In a way, I can understand where ladies are coming from, though. I understand why there's a demand for something like this. Some guys treat girls like shit and girls need to vent.