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Dating is all about preference: and in 2016, every preference has its own dating app. For plus-size women and their admirers, an app called WooPlus is the latest effort to create a vibrant niche dating community.
It all started because of a viral video: Co-founders Neil Raman, Michelle Li and some other friends were chatting online about a video showing a social experiment where men were set up with women they thought were thin, only to find in real life that the women were actually heavier.
“There was a lot of mocking, and basically making her feel lesser of a person because of her size,” Li told the Daily Dot in a phone interview. “We thought, ‘that happens a lot.'” More importantly, the friends knew people who specifically want to date larger women do exist. “We thought why don’t we come up with a dating app to see just what kind of result we’d get out of it,” Li said. Since launching in November, the free app has 10,000 users worldwide and growing.
WooPlus is not the first of its kind in terms of serving this audience. The founders drew inspiration from other existing BBW (“big, beautiful women”) sites like LargeFriends and Big & Beautiful People Meet. But the apps for these sites “are more like the mobile versions of their PC sites,” according to a spokesperson for WooPlus, explaining its aim be more like “Tinder for BBW” while also creating a safe space for women of size.
WooPlus functions much like Tinder with users mutually swiping right before they can chat. While that’s an attractive feature for the size six dater, it’s a crucial barrier for plus-size women who are often sent rude and inappropriate messages about their appearance.
“We’re just trying to provide a comfortable environment for women who happen to be a little larger,” Li said. “It’s for women of all different bodies and sizes. But we wanted to show that you don’t need to have a low BMI [body mass index] to be attractive.”
She added that they’re focused on encouraging loving and admiring larger women, rather than fetishising them—a common critique when it comes to niche online dating options. That’s why the most important thing to the WooPlus founders is that its users feel comfortable (and not objectified) in this space.
One plus-size blogger is very welcoming of the idea. “We know [the] Tinder format works, so why not take it into more specific space?” CeCe Olisa from Plus Size Princess said when asked about WooPlus. Olisa said she often doles out advice to her readers about navigating online dating as a larger woman. While she hasn’t been the most active online dater herself, she’s heard and seen enough from friends and fans to know it’s hard out there for plus-size girls in a sizeist world.
“It’s always important to have options when it comes to plus-size dating,” Olisa told the Daily Dot in a phone interview. She sees great value in niche sites like this one, but she still encourages women to sign up for mainstream apps because you just never know where you’ll find that right person. “I always tell my girls, ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket!’ It only increases your chances … You want to make the odds as high as possible. Put up a full body pic, be who you are, don’t hide. The right person will be attracted to you.”
Society is making great strides in acceptance of all body types, with 2015 wrapping up as a good particularly year for body positivity. Yet until fat-shaming on “regular” top online dating sites like Tinder and OkCupid is a thing of the past, safe spaces like WooPlus are an integral part of online life for BBWs.
Images via WooPlus/Facebook
Marisa Kabas is a lifestyle reporter and activist. Her work has been published by Fusion, Fast Company, and Today. She’s also served as an editorial campaigns director for Purpose PBC, a social movement incubator.