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Bumble apologises for adverts appearing to mock celibacy

Bumble has apologised after it appeared to make fun of celibate women in a new advertising campaign.

The dating app ran a billboard campaign with slogans including “you know full well a vow of celibacy is not the answer”, and “thou shall not give up dating and become a nun”.

Social media users called the campaign “unbelievably insulting”, “patronising” and “tone-deaf”.

The company has now apologised and admitted: “We made a mistake.”

It added: “Our ads referencing celibacy were an attempt to lean into a community frustrated by modern dating and instead of bringing joy and humour, we unintentionally did the opposite.”

Many people criticised the adverts, which appeared in the US, for misunderstanding why women choose celibacy.

Some said celibacy is a response to trauma, while for others, it is a choice not to “settle”. Asexual people may choose to be celibate and still date and for some, it is a religious choice.

Increasingly, celibacy is also used as a protest against patriarchal societies – with South Korea’s 4B movement attracting global attention as women began to cut men out of their lives.

4B is shorthand for four Korean words that all start with “bi” – meaning “no”, according to journalist Anna Louie Sussman, who covered the movement last year for The Cut magazine.

“The first no – bihon – is the refusal of heterosexual marriage,” she wrote.

“Bichulsan is the refusal of childbirth, biyeonae is saying no to dating, and bisekseu is the rejection of heterosexual sexual relationships.”

Although it started as a small protest movement, it has spread across Asia and around the world and there are now more than 63,000 TikTok videos on the topic.

As well as the public apology, Bumble said it will be donating to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other organisations that support women.

Billboard spaces will also be offered to the organisations to display “an ad of their choice” for the remaining time period that Bumble reserved them for.

In a statement, the company said it has “passionately stood up for women and marginalised communities, and their right to fully exercise personal choice” for years.

“We didn’t live up to these values with this campaign and we apologise for the harm it caused,” it added.

The dating app company is going through a rough patch. Its shares have fallen steadily since last July, dropping roughly 45% over that time amid concerns over its ability to reach younger users.

In February, it laid off 350 employees, roughly 30% of its workforce, when it announced plans to revamp its app in order to make it more attractive to Generation Z.

The latest ad campaign was designed to launch the revamped app.

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