Sometimes, love can’t happen without anti-capitalism.
People sharing short personals on Red Yenta don’t need to clarify that. Red Yenta publishes ads on Twitter and Instagram catering exclusively to leftists looking for other leftists.
“I mean, there’s clearly a market for it,” says Mindy Isser of South Philadelphia, co-founder of Red Yenta. “We get bios like every day.”
The bios can’t run longer than 280 characters, given Twitter’s limits. That economy required to describe one’s attributes has inspired distillations of gender, sexuality, political alignment, and dating styles.
“U can’t spell BDSM w/out BDS!” begins one Red Yenta personal ad, referring both to sex styles and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which pushes for pulling support from Israel and a number of companies. The ad continues: “Libertarian socialist (28, she/her) seeks similar (27-35, he/him) to join forces against nonconsensual power dynamics (capitalism, white supremacy, etc.) while exploring consensual ones as friends or more. Send me yr fave song.”
The yentas behind the free dating accounts are Marissa Brostoff, a writer and English doctoral candidate based in Brooklyn, and Isser, a local labor organizer. The two, who haven’t met, draw inspiration from @_personals_, an Instagram account that invites LGBTQ people to describe who they are and whom they’re seeking in tight space through text, a nod to how newspaper personals used to be. Brostoff and Isser receive bios via email and blast them out, most often on Sundays. Potential dates contact each other directly through DM.
Finding the right match in the Trump era, as one matchmaker told the Inquirer, has become “much more polarizing." In 2019, it’s by no means abnormal for people to make their politics known in their dating app bios, or to discourage those who voted for a certain candidate or who didn’t vote at all, from getting in touch.
But falling under the liberal umbrella isn’t enough for Caitlin Brown, a 35-year-old communications director who lives in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood.
“When you’re dating somebody, you’re not going to agree on everything, but it’s important to agree on some core values,” Brown said. “Anti-poverty issues are such a big part of my identity that I want someone who can identify with that, and we can have common ground there.”
For Isser, it all started with a Washington Post opinion article from last spring, whose author, a Christian woman, expressed feeling slighted in relationships with Jewish men. Isser got so mad at the piece she started matchmaking Jewish couples. The workload quickly became unwieldy, so Isser took a break from making love connections. Months later, she criticized socialist men who date women who aren’t leftists on Twitter. A need, once again, became clear.
Brostoff remembers being really excited when she discovered OKComrade, a communist dating community that started on Facebook in 2014 "and then immediately finding that it was all bots and trolls and like three people that seemed datable, but they were like halfway across the world.” Brostoff, who writes about sex and socialism, saw Isser’s tweet about wanting to start a socialist dating site. The writer was on board.
Fortunately, Brostoff said, it seems the notion that debating everything can be sexy is “thankfully, finally, really outmoded.” The left, she said, has constant divides and arguments already. “Like, it’s fine," she said. “We have plenty of stuff to fight over.”
One “weepy Gemini” said she was “looking to evade neoliberal expectations by writhing in bed, talking w/o goals/motives.” Another leftist, in Durham, N.C., admitted to being “mostly ethically non-monogamous but not very good at ethics.” A man in Shippensburg, Pa., signaled that he’s looking for a situation where they can be “more than comrades,” and included this note: “vegan if it comes to that.”
A nonbinary “baby anarchist” in Mexico City put this in their bio: “a tad religious, super queer, early 20s. Dumb brain w/ social anxiety impedes me from mtg people the oldfashioned way, so looking for friendships and more here. ❤️running, coffee & lavender. Send pics of yr pets *woof*.”
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Isser and Brostoff find the ads enjoyable to read, and, at times, curious. Brostoff said the specificity of the ads might speak to certain self-consciousness within the leftist community, as potential daters sort through how to name “tendencies within tendencies” and do so quickly.
Isser agreed: “And it’s kind of like, if you don’t understand that, that person’s probably not for you.”
Many people who’ve shared notices are LGBTQ, which pleases Brostoff, as communist circles of old had been “very heteronormative.” Not all users have included their race. Brown didn’t list her age, something she regrets, as one of the people who DMed her was 15 years younger.
Skyler Cruz, 23, of Queen Village, said she tried to squeeze her personality into the ad. She had friends vet her bio before she turned it in, but the yentas sent it back, explaining that it needed to be shorter. This was the result: “23, black&puerto rican pan trans girl (she/her) socialist looking for something casual/nonmonog. Fairly reformist, w/ an appetite for the rich. Love biking+dancing in pretty dresses. Let’s sip hot cider btwn kisses while St. Vincent plays! Big nerd/cheap date.”
One month into their matchmaking, Isser and Brostoff are set to meet for the first time Friday, when Red Yenta hosts a dating game at Verso Books in Brooklyn. The yentas aren’t aware of anyone who’s found love through their accounts yet, but some users say the ads have sparked, at this point, conversations. Cruz was surprised when someone first reached out to her. She recalls thinking, “Wow, somebody read about me without a picture.”
Cruz is willing to have loving friendships with people who aren’t leftists, but abiding romantic partnerships? Not a chance.
“I’ve realized that how you feel politically says a lot about the people around you and what you think people’s lives should be like,” Cruz said.
Hookups, though? That’s another question.
“A lot of things can slide by on the hookup level,” Cruz said. “Let’s just say that.”