Sarey Ruden has experimented with online dating for nearly a decade and says the problems are only growing.
For nearly four years, Birmingham-based artist and graphic designer Sarey Ruden has been transforming unsolicited messages from men on dating apps into thought-provoking artwork. By doing so, she aims to shine a light and drive conversation about the many issues women face in online dating.
As the creator and owner of Sareytales: The Art of Online Dating, Ruden has built a community equally passionate about solving these problems. Women, she says, often receive messages on dating apps they don’t want that are threatening in nature or make them feel uncomfortable.
Through her Instagram page, which has more than 13,000 followers, she shares messages from men that she has personally received and the stories of other women to bring attention to this growing problem. These messages, she explains, can be misogynistic, creepy and sometimes even violent.
Ruden, now 40, has experimented with online dating for nearly a decade and says the problems are only growing. The pandemic, she says, makes online dating that much more challenging and dangerous for women due to isolation and growing dependency on dating apps.
To take these important conversations one step further, Ruden launched a new podcast series called Once Upon a Feminist. The seven-episode series was released in its entirety and features in-depth discussions with dating experts and more to help answer the question of why some men behave this way in dating apps.
Exploring the intersection of feminism and online dating, Once Upon a Feminist covers topics such as the impact of the #MeToo movement on dating and data that has been collected through dating apps, such as common misogynistic phrases that men tend to use.
“I’m not a scholar; I’m an artist,” Ruden said. “It happened to be that my artwork inspired this feminist side in myself I didn’t know I had. I wanted to seek out expert advice on these topics.”
Podcast guests include public radio and TV host Celeste Headlee, sex and relationship researcher Dr. Kristen Mark of the University of Minnesota, and male dating coach Tripp Kramer. Some conversations, Ruden said, were difficult to have, but she considers them to be productive in nature. Each 45-minute episode is less of an interview and more of a natural conversation that shares different viewpoints and theories about online dating.
She believes her audience will be a mix of individuals in relationships and those who currently use online dating.
“It might be comforting to hear some of these topics versus love stories,” Ruden said. Her Instagram followers, she added, were instantly drawn to the idea of a podcast because of the variety of areas it will cover, including communication tactics, technology and social media.
Depending on demand, she says she’ll consider the idea of doing a second season. “I have mixed feelings,” Ruden, who attends Temple Israel, said. “It’s a well-produced project, and I’m super proud of it. I would love to do another [season] if it’s well received. That would be a dream.”
Season one of Once Upon a Feminist can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms. “We’re led to believe all these different fairy tales about love and romance,” Ruden says of both the podcast and Sareytales. “It’s kind of a twist on that.”