Filters and facetuning apps are offensive to people of color

By Victoria Gill

Opinion Editor

I have never been a fan of selfies. It is either a private photoshoot in your room, maybe on the verge of getting caught, or, they are in public awkwardly trying to get the best angle. What is even more awkward? The type of alterations that can be done in seconds just with a few strokes of your thumb.

With the types of influencers I follow online — many my own age — I found a rant about the racism of Instagram’s filters making an individual’s appearance fit to a beauty standard that targets multiple groups of people.

Huffington Post writer Shandukani Mulaudzi calls this the “new bleach.”

More specifically, Instagram gives us an option to choose from over 20 filters to alter our appearances beyond recognition.

Larger eyes, paler skin, bigger lips, a slimmer face. A brighter, blemish-free persona whose traits, which are usually determined by genetics, can be shifted by a simple right swipe.

This all goes for FaceApp and Snapchat as well, as they have had their own trouble in the past with blatantly using ethnically named filters. While the company states that the intent was not to harm, this seems like someone never entered the room with common sense.

“The ethnicity change filters have been designed to be equal in all aspects,” FaceApp chief executive Yaroslav Goncharov said in an email, reported by the Washington Post. “They don’t have any positive or negative connotations associated with them. They are even represented by the same icon. In addition to that, the list of those filters is shuffled for every photo, so each user sees them in a different order.”

This is not the case in real life. To create filters such as these, an understanding of racial stereotyping needed to have been discussed. What a “standard” Latino, African American, or Asian person may look like is all ambiguous when there are also individuals who come from a mixed background.

Just because the design was meant to be equal does not mean that is how life truly takes place. These filters are not a way of someone trying to understand how another group of people see themselves, when others have to live that lifestyle. Especially in the current climate of the country, this is tenuous.

From this whole situation, the media is telling women, especially women of color, that they are not enough because how they look does not fit beauty standards, or what they do look like comes with stereotypes about who they are.

For example, back in 2015, actress Zendaya’s dreadlocks for the Oscars were commented on by “Fashion Police” host Giuliana Rancic as, “I feel that she smells like patchouli oil…or weed.”

Oppression to other races aesthetically is to neglect who is not white, something prevalent in cosmetics and photography.

This recent generational movement of accepting oneself as enough, the very idea that provoked singer-songwriter Alicia Keys to stop wearing makeup, is overshadowed by society’s need to cover up but in its paradox, expose yourself in other ways.

Already, what you see in a photo on any social media platform is never 100% true. It is how the photographer has chosen to depict the situation that reflects their true intent whether it be from insecurities or maliciousness.

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