Apple, Adobe criticised for digitally altering woman’s face to smile more

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Nanjing Night Net

The practice of digitally altering a model’s appearance after the fact to fit in with fanciful, sexy ideals is widespread, and pretty gross.

We’ve all seen comparison images and YouTube videos showing how a published image has been retouched, stretched, shrunk, blurred, tweaked and recoloured to turn a perfectly normal human being into an idealised (and frequently impossible) caricature.

The entire industry that’s been built up around this practice has prompted cries of protest from many who rightly worry about the impact this has on real human beings — particularly women, who are usually the subject of the images — when it comes to the worth of physical appearance and the perception of beauty.

So when Eric Snowden from photo-software-kingpin Adobe took to the Apple stage to show off how easily the new iPad Pro transforms into a woman’s-face-improvenator device on Thursday, many watching the event live were not impressed.

Worse, the app being demonstrated is called “Photoshop Fix”, seeming to imply there was something broken about the image of a woman not smiling. Watching a man photoshop a woman to make her smile more is kind of a cruel joke.— Lauren Hockenson (@lhockenson) September 9, 2015Stop telling women to smile Apple— Femsplain (@femsplain) September 9, 2015

Swamped with complaints, Adobe VP Scott Belsky took to Twitter to clarify that the demonstration was actually of new facial recognition software that was designed to be used to “fix” selfies, not models. “In a selfie world, a big deal. But wrong photo!”, he tweeted.

Adobe was more than likely simply looking to debut its powerful new tech with an attractive image, in the process showing a real-world application that would be relatable to the people likely to use the device. But their lack of offensive intent doesn’t make the demonstration any less problematic.

Putting aside the fact that a similar demonstration with a selfie would have been just as disconcerting (people obsessing over the perfection of their selfies undeniably being a product of unrealistic aesthetic ideals), the fact is they did use a female glamour model as an example, and it is fairly widely accepted that the routine reimagining of female forms in media and advertising is an issue.

This is all not to mention that men telling women to smile in order to improve their appearance is a well-documented and lamented phenomenon in its own right.

More than anything else, that Apple and Adobe conceived of and went ahead with the demonstration without seeming to bump into these issues at all could be seen as emblematic of Silicon Valley’s massive blind spot when it comes to matters of gender.

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