In honor of International Women’s Day, Snapchat created filters to celebrate the inspirational and trailblazing Rosa Parks, Madame Curie, and Frida Kahlo. And though the app intended to pay tribute to the three iconic women, the execution was problematic. The Madame Curie one, for example, unnecessarily gave users long eyelashes and smoky eyeliner. The Rosa Parks filter included a sepia tone, which some said darkened their skin, and also resulted in lighter eyes for others. As for Frida Kahlo, the filter made people’s skin and eyes lighter, and failed to include the Mexican artist’s trademark facial hair.
In an article on The Guardian, Julia Carrie Wong said that when she applied to filter to one of Frida’s one portraits, the filter lightened the artist’s skin. “Kahlo, who was of mixed indigenous and European heritage, painted herself with brown skin and dark eyes,” Julia wrote. “Much of her work engaged with indigenous themes and imagery.”
It’s not the first time the social media company has been mired in controversy. Last year for 4/20, it debuted a Bob Marley filter, which as Gizmodo stated, gave users “instant blackface.” Instagram followed it up with another tone-deaf filter a few months later: an anime-themed lens that relied on stereotypes and gave users buck teeth.
And while manipulating skin tones and stereotypical depictions are upsetting enough, Snapchat’s Frida lens also doesn’t sit well with people because it’s more than likely that Frida herself wouldn’t approve of the filter. With someone as commodified as Frida, what she stood for can easily get lost. But Kahlo, who nicknamed the United States gringolandia, rejected capitalism and Euro-centric beauty standards – everything that this filter represents. And this lens would have stripped Kahlo of her own natural beauty. It’s especially troubling that the filter gives white women a chance – as some tweeted – to wear Frida like a mask.
Here’s what people had to say about the filter: