In case you missed it, your favourite facial recognition mobile app recently debuted a filter that swaps binary genders.
Snapchat was released in 2011 and, since then, has risen to having over 187 million daily active users with over 10 billion daily video views.
Its original aim was to let people have fun without worrying about what they look like because the photos and videos disappear.
I redownloaded Snapchat to discover I look like Anne Hathaway as a woman. pic.twitter.com/PLv7vUT4Xy— Mark Valdez (@mark_a_valdez) May 11, 2019
Since then, it has taken on many forms, as user can now use it for messaging and staying in contact as well as for sending funny photos. Moreover, Snapchat gained notoriety because of its diversity of filters which alter the user's appearance. A lot of the filters make the user look silly, with dog ears, or a devil's face, or a giant mouth, but now people have found their favourite filter. A new filter has been released and it changes the user's appearance to that of the other gender. And the boys are loving it.
The uncanny pictures have been flooding timelines for days with airbrushed, idealised images of what people might look like if they were born as the opposite sex. Twitter user @mark_a_valdez redownloaded the app to discover he looks like Anne Hatheway as a woman. Miley Cyrus joined in on the fun and conceded she looks like one of the Jonas Brothers (it must be the brows). England’s cricket stars also underwent this transformation ahead of the third ODI against Pakistan with key players like Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Joe Root and Chris Woakes sported a radically different look on the team's Instagram page. One guy even used it to get over 400 matches on Tinder.
Even local celebs got in on the fun. Connie Ferguson uploaded a video, and captioned her male alter ego “Cornelius” - and one of her children can be overheard jokingly calling her “Dad”. Her husband and business partner, Shona Ferguson posted shortly before, and gave his followers a flamboyant “yaaaaaasss honey” in jest. Thando Thabethe, tweeted ‘If I were a boy”, looking like a younger Fat Joe with a 5 o’clock shadow and Pearl Modiadie looked like Miguel in his “All I Want Is You” days.
I’ve seen the woke folk faction of Twitter question whether or not this feature is problematic. While Snapchat’s new feature is a lot of silly fin, there’s a more serious side to it. For one, it shines a light on regressive gender norms. In Snapchat’s world, being an attractive “female” apparently means having long, flowy hair long lashes and pale skin.
Meanwhile, being a man means having a prominent jawline,, short hair, think eyebrows and a beard. It’s somewhat ironic that an app that encourages you to play with gender has such a polarized view of it. With the Tinder troll especially - in some ways this revelation is a good thing: it let him and others like him understand the extent to which women get harassed on dating apps. But the idea of trapping people into thinking you're a woman also veers into transphobic territory.
Maybe we’re overthinking what is simply meant to be a fun filter? Perhaps. But, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that while gender-swapping online might be a good laugh, people still get killed for doing it in real life.