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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Kim

MakeApp threatens women’s agency over appearance

Updated: May 11, 2022

Originally posted on The Tartan on November 19, 2017

Photos taken by Madeline Kim; left without a filter, right with MakeApp's filter


"Take her swimming on the first date" is a common saying circulating on the internet and being shared among men who joke about how women "hide" behind layers of makeup, thus deceiving the world with artificially good looks. However, this statement has become more than just a silly meme. Ashot Gabrelyanov created an app called MakeApp that essentially makes a camera filter that predicts what women look like without makeup.


As a makeup enthusiast, I obviously had to give this app a try. For an app that costs money, I was not impressed with the results. Despite the poor estimate of what my bare face looks like, I could not help but laugh. There are men out in the world who may take a photo of me in my usual "cake face," toss it through this app, and decide whether I am attractive enough to be associated with — all without knowing anything about me.


There has been heavy criticism targeted at the app. Many articles have claimed that such a "removal" of makeup is sexist because it makes men use a makeup-less woman's appearance be a dealbreaker for whether he wants to pursue a relationship with her. Buzzfeed pointed out that a man — not a woman — was in charge of the creation of the app in the title, heavily hinting that Gabrelyanov had sexist intentions behind the app.


What some feminists and some men fail to realize is that a lot of people don't wear makeup because they feel ashamed of their appearances. I don't deny the possibility that there may be someone out there who cakes on makeup to hide insecurities. If that someone is reading this article, I hope there soon comes a realization that one's beauty and one's worth does not lie in makeup. However, for many people, makeup is a creative outlet. Much like wearing a nice outfit instead of pajamas, it can boost one's confidence and make one feel more prepared to face the day. No amount of makeup in the world changes the value or beauty of a person. Kim Kardashian is the same reality star with and without her famous dramatic contour. Similarly, a person hasn't shape-shifted by applying makeup (and frankly, did not invest so much money to impress someone who demands all the products to be washed down the drain).


What's notable is that Gabrelyanov claims that the app could be used to identify victims of human trafficking. "In most of these cases, makeup is heavily used to disguise the age and/or identity of these people," he said in an emailed statement. "If human traffickers can hide these victim's identities, their chances of rescue are low." Of course, the app has a long way to go, but this is a possibility. However, if this is the direction the app is heading, something to consider would be to change the image of the app. Instead of marketing it as an app where a user can play around with camera filters for fun to see what a potential girlfriend would look like bare-faced, further emphasize its potential usage to identify victims who may be heavily disguised with makeup.


If you insist on being outraged by makeup, I suggest you look into the lack of racial inclusiveness in the beauty industry that conveniently excludes consumers with darker skin colors. Just let people use makeup as they feel comfortable and realize that they aren't "hiding" something from you.

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