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Virtual makeup filters reinforce beauty standards

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As technology advances, more and more people have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of working from home and telecommuting via video conference applications. Companies use FaceTime to allow their workers to join in on conference calls while away from the office. In theory, it sounds wonderful to be able to sleep in and not face the mad rush of traffic in the morning. In reality, telecommuting still requires employees to present themselves in a professional way for the work day.

What some Japanese companies have found, however, is that many employees spend more time looking at their own image on FaceTime, rather than the colleagues they are meeting with. This creates a feeling of self-consciousness, especially if some of the people they are FaceTiming with are their superiors. For women, this self-consciousness often results in feeling the need to apply a full face of makeup prior to telecommuting.

For many women, it is difficult to show others what they look like without makeup on. This is understandable, considering that we live in a society where makeup aisles take up close to a fourth of drug stores.

To make telecommuting easier for women, the Japanese cosmetic giant Shiseido has created an app that applies virtual makeup to female users’ video images. This app is called “telebeauty,” where women can select one of four palettes: natural, trend, cool or pretty. The app scans the woman’s face before applying the makeup filter to their image on screen. The woman can join the video conference for work, all the while keeping this digital makeup on. Although convenient and appealing, this app is misogynistic and perpetuates society’s sexist beauty standards for women.

The workplace is somewhere people should be evaluated primarily on skill, not looks. Unfortunately, looks almost always affect one’s judgement of others, and not just women. The app that Shiseido has created sends a message that women must look good in addition to acting professional in the workplace to be taken seriously. So far, the app has only been intended for women, and as a young woman intending to enter the workforce myself someday I could not find this more offensive. Sure, dressing professionally is necessary for work, but that’s a standard for both men and women. Wearing makeup to work, on the other hand, is only expected of women.

Maybe I’m alone in hoping that one day women can step outside without being judged based on how much foundation they are wearing. Don’t get me wrong, I own makeup, but I try my best to keep it at a minimum, spending two minutes throwing some on before rushing to class in the morning. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have the alternative option of “telebeauty” because I’m still going out in the real world. For women who do telecommute, however, there should be no shame in appearing without makeup over FaceTime, especially if they are working from home that day. When I stay home I don’t do my hair, I don’t dress up and I certainly don’t take the time to do my makeup. This should be perfectly acceptable. It does not make you any less of a person if you do not look flawless 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Overall, telecommuting is still a fairly new concept, so people are still trying to figure out what is acceptable and what is not in terms of presentation. Shiseido’s app has unfortunately laid out its own standards of female appearance in the virtual workplace. This company is not trying to make women feel good about themselves; it has created this app solely for monetary gain.

If we hope to get anywhere with gender equality in today’s world, women need to step up and move past the importance that society gives to female appearance. Everybody has flaws and imperfections and you don’t need to buy an app that digitally covers them up. What matters is not what you look like, but what you can contribute to the world.

Megan Hussey ’20 (hussey2@stolaf.edu) is from Minneapolis, Minn. Her major is undecided.