Updated: Jun 20
SNAPCHAT- WHAT’S THE DEAL?
Snapchat filters were released in January of 2015 and have since had some pretty cringy fails. Many of which, in my opinion, continues through today. From their various apparent black- and yellow-face scandals to the more subtle present-day skin and facial feature whitening. Snapchat filters, or lenses, provide a great lens into how ‘Insecurities Sell’ and how mass media corporations make money off of insecure customers.
From slimmed out noses, lighter skin, lighter eyes to thinner lips. Snapchat reinforces Western beauty standards as the norm, with little regard to people’s actual reality. Influences such as filters, Western media, films, magazines, etc. all play a role in creating and sustaining certain beauty standards. Most of which are not realistic or attainable for most, because we are not all white.
Favoring eurocentric features, such as a slim nose, slim lips and/or lighter skin over Afrocentric characteristics, like ‘Jackson 5’ nostrils, full lips and/or darker skin tone has been the trend for years. Can we for once try and be aware of the unattainable beauty standards that we are creating and reinforcing across the globe?!
THE DOLL TEST
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my (white) mom when I was probably between the ages of 3 and 4, about why I didn’t play with my black Barbie dolls. I probably only remember this conversation because her reaction honestly mortified me. My mom asked me why I wasn’t playing with my black Barbie dolls and only the white ones. Young me responded by saying the black one was “ugly” and that I didn’t like her. My mom was stunned and visibly upset with what I had said. She responded by telling me that they were the most beautiful dolls she had ever seen. Her reaction clearly stuck with me and from that day on I only played with my Black Barbies.
Fast forward 16 years later and I am sitting in my Sociology course watching young children participate in the Doll Test. I found myself reflecting on this confusing moment in my past and how problematic it truly was that a young child would have those feelings.
It is really sad to see the effects of anti-blackness, racism, and colorism within society. However, seeing the negative effects it has on children makes it even more apparent.
Words are really important. This is extremely evident in the fight and movement to change the definition of Black in the dictionary (#RedefineBlack). Some of the current definitions of Black include “dirty, wicked or evil”, “soiled, or stained with dirt” and other, not-so-great meanings or thoughtful placements. Dictionary.com explains below:
“If you look on Dictionary.com today, the adjectival sense of Black that refers to people is the third sense on the page. The current definition sits right above a definition that reads “soiled or stained with dirt.” While there are no semantic links between these two senses, their proximity on the page can be harmful. It can lead to unconscious associations between this word of identity and a negative term.” – Dictionary.com
THE CREATION OF OTHERNESS
Race is a social construct. It’s made up. Western Colonizers created it as a way to assign and rank membership, or acceptance, based on visible differences (not white). In other words, it’s outdated as fuck. However, maintaining this creation of “otherness” is beneficial for business. It has had lasting effects and has resulted in the exploitation of insecurities, globally. To this day, nobody wants to feel like the outsider or the “other”.
An essay by Zillah Eisenstein, Hatred Written on the Body, explains the concept of otherness and how it has created a platform that allows companies to prosper off people’s insecurities. She explains how otherness works to negatively highlight differences between people’s bodies in the quote, “racism used the physicality of bodies to punish, to expunge, and isolate certain bodies and construct them as outsiders.” It’s pretty apparent to witness how this concept has created a society in which companies are able to exploit consumer's insecurities about their “otherness”.
These manufactured insecurities have created a climate that allows marketers to create both a problem and a solution to sell with it. This cycle of exploiting differences by Western media (Snapchat is our example, but there are plenty) shines a light into modern-day Westernization and the beauty standards that are being pushed across the globe.
Jean Kilbourne, activist and featured speaker in The Illusionists, which is a documentary on the globalization of the beauty industry and mass marketing, explains that there is nothing wrong with the desire to feel attractive or desired. The problem is the way that various beauty and mass media industries, such as Snapchat, have learned to corrupt and exploit those feelings into profit for themselves. These companies are selling consumers insecurities and various products that can “fix” them all in one package. Kilbourne feels that if the majority of people were genuinely happy with their appearance, there would be no opportunity for continued dominance and exploitation by the West within the global beauty industry.
I agree with her. Why else do you think Snapchat filters and Facetune are so popular?! They’re selling and profiting off of the same insecurities that they created. So many people don’t like how they look in pictures or videos anymore unless there’s a filter on. These insecurities are then being forced onto children who are seeing themselves and many adults with filters on at a very young age. I truly believe that this is a lot more problematic then many of us are willing to admit.
It is important for us to be aware of how companies are creating and then profiting off of our insecurities. Whether we realize it or not- Insecurities Sell. It’s happening and they’re all multimillion or even billion-dollar industries. It’s time to be more aware of the content we’re consuming, purchasing and/or pushing upon the next generation.
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