There’s a certain subset of dudes on the internet—many of whom also likely reside with their parents and leave prejudiced, misspelling-riddled comments underneath random articles on Facebook—who feel that women who wear makeup are being intentionally “deceptive” in some way. (Nevermind the fact that whether we choose to wear makeup and how much we decide to apply is definitely none of their business, nor is it about their pleasure.) And now, there’s an app that feeds into this toxic mentality by supposedly allowing users to strip away the makeup a woman is wearing in a given photo.
It’s called MakeApp, and not only is it invasive and violating, but as many journalists have already noted, it doesn’t even work all that well. It adds weird redness, blotches, and wrinkles where none actually exist. Rather than making users look natural, it makes them look tired and haggard, feeding into the misogynist mythology that all women are hideous trolls without the slap of makeup we meticulously apply every day for the purpose of tricking men into loving us. In some cases, it doesn’t even fully remove a swipe of eyeliner or a red lip. It’s insulting, and it’s also just bad technology.
The app, which costs $0.99, can also “add” makeup, a feature that functions even less well, but is, at the very least, not being harnessed to shame women. Thankfully, the backlash has been swift, with Slate actually applying the app to the (presumably makeup-free face) of founder Ashot Gabrelyanov to hilarious results, and Katie Rife of The A.V. Club writing: “Yes, with MakeApp, no longer will a nice guy have to spend hours on Photoshop painstakingly removing mascara lash by lash in order to let his female friends know that they’d be so much prettier if they complied to his standards instead of deciding for themselves what to do with their faces.”
Gabrelyanov, who once ran a Russian propagandist news outlet called LifeNews, is already in defense mode, telling Buzzfeed: “We built MakeApp as an experiment and released it into the wild a few months ago and unfortunately the media coverage solely focused on the makeup removal function of the app and characterized it as a bunch of ‘tech bros’ trying to hurt women, which is just so far from the truth.”
Right. But, hey, there’s the distinct possibility that the app could actually help women, and here’s why: If these fake, digitally-altered versions of our faces manage to convince the kind of trolls who would employ such a tool that we are all actually heinous beasts underneath our NARS concealer and MAC lipstick, then maybe they’ll finally just leave us alone.