What’s a social media company to do for International Women’s Day? Well, in the case of Snapchat, the company has decided to encourage a type of drag by releasing three filters of famous women.

Among the three filters Snapchat released this week is one dedicated to Mexican Modern artist Frida Kahlo. Some are accusing the social media company of cultural insensitivity over two of the filters, which also include one for Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie and another for Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks.

While there may be cause for concern in the case of Parks, with some arguing that it is a case of digital “blackface” — particularly from a company that has a history of it — it seems odd to make the same accusation for the Kahlo filter, considering the artist often played with and exaggerated various cultural representations (her father was German, while her mother was both of Indigenous Mexican and Spanish heritage).

One San Francisco-based blogger suggested that the filter lightens Kahlo’s skin and used a painting as proof, yet that comparison isn’t necessarily an accurate point of comparison — though it is troubling that the app lightens skin color at all — considering the artist often painted herself differently each time. Kahlo even appears to darken her skin in many of her paintings in homage to the indigenous Mexican heritage with which she felt a kinship. It’s worth remembering that recent research has even called into question Kahlo’s own claims that her father was of Jewish heritage, suggesting the artist often liked to pass for various ethnicities.

So, the question is: do you feel comfortable using the filters or not?

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, Godard’s anti-imperialism, in defense of “bad” curating, an inexplicable statue, criminalizing culture wars, and more.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.