At Apple's September 9 event, during which the company unveiled its latest slate of products, Adobe executive Eric Snowden managed to offend a slew of women across the internet as he presented Adobe's photo editing tools on the new iPad Pro.
Humbled to represent @Adobe in the Apple keynote today. iPad Pro & Apple Pencil are amazing. Can’t wait for you to use our apps with them!— Eric Snowden (@ericsnowden) September 9, 2015
Of the many ways he could have demoed the new technology, Snowden chose to edit a photo of a woman to make her go from unsmiling to smiling — this at an event where women (and, notably, persons of color) were almost entirely absent from view.
So, the only woman on stage at the Apple Event so far has been a man showing how to Photoshop a woman's smile. Mmmmkkkkk.— Biz Carson (@bizcarson) September 9, 2015
Changing the woman's face to a smiling one — and thus one that appears more pleasing to an onlooker's gaze — was seen by some commenters as an act symbolizing male entitlement and sexism.
Stop telling women to smile Apple— Femsplain (@femsplain) September 9, 2015
There's a well-known trope of a harassing male stranger asking women on the street to smile — and it was digitized by Adobe during the presentation. In the digital world, though, the subject is not asked to smile, but forced to through technology. The imagery made a lot of people uncomfortable.
Just think what Apple and Adobe could create if they didn’t have to dedicate all these resources to making women smile for once!— Ben Hughes (@benjammingh) September 9, 2015
Using your finger to artificially create a smile on a woman's face seems very Silence of the Lambs. Is that what Apple was going for?— Andrew Miller (@MillerLoLife) September 9, 2015
Disappointed in Apple's lack of diversity today, again. And how they forced a woman to smile. Bummer all around.— Selena Larson (@selenalarson) September 9, 2015
Most others who commented on Adobe's presentation either missed the act, disagreed with critical interpretation, ignored it, or expressed a feeling of conflicted support.
People are angry Apple showcased face recognition and editing by making a woman smile? Yall running out of things to get angry about?— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) September 9, 2015
As one Apple user noted, Adobe products do some super cool stuff.
They managed to make a model smile more through photoshop?! I don't want to be impressed, but, this is seriously powerful software. #Apple— Tom Inniss (@tominniss) September 9, 2015
On his Twitter profile, the speaker favorited more than a dozen congratulatory tweets, and responded to no criticisms. Snowden's presentation was met largely with support by friends and colleagues, based on mentions of his Twitter handle.
I'm not writing to accuse Adobe or Apple of being consciously sexist, but I want to know if Adobe and Apple ever take a hard look at their ethical standards when they are in the pursuit of profit. The more concerning matter of the lack of diversity at the event did not go unobserved.