The first woman to appear on the Apple stage today was not in the flesh.
Instead she was a photo, that was then photoshopped by Adobe’s director of design until her red lips were turned into a smile.
As the audience applauded, Twitter erupted as many onlookers questioned Apple’s decision to include that demo in the presentation.
There are plenty of arguments about why people should stop telling women to smile. Some women consider it a form of harassment – a phrase that they hear barked to them aggressively as they walk down the street.
After all the stick Apple get about women & they choose to PHOTOSHOP A WOMAN’S FACE. I cannot. #AppleEvent
— Guardian Tech (@guardiantech) September 9, 2015
So you’re telling me no one in @apple PR previewed this Adobe demo and was like “guys, let’s not force a woman to smile during this.”
— Nilkanth Patel (@nilkanthjp) September 9, 2015
That’s not to say choosing a woman to Photoshop is anything unusual. It’s nearly an industry standard for magazines, and based on the magazine spread that was shown with it, it’s likely an in-context example of how someone would use Photoshop on an iPad.
The problem is that Apple could have photoshopped anything. Colored in the stripes on a zebra. Hand-drawn the Apple logo. Changed Tim Cook’s frown into a smile as a joke about him being happy. Apple just wasn’t aware enough of the connotations – especially in the context and scrutiny surrounding tech and diversity – to sidestep the landmine.
Apple has been on the receiving end of these kinds of complaints about diversity before. Until June’s Apple developer conference, a woman had not appeared on the Apple stage since 2010. Finally in June, the streak was broken with several women appearing on stage.
During today’s event, reporters kept a watchful eye on the diversity count. There were 12 men on stage and three women, according to one Business Insider reporter’s tally. That’s a ratio that could still use some improvement, but progress should be applauded.
But tech companies have to be hyper-sensitive about these issues because ignoring them in the past has led to the unacceptable diversity metrics that even Tim Cook has deplored. If anyone should have been hyper-sensitive, it was Apple – not the people who are being labeled hyper-sensitive in their outrage.